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Lessons from The Wilderness

Modern humans move between nicely heated vehicles, workplaces and shopping centres, barely feeling the chill of a breeze on their cheek.

I have often heard people say “I’m not an outdoors kind of person” … “I can’t stand being wet, cold and muddy” or “it’s just not for me” — and I respect each individual’s right to choose how they spend their time.

Some people have experienced the joy of seeing a dramatic mountain view after a difficult climb, the fresh air of the forest, the beauty of a quiet lake. The wonder of nature does something for them. Some want to share their passion for these places by taking others there. Others value the solitude and space they find.

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Participating in guided hill walks, rock climbing or canoeing offers people experiences that they may never have thought possible. The feeling of freedom and relative simplicity form memorable and meaningful experience. The outdoors can bring enormous satisfaction and feelings of vitality and power.

We can test ourselves in ways we don’t often have the opportunity to do, and also find our limitations. The outdoors does not want you to succeed, nor does it want you to fail. It is indifferent. It does not judge or show favour.

If, in our forays into the wilderness, we find ourselves cold and muddy what can we do? Sit down and curse the falling rain? Accuse the equipment for not protecting us? Fixate on what a bad decision it was to venture out from the comfort of our home?

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We get cold, wet and muddy in life too. Addiction can feel like this: that other things are to blame; that it is a punishment; that nothing can be done to change it. When we feel like this on a mountainside, can we choose to keep walking, hoping the situation will improve and that eventually there might be respite, even comfort waiting for us? In addiction, is it possible to see a way into recovery? In the great outdoors we can learn something about the resources we need to manage unexpected situations. We can decide to take a healthy, measured risk to learn about ourselves.

The connection we have to the natural world is a strong one. We can use it to find power in ourselves. We can appreciate the power it has over us and surrender to it. Eventually, the rain always stops, even if it sometimes feels as though it will go on forever. And no matter what, you can always find a dry and warm place to rest after an outdoor experience.

Lessons from The Wilderness


Page last reviewed and clinically fact-checked | March 20, 2014