Since time, immemorial people have gone to wilderness to seek vision, experience a deeper sense of inner peace, and find healing. Nature has a certain kind of light and clarity that speaks clearly to the soul, calling it forth. When people go to nature, they touch a deeper part of themselves, a part that has been hidden by the distractions and hectic pace of daily life. When people go to wild, they go because the soul longs for connection and needs to be heard.
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In this modern age, we have taken away from our youngsters much of the challenge of our physical existence so much that arguably we have created an unhealthy culture where our material abundance has led to the highest rates of obesity and apathy, ever known among youngsters. Living in the outdoors requires work: demands of the weather, of walking everywhere you go, of learning to live without furniture and a bed means that you learn how to take care of yourself in ways that are easily taken for granted every day. There is no shower, bed, toilet, oven, microwave, television, computer, lighting; all these basic amenities are missing. Students then learn to make do with what they can do for themselves; specifically they learn how to take care of themselves completely without the modern conveniences their lives are propped up by. This engenders a sense of empowerment, of being capable of successfully keeping themselves physically comfortable and safe: warm when it is cold, dry when it is wet and fed when they are hungry. They become students of life in its most natural form.
Nature also provides the best classroom to learn one of the essential truths: that with every action, there is a subsequent reaction; for every cause, there is an effect. In essence, moving out of childhood is moving into conscious awareness in which we no longer are a function of our trauma, our family story, our incorrect beliefs or our impulsive conditioning (involuntary conditioning). We aim to help each of our students learn that they have the ability to make choices with what they do and how they respond to circumstances in their lives. Wilderness is the single best context to learn this truth.
For example, if a student sleeps poorly because the wind whipped their shelter all night because they didn’t secure it tightly and then is grumpy and irritable all day, we help them connect the dots between their shelter building effort (such attributes as attention to detail, prioritizing quality and craftsmanship, not being lazy, not settling for just good enough) and how they slept and, therefore, how they feel (the result of not doing an adequate job of securing their shelter). With this simple connection, students make a massive leap, a leap towards understanding that what you put into life, you get out of life. Nature is the teacher, an authority everyone respects. Connecting the dots between behavior and nature’s consequences empowers students to make intelligent choices and understand how nature naturally supports this.
In wilderness, distractions such as social and economic status, image and materialism are irrelevant. Nature does not treat any one person any differently than any other no matter their status or their possessions. Wilderness provides a neutral context to create a community with intention, one based on essential fundamentals of human community: trust, honor, integrity, effort, authenticity, and compassion. Here students learn the most important lesson of their life and that is to only depend on themselves and to work through it, no matter how difficult it is, by yourself.
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