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.

 

 

 

Dreaming our world into Reality – Writing for Publishing

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“We can only begin to dream once we have truly awakened from our sleep.” – The Dreamer’s Lotus

 

My first novel is awakening – In less than two months, The Dreamer’s Lotus will be in physical form.

To say it’s an exciting feeling would be a huge understatement. 

Writers are often asked, how did you come up with your idea? Everyone has their own inspiration, be it travel, nature, society – but for me, the concept for this book came through a dream. Five years ago I woke up with a single phrase lingering on my mind like a smoky blue electricity – “At the top of the hill stood a tall tree where the boy with grandfather eyes would go and overlook the village.” I scrambled for paper, and in the dim darkness I scratched out the words, that gratefully, I was able to understand the next morning.

There is so much I want to talk about and share – but for now, I’ll focus on dreams, for after all, they are a key theme in The Dreamer’s Lotus. Mainly, I want to discuss:

 

How can we use dreams to improve our writing and what we are hoping to manifest.

Remembering our dreams is obviously the must crucial component. Our conscious mind is a powerful ally, and when united with the unconscious, amazing things can happen. My most effective way of remembering my dreams (and yeah, it’s gonna seem ridiculously simple) is saying to myself, moments before I feel myself falling asleep, “I am going to remember my dreams.” I repeat that half a dozen times, and more often than not, I wake up with a fairly good recall of my nighttime adventures. The more I repeat this exercise, the more trained my brain becomes for remembering my dreams. There are of course a multitude of tricks that people use, which I encourage people to share below. For me, the simpler it is, the better it seems to work.

We usually have three sets of dreams which correspond to our REM sleep. Sometimes we wake up immediately after a dream and then fall back asleep, which leads into part two.

The second component for most people is the hardest part – a dream journal. We dream every night, but by morning, and within the first fifteen minutes of being awake, we’ve forgotten 90% of our dreams. The dream journal helps mitigate that loss. I’ll admit, the last thing I usually want to do at 3:00 A.M. is start writing. But the easier I make it for myself, the more often it gets accomplished, and the more dreams I remember. I keep my journal and pen within arms reach, and have the pen placed between two fresh sheets of paper. Most of the time I don’t even open my eyes – I just write down as many words as I can to spark my memory in the morning – the more descriptive the better.

And finally, and I think this may be the most important part, is paying attention to our waking world in the present moment. The more conscious we are of our day-to-day surroundings, the more conscious we become of the dream. When we sit down to write, identify the corresponding details that our focus has landed upon in the two worlds. This can help to pull out the ideas and themes that have been trying to percolate through our awareness.

Not all of our dreams are going to become best selling books, but the process of writing them down, of alchemizing the ethereal into the tangible, we become more adept at our craft, and ultimately, more in tune with our own creations.

 

A community of change

How we do this is how we do everything.

Our life is made up of individual acts and decisions that have created our current present reality. In order to create positive change on this planet we must first evaluate our own motivations and why we do the things we do.

Many people right now are undergoing a major awakening. Suddenly, everything is moving so fast. What has been hidden for so long is finally becoming revealed. We are realizing (not only that, we are understanding) that certain financial establishments, powerful corporations, and both political and religious institutions have been both destroying the planet and profiting from our own ignorance.

The old paradigm reaction is one of anger and blame. “How dare they do this to us!” Yet the new paradigm is asking for a higher level of awareness. We cannot allow ourselves to fall into victimhood. It is a program that only feeds our current problems. We are living during a magnificent time, an epoch where we have the capacity to become fully empowered and take responsibility for our own actions. Self-responsibility has tremendous payoff when we are willing to accept our own role as co-creator.


Truly, we are on the verge of ecocide. Our planet is being over-fished, over-logged, our top soil is being depleted, this list goes on and on. Yes, some people are more responsible for this devastation than others. But ultimately, when the final tree is cut down, who cares who’s fault it was?  We need to start asking ourselves, “What kind of world do I want to live in?” and “What am I doing to create this?” Our individual creations have a tremendous impact. Our thoughts and our ideas ripple out into a broader community where they transform and evolve. No question about it, we are in this together.

Currently in Southern Oregon, where I’m living, communities are popping up all over the place. People from all over the country are pouring out of larger cities in the pursuit of a more simple and sustainable lifestyle.

Community has become a buzz word. People tend to think that if they live “off-grid” with twenty other people away from the matrix, life will be easier. Far from it. Living on the land is hard enough. But living with each other, now that’s a challenge. I’ve been living in community for over a year now and the social dynamics of living together in close proximity has been my greatest lesson.

If my external world is a representation of my inner terrain then I have no one else to blame but myself when something bothers me. We are all existing as divine mirrors for one another. We tend to externalize our own behaviors and project our issues onto other people.

Life in community is a microcosm of this global community we are living in. If day after day the plants aren’t getting watered because someone hasn’t been doing their job,  it is the responsibility of the individual and the community to address the problem from a place of compassion. Creating an argument or blaming only reflects our own issues of not fulfilling our duties to our community. Before we can change these immense problems that we face in this world, we have to learn to truly work together, and the quickest way to work well with other people, is if we know how to work well with ourselves, and taking responsibility for our own behaviors.

As a community of co-creators, we are each taking on the role of being leaders and teachers for our fellow community members. Our daily decisions have the power to influence hundreds of people, all the more reason to be conscious of each moment in our day. I understand that this is easier said than done. Today’s world is engulfed in tantalizing distractions. It is easy to get swept up into someone else’s drama or find ourselves lost in the electronic void of the 21st century. But ultimately, it comes down to this: how are you directing your consciousness? Our bodies are consciousness generators. Our thoughts create universes unto themselves.

So what are you thinking about?

It’s time we start focusing on the solution. And we can exemplify this process through our day-to-day actions. We must return to our hearts. We must align ourselves with motivations of the highest caliber, because without question, that’s exactly what this planet needs right now. The beautiful thing about aligning with our highest purpose is that endless possibilities begin to unfold. By following our passions through the most mundane of tasks we create new ways of being and new avenues of perception take place. Envision yourself living in a global community full of innovative, caring, and responsible people. Trust that you too have something to offer.