Wilderness Therapy: the healing power of nature

 

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A year ago today I was camping in some pretty dire conditions. I was one of three staff members in charge of keeping a group of 8 emotionally unstable teenage boys alive during one of the biggest storms Oregon has seen in years. One experience comes to mind:

I’m awoken at 3:00 A.M. by one of the boys. “Staff! Staff! I can’t breath.”

I roll over and groan. (Totally the way to handle a potentially life-threatening emergency.) This particular individual had just had a panic attack around 11:30 that night and so my response was, “OK, just take some deep breaths, bud. Everything’s fine.”

Ten seconds pass. “Hey, I’m still having a tough time breathing.”

Another voice: “Me too! I’m having a hard time breathing, too!”

And another: “I can’t breathe either. What’s going on??”

Oh! I’ll bet that the four feet of fresh snow on everyone’s tent might have something to do with it. Holy crap! These kids really can’t breathe. Time to shovel them out.

This was one experience out of dozens. Anyone who has been exposed to Wilderness Therapy (either client of guide) knows that it’s the real deal. These kids are out in the elements anywhere from 1-3 months at a time – rain, wind, snow, or shine. The idea is simple: unplug from the “default world” and get back to basics. Surviving in the wilderness builds confidence; nature helps people develop a sense of place and belonging in a world gone mad.

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I’ve been a wilderness guide for a long time now. I consider myself extremely blessed to be able to guide people for days on end through remote wilderness. When you take people out of their comfort zones you get to see what people are really like when they don’t get their fix, be it the internet, alcohol, or the sound of traffic (seriously some people can not go to sleep if they only hear crickets).

 

The transition away from the default world can be a rocky one, but after those first two nights of sleeping on the ground, something happens. It’s like we’ve realigned with an ancient memory encoded in our blood and we realize this is the real world. Afterwards, it’s the coming back to civilization that takes some adjustment.

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This post is just a teaser. I want to dive much deeper into the philosophy of using nature to heal the human psyche in the weeks to come. I believe the earth has much to teach us. All we have to do is listen.

 

 

 

Man’s conscious communication with the natural world – and the incredible response.

Our relationship with the earth is much more dynamic than we currently understand. 

Humans have known for thousands of years that the natural world is conscious and alive.

Our relationship with the natural kingdom has transformed in the modern age – we have become separated from our origins. Living in buildings, disconnected from the elements, even something as simple as wearing shoes outside limits our ability to tap into the conscious power of the world around us.

For a lot of people, going back to the “old ways” is a little too much. Trust me, I get it, and in many regards, I’m one of them. I’m not a big fan of getting trapped in a rainstorm without a jacket, suffering through barrages of mosquitos and insects without bug spray, or sleeping on the dirt without a sleeping bag in the cold. Fortunately, we don’t necessarily have to go to these extremes. If we want to access the wisdom that this planet is willing to share the first step it learning to understand two simple concepts:

Everything is connected, and everything is alive.

This isn’t a new concept by any means. Animists have spoken for centuries about the consciousness of mountains and boulders.  Indigenous natives still speak about their relationship with the world around them – as if the very elements were their friends. (I am reminded of the many stories of Native Americans calling in the water after a rain dance.) Here’s an excerpt from a well-titled study: Being Nature’s Mind: Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Planetary Consciousness. Here one man is discussing his relationship with air:

“Each of those kinds of air becomes familiar, experienced and known. They bring messages. They “speak.” When you know things because you have felt them, you know them as alive, as having their own life, their own spirit. It is not that cute (or dangerous) little spirits live in them like cartoon characters; it is that they have spirit and, fundamentally, are spirits.”

Respect can be a powerful thing. The moment we see the plants, and the animals, and the elements as our equal, the moment we step into a shared vibration – we allow ourselves to understand more.

It’s not just animals that are conscious. For years, scientists have known about the intelligence of plants. A favorite read of mine is The Secret Life of Plants. If you haven’t read it, I highly suggest it. During his study, Cleve Backster stumbled upon a remarkable discovery after he placed electrodes attached to a polygraph onto the leaves of a plant. At the moment he thought of setting one of the leaves on fire, the polygraph went wild. The scientific community was of course skeptical. But Backster quipped,

“Such high resistance to new ideas does not concern me,” he once said. “I have a truly wonderful ally: Mother Nature.”

For an enlightening video regarding our communication with plants, check this out:

Indeed there is much to learn on planet earth, and the more we learn to listen, the more our true potential and the understanding of our role on this planet will we begin to take form. If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to check out my novel, The Dreamer’s Lotus. It is a book about guidance, an inner-guidance that corresponds to the consciousness of earth. What would it be like to communicate with animals, or to gain wisdom from the plants and the elements? It is not only possible, but rather a reality waiting to be rediscovered.

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Please feel free to share your thoughts on the above post. I would love to hear how you communicate with nature and how nature has returned that communication.