Heading Outside to Nurture the Inside

Posted on June 23rd, 2012 by in Wake-Up Call

Photo Courtesy of Flickr User Bill Bouton

I grew up with TV. I don’t know how old I was when I started watching, but I remember spending time with Kermit and Fonzie and Jack, Chrissy, and Janet. I remember being ushered to bed after Walter Cronkite shared his mantra, “That’s the way it is.” I didn’t know it as I was growing up, but this ubiquitous watching was embedding a sedentary pattern into my body, mind, and spirit. My dad would always encourage me to “get out” and get away from the screen, and I did this during the day, but I still probably ended up being exposed to one to two hours of TV daily from the ages of 1 to 12. I estimate that I ingested about 5,000 hours of television before hitting puberty.

When I was in high school, I was friends with people who were outdoorsy. Some talked about taking a bike trip in Maine, others of an adventure at sea, and others still of a NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) trip to learn how to rock climb. As I saw photos of their epic adventures, which included cute boys; sun-kissed, wind-blown faces; and bright eyes on a monumental journey, my call to the wild began to take hold. At age 16, I applied to attend a mountaineering course in Montana with Outward Bound. I trained for a couple of months before the trip. I’d been smoking cigarettes so I figured swimming would be a good training sport (yeah, real smart). I swam like nobody’s business, but it in no way prepared me for 14 days of hiking that entailed traversing 110 miles of rocky, barren terrain. When I spent the first day trudging up a slope of the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness with tears streaming down my face and a 60-pound pack on my back, huffing and puffing the whole way, I knew I was in for a rough ride.

A lightning storm forced us to stop on the side of the mountain for two hours, huddling over our packs in the torrential downpour and booming thunderclaps. I knew I should be in better shape. Emotionally, physically, and energetically, I was demolished. Our group consisted of rough-and-tumble 19-year-old boys who were well-versed in hiking and climbing. I was a complete newbie, and rough-cut at that.

By day 11, after being broken-down and rebuilt, I was much heartier. On this day, in particular, I was the first to complete an ascent of the Green Mountain. As I neared the peak, I could feel that I was first in my group and I felt elated. I knew that my team would be proud of me, as I had been the whiniest of the crew for the first 50 of our 110-mile hike. I felt proud of me too as I felt my strength increase, the fresh air permeate my body, and established a firm sense of personal power on the mountain. The experience left me yearning for more. After I returned home, instead of resorting to grabbing a bag of crunchy sundries and picking up the clicker, I headed out for some fresh air and natural light. I’d experienced an awakening.

As I’ve gotten older, I know that I must move to sustain a sense of life force, prana, chi, mojo—whatever you choose to call it. Our bodies are built to move and if I don’t, I pay the price: My mind becomes dangerous terrain and my thoughts stagnate. Someone once told me to “move a muscle to change a thought.” It seemed simplistic and a bit hokey at the time, but it rings true for me. If I forget to take the time to move and get my heart rate up, I get cranky and don’t digest as well. A quick 20-minute walk or an hour of vinyasa yoga always does the trick in bringing me back to speed.

I still might indulge in the occasional Portlandia or HGTV, but my screen time is more of a conscious choice than it once was. I still can’t believe I smoked for as long as I did (almost 10 years) or that I didn’t learn to take better care of myself earlier, but the wake-up call doesn’t get picked up until someone hears it.

Have you experienced one of these speed-dial moments? Does the wake-up sometimes come twice?


4 Responses to “Heading Outside to Nurture the Inside”

  1. This is a great post! Outward Bound changed me, too. I did a 90-day wilderness survival semester in Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru when I was 23 and my experience paralleled yours. Now I am 38, and the pack on my back holds my 30-pound 2-year-old, as we hike through local forests. We took her to El Salvador when she was 11 months old. I want to impart my love of nature to her. (And, she watches about 1-2 hours of video PER WEEK.) The key is to return to a state of purity every so often. Having a child has only helped motivate me to do so. Please visit my blog, http://mommytheorist.wordpress.com to read what I’ve written about seeing the natural world through my daughter’s eyes, and traveling with kids. I’ve also visited Kripalu twice, and hope to return with my whole family. 
    Love and light, Michelle

    • Actually, my *current* blog post says that TV is a letdown and I’d rather spend time in the garden! Please read: http://mommytheorist.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/i-wanna-feel-something/

    • KripaluEditor June 23, 2012 1:28 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! I love that you were toting your two-year-old around El Salvador. I have five-year-old twins and this is inspiring! Kids get us outside, don’t they!?
      I will check out your blog. 
      Appreciate your reading and commenting!
      Kim from Kripalu 

  2. Vicky Cook June 27, 2012 4:40 pm #

    I came to find movement and nature when I was 18 and haven’t looked back.  I hadn’t realized at the time, but it was the beginning of a spiritual journey that has flourished in many ways.  I still can’t believe how much time I spent in front of the boob tube in my early years.  I happened upon hiking, skiing and many other outdoor activities over the years and though my choice of movement evolves it has always served my spirit allowing me to be comfortable in my own skin, connecting my mind and body on levels that can only come from movement.  A good run always helps  to create a deeper meditation and deeper connection to myself .  I know that is where my love of yoga comes from and expansion of expression that comes from a desire to be all that I can be, mind, body and soul.  Thanks for sharing your experience!   

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