Summer is a time when we think of being active, outward, uplifted, and having fun. It’s a time to get outside by camping, hiking, swimming, attending outdoor concerts, and those amazing road trips with soundtracks of our lives playing right along with us.
We tend to eat more naturally by having beautiful fruits and garden vegetables, visiting farmers markets, and forming family picnics. I personally love avocados, any kind of melon, and succulent peaches ─ not to mention picking fresh raspberries and not having any left to bring home as I’ve eaten them all while doing the picking. The combination of natural foods and the healing outdoors feels like all the medicine I need to bring me back to some semblance of balance.
This August, like the last six ones, I will be celebrating my years of sobriety. But this year, I’ve decided to do something much different. I’ve combined my celebration with a bucket list item. You see, since a very young age I’ve struggled with religion, and even thought for about two minutes that I might be an atheist. But very quickly I realized that wasn’t true.
Every time I would enter the woods and spend some time walking a trail, I felt something bigger than myself was at play. I felt connected to the animals, plants, and life here on this earth. My higher power became “nature” if I had to label it or describe it. I would even notice that after 20 minutes of slowly being “in” nature, allowing “it” to find me, my debilitating anxiety would dissolve as well as some of my daily stress. There is even a practice, originating in Japan, called Shinrin Yoku, or ‘forest bathing’, that outlines the same about stress and anxiety in relationship to nature. And there is the added benefit of conifer trees emitting a chemical that when breathed in is said to help strengthen cancer-fighting cells.
Last year, I decided to celebrate my upcoming 7th year of sobriety by being in nature for three weeks, walking 211 miles in the High Sierra Mountain range of California on the John Muir Trail. This has been on my list for some time now, and it’s been over a year that I’ve studied and planned for this trip. This journey requires carrying all of my equipment to eat, drink, sleep, and survive with. I have a couple of resupply points, but, basically, I’ll be out there in the open wild landscape, climbing eight passes ranging from approximately 9,500 to 14, 500 feet. I will summit the tallest mountain in the continental 48 states, Mount Whitney.
What’s been so helpful to my recovery is the anticipation of this trip. I have this event to wake up for and to plan, and I haven’t even set foot on the trail. I get excited about reading blogs, books, and talking to hikers that have walked this same trail. I want to reward myself, and not with an old habit of a drug or drink, but with a spiritual injection directly from the source: nature. I can only have this trip on my written bucket list for so long. I can only dream about it for so long. My knees are still pretty good. I have the resources and determination to complete this epic journey, so why not manifest it now? I don’t want to watch documentaries about this trail any longer. I want to make my own film about it. I want my own mental picture book and life-changing experience.
Margaret Runbeck said, “Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” And I’m determined to enjoy this process of planning, anticipating, and finally walking each step that will help me complete the 211 miles of this extraordinary landscape. It’s not about completing it, even though I certainly plan on it, but to truly connect to something deeper within myself and to something bigger than myself. I’m truly blessed, and I intend on fostering that positive energy in my life of recovery.
That leads me to the fact that I will have my camera and a GPS that will capture where I am. I would love to have support while hiking the daily miles needed to complete the trek in 20 days. You can support me by following me on a map, and experience the trip right along with me. The link will be provided in the August newsletter. Stay tuned. Upon returning I will put together a film or presentation about how it all went down, as well as insights, strengths, challenges, and results.
I encourage you to make this summer and all the seasons a “wild one” by connecting to nature as a way to fill yourself up spiritually. Take it one breath, one step, one natural day at a time.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” – John Muir