Much can be learned through a sojourn into the outdoors, pushing oneself can be a way to understand oneself
FOUR years ago at age 60, I took up hiking as a hobby, and little did I know hiking was a lot more than a walk in a park. It wasn’t just strenuous for the body, but intense for the mind too.
As I continued, tired, dripping with sweat and alone, I had a sense the forest was its imparting knowledge to me and drawing parallels between my life experiences and hiking.
As mentioned in my previous articles, not only is it important to be in harmony with ourselves but with the environment too.
Our forefathers have always looked towards nature to provide clues in various aspects of living. Unfortunately, humankind continues to destroy that which helped us endure and nurture life for thousands of years.
We have put ourselves apart from the flora and fauna with a common conception that we are wiser and more intelligent, yet contrary to that belief, our very life depends on the world around us.
It’s time we get in harmony and respect every form of life on this planet. Journey with me as I explore what nature taught me, and as I observe and reflect on how wise the forest is.
We are social creatures, just as plants and animals. The forest canopy protects plants and animals, gives shelter, food and protection.
Did you know larger trees in the forest help feed smaller plants through their root system?
With the help of mycelium, the larger trees that reach out to the sunlight generate food for themselves and pass some of it to the root system. Fungi attach themselves to the tips of the roots and feed on the sugars before passing it on to other plants that are less fortunate when it comes to receiving sunlight.
Yes, it’s a compassionate symbiotic system of existence right there! The canopy holds rainwater and releases it gently to avoid washing away the topsoil and causing soil erosion.
Yes, it lives in harmony and compassion with all of us, not asking anything of us.
The first thing about learning from the forest is to show up for the hike, otherwise it’s a nonstarter. This in itself is already a mountain of a challenge.
Discipline is needed for everything new you want to take up. Be it a hobby, business, skill, education, relationship, exercise or even meditation.
Once you have set your intentions right, it’s easy to get up at two or three in the morning and get excited to get going. If our intention is not supported by ‘why’ you are doing it, there is a risk of it overwhelming you at an early stage.
For me, it was to be healthy and to realise the latent potential within me.
So like the trees, they are firmly and deeply rooted in their intention to grow tall, strong and able to withstand the strongest environmental challenges.
We all have negative narratives that hold us back in all aspects of life. Culture, religion, parents, society, race, gender, politics, education, language and science have always put a damper on our ability to live to our true potential.
Therefore it’s best to seek and find liberation through knowledge.
After my health challenges, my doctors told me to take it easy, not to exert myself, etc.
I researched and studied, formally and informally and came to my own conclusions on how I can heal and even reverse my disease.
That is when I discovered a little known word ‘salutogenesis’ about 10 years ago.
“A ‘salutogenic’ approach is one that focuses on factors that support health and wellbeing, beyond a more traditional, ‘pathogenic’ focus on risk and problems.”
Our bodies are in a constant state of repair, growth and regeneration, no matter what state your health is in presently.
Just as a devastating fire destroys the forest, plants and seeds that haven’t yet had a chance to flourish under the forest canopy, rejoice in all its colourful splendour and glory within weeks of the fire.
The journey up the mountain can only be accomplished one step at a time. Along the way you will have many things that demotivate you, such as injuries, deaths, wild animals, but the biggest demotivator is younger and healthier hikers giving up and turning back down.
This is when I, as an older person, begin to worry.
Fortunately, I have a strong and determined mind. I don’t get overwhelmed by looking at the peak or challenges ahead, instead I enjoy the majestic view and imagine being up there.
I brush aside doubts, I know that aches, pains and injuries will be there, I focus on each step, I listen to the sound and sensation of the forest. I am in harmony with it, remembering always I am part of it and not separate from it.
I am the forest.
The art of mental tai-chi
Whatever bad experience comes our way, we can always give it different meaning and transform it into something of value.
For instance, my right leg is about an inch and a half shorter and because of that I also have scoliosis and suffer from lower back pain.
As I walked in the perpetually uneven forest trails, I one day broke into a smile when I realised the forest floor was a perfect match for my condition.
Suddenly, a flood of similar memories on my personal challenges were transformed into The Heart and Mind Center where we help people with similar health issues.
One day as I was recuperating from one of the hikes at home, I asked myself a strange question as I looked at my mum’s picture on the wall.
She died when she was only 42, when I was just 11… I asked, was the death of my mother a good thing or a bad thing? The answer was an instantaneous ‘yes’.
I took it to mean it was something necessary at that point in my life to make it what it is now.
My life would have been very different if she was alive, as I was the youngest and obviously the pet. She would have guided me or influenced my path in many ways. Life would have been so different.
But I love my life now and am blessed in many ways. It was an epiphany at that moment in the forest when my mind did the tai-chi.
The forest evoked that knowing onto me, it did, in a combination of nature’s energy, highly oxygenated air, a state of meditation or even hypnosis as I took one step at a time.
The silent beauty of the forest is in its bends, twist, turns, struggles and scars on its terrain, roots, trunks and branches. The forest struggles and yet there lies its beauty. Embrace your struggles and grow from it.
Post Traumatic Growth
You are either a hero of your story or a victim. The language that describes your experience can support you or undermine you.
Humans love order in their lives, a place for everything and everything in its place.
But in the forest nothing is organised, everything seems chaotic, but when observed closely, there is beauty in the chaos. There are many levels of organisation, from the macro to the micro.
When you look up at the canopy you would notice how the leaves and branches spread in beautiful patterns and are perfectly spaced too.
When you look at the forest floor you see insects, flowers and leaves in flamboyant displays of various shapes, colours and sizes. Even when you look at dead or fallen trees, I see grace and sacrifice for which it has done it, perhaps for others to grow.
I have fallen and injured myself several times, but every time that happens I am less afraid of it. My confidence (mind) and strength (body) grows stronger.
I have not gone to seek medical treatment for any ailments or injuries for more than 10 years. Healing is a natural gift, seek the path of salutogenesis not pathogenesis.
“The art of healing comes from nature not from the physician.” – Paracelsus, Swiss physician-philosopher.
By : Terence D’Cruz – THE VIBES