Wandering intentionally in the wild develops trust. Trust in ourselves, in the seasons and the consistency of change- in all living things. Through trust, we can in our brief human existence, and the impact we choose to make on the earth. As we wander in the wild, inevitably, we start to feel how we change the landscape, how big our gestures are, when we feel awkwardly incapable or when we feel light, fluid and almost invisible. We do that by building our intuitive intelligence. That intuitive language is what helps us to understand how we can change our relative impact on the earth and heal, come back to equilibrium, our natural state of being. In that place, we can do serious work.
As a national champion athlete, a mountain biker and back country skier, I realize through many misadventures, injury and disease, that our impact is shaped by the intention of our experience and the quality of that intention shapes our ability to learn from our experiences. How often do we consider our intention, what’s driving us when we go out? And how do we develop that intelligence?
We can control many variables when we go outside, and there are many we can’t. I’ve lost a fiancé in a climbing accident. I’ve been lost skiing on a winter single digit night with my dog. I’ve seen many close friends slip away into the cracks of the wild; gifted athletes, EMT trained guides. Nature doesn’t discern, and we are capable of understanding our exposure, our risks, and our impact. One thing we often don’t consider is our motivation, intention beyond simply exploration. That won’t change perilous weather, but it will inform us and enable an intelligence that’s life saving.
By disengaging the prefrontal cortex, and engaging other facets of the brain, we access more parts of our intelligence. The wild ecosystem engages multiple hormones that are less activated on a daily basis. In that flood of hormones, we can be overwhelmed and getting lost, forgetting, not turning around, overall bad decisions happen because we’re less familiar in that state of brain operation. The pre frontal often can’t work at higher elevations, or in fatigue, or environments that are more hostile and unfamiliar.
The more we go out, and engage, the more we’ll be able to trust sensations and not let them lead us astray. Intuition is a short name for the dynamic connection between our mindbody intelligence that occurs in the pituitary gland, the limbic system amongst other areas. Intuition informs us of danger, through our senses, gives us that physical sensation of safety and brings us into alignment. Intuition reminds us where healing is, and where too much risk lies, and when we’re off balance. We have the internal mechanisms, physiological technology to reverse aging, disease; mental and physical in these states. The more we can develop that, the more we’ll be in alignment with our true nature.
Almost every day I go out: on my bike or skis. Now, after my recent crash, a deep contusion to the leg, I revisit what my intention is. I’ve beaten and broken my body out of fear and love, and deep need to push. I know now that my ability to heal will be through patience, but continuing to move in the wild. The wild continues to develop my intelligence that is overwhelmed by technology. Our brain and bodies aren’t developed to process effectively that type of stimuli without repercussion. We will collapse or suffer on some place eventually with that kind of overload. We are designed to process the information in the wild. It’s impossible to become overwhelmed with that type of information. It’s possible to become overwhelmed bridging the two worlds, and in that space, we see chaos. Our brains shifting from different functions, requiring activation from very different parts of our brain, can lead to anxiety, depression, fear, bi-polar and more. Understanding the dynamic of the brain helps to respect transitions from each world. One spends a lifetime finding the balance, bridging worlds, fusing brain activity. Some prefer to live more on one side than the other, to retain activation of certain brain waves.
The rise of anxiety and other mental illnesses I believe is due in part to the lack of exposure to environments that develop our brains fully- the wild being one main source of necessary fuel for our mind and body. When activating just a portion of certain brain waves, other waves will go dormant. We can’t achieve that through brain exercises. It’s an action of mind and body, of teaching the body to interact with the brain, training the mind and body to develop simultaneously. When working in symbiosis, mind and body absorbs information and stimuli much more efficiently and fluidly. When we shut down the majority of our activity by shutting down our body’s ability to hear (many neurons are in the gut and heart, not just the brain), eventually that imbalance will create some destruction.
After living with multiple tumors, cysts, heart arrhythmia, diabetes, aspergers, severe anemia, multiple concussions, hip replacements and dislocation, my body is working it’s way slowly back to alignment. Not without daily, moment to moment effort, but I realize, after 51 years, that my mindbody does know how to rebuild and heal. The racing, climbing, back country skiing, for 50 years, is where I continue to go for building intelligence, but with much more awareness, articulation and precision. Backcountry is my necessary fuel to continue to heal deeply. Deep healing. Outside. Not just a bandaid.