Can The Outdoors Be A Spiritual Experience and Should We Care
I think we can agree if you have been following my website or some similar website for very long you are a person who loves the outdoors. There are also those who follow me that are interested in the information offered that just want to learn survival skills in case they get lost in the woods or are thrust into a situation where they are forced to survive like a grid down situation. I would also venture to say that whatever your reason is that you probably have experienced a connection and enjoyment beyond just surviving
whether it was admiring the beauty of a waterfall or a great view from a summit you have been trying to reach all day. Are you familiar with the feeling and connection I am talking about? That relaxing, therapeutic, can’t explain feeling of just being in the moment and you can feel the stress leaving your body and you wish this moment could go on forever, Ahhh. Some would call that a spiritual experience.
Now I’m not talking about spiritual in a religious or traditional sense. I am talking about that connection we feel that is beyond the tactile, something that goes deeper that we really can’t put into words. Human beings are composed of body, soul and spirit. It is our spirits where we think about things more deeply. It is also where our intuition and ‘spidy-sense’ of danger operates. We are spiritual beings that have a soul that live in a body. Human beings are capable of deeper thinking, enlightened thinking, understanding that cannot be tested in a laboratory. Our spirit is crying out that we are so much more than our five senses and when we ignore it we get the ills of society. It becomes all about temporary satisfaction, instant gratification and fulfilling lust when we could have love. Human beings have the power to choose. Take time in every situation to look a little deeper, think a little deeper, listen to that still small voice that challenges us not to react the way we initially may want to. Deep calls to deep.
Larry Dean Olsen, the father of the modern primitive skills interest movement, who recently passed away said some interesting things on this subject that I will share that I think puts things in perspective.
“I was brought up in a culture that is very sensitive and very spiritual and I’ve always had that and felt it, and I think in aboriginal times it was the same way. The aboriginal ideal that we see the Indians today were that they were close to the Earth and they were very in-tune with things and that they had this spiritual connection. I think all of that is true in concept and precept. In practice, probably not as true. Because many of them were very vicious people and you don’t learn to be vicious out there. That’s not what you learn, you decide that yourself.
“And the same with the white people that came out here. Some of them melted into the land, had their little farms, minded their business, tended things, made friends with the Indians and were just fine. Others came out wanting to destroy all the Indians so they’d be out of the way and they wouldn’t have to worry about them. It’s a matter of where you come from. But I do believe that it’s very difficult for a person to be in the wild for very long without realizing that something is going on. That all of this explanation, that it’s all phenomenon of nature and it’s all evolved over eons. There just is not a lot of hope in that. And it doesn’t really make as much sense as they try to make it sound like. I think it’s really there, but it’s not without guidance.
“So being spiritual in the wilderness and using these skills, I see the skills as being a tool that builds confidence. It’s not that the skill itself is so important. They’re really pretty simple. And they’re really something that anybody can figure a better way if they think about it long enough. But it’s what it gives you inside that is spiritual that ties me to the tools. The Earth itself has its own Spirit and the people who are on it were sent here to work out something while we’re here in this sphere, to have this experience for something really greater beyond. Not just to float around on a cloud and play a harp or anything but to really have an influence on eternity and eons of Earths. So survival skills, living off the land, being close to Mother Earth and the feeling of that Spirit is as much a part of my religion and my spiritual upbringing as anything I can think of. ” —Larry Dean Olsen
Why practice the skills of ancient man? Personally, I feel like each time I breathe in the smoke of a fire created by rubbing one stick against another, I breathe in the air of the dawn of all time. Each time I crack two stones together, I rejoin the brotherhood of man and a past that unites us all. Learning is ever on the increase, yet all we learn swirls together as it joins into and affects time forever. What we do with that which we have learned can bless or curse future generations. Everything our hands do imprints upon time forever. There are those in the past who knew this…perhaps, it is time we took the hand of time gone by to learn what we have forgotten.
Here is another quote by Larry Dean Olsen: “Discovery is important. We think the world has been explored completely and I suppose people have walked just about everywhere now. They haven’t discovered anything to speak of and it’s all still there. It’s to be found by every individual.
“And survival, living off the land just accentuates your awareness of all of that. You have to know every twig and every boulder and rock and what it can be used for and you see things differently. You never look at a grove of trees in the same way again. And that’s what I hope that my students pick up, is that it’s not just scenery anymore. It’s a livelihood and it’s something that can really help you.” —Larry Dean Olsen
Don’t get me wrong there is definitely merit to learning survival and primitive skills just for skills sake. It may save the life of you and/or a loved one some day. The sense of preparedness and self-reliance that these skills instill in you is not to be undervalued. But it is hard to deny the spiritual dimension to it. It has been proven in studies that insomnia can be cured just by going camping for a week. It resets your circadian rhythms. Some studies say that as much as 60% of modern day ills, at least in western civilization, can be attributed to stress. Other studies say stress creates an acidity to the physical body that is the birthplace of many diseases because it breaks down our immune system. In this modern day and time the answer to most people is to medicate when a walk in the woods and disconnecting from all the over-stimulation for a short time can often work much better and it doesn’t do the harm to our bodies that medication does.
In considering this spiritual side of getting out in nature the great thing about it is you don’t have to formally approach it as spirituality. It is just something that happens on its own. There is merit in spiritual retreats in nature but for the most part most of us just need to get outdoors and let it happen. Hiking, breathing fresh air, looking into the flames of a campfire, talking to friends around a fire, eating a meal cooked on a fire…. is just naturally therapeutic, isn’t it?
To me, true spirituality has nothing to do with religion anyway. It is an all-encompassing view of life and not denying that things are more connected than most want to accept. True spirituality carries over into every aspect of our lives. It’s not something you have to stir up, pay up or wind up. It is as real as the air we breathe, invisible in many ways but so real and vital to us as an individual. True spirituality is something that comes alongside everything we do, every thought we think and everything we see. It becomes a filter through which we view all things on a level that just makes sense. So, get outside and enjoy nature on whatever level you can and the deeper aspects of it will take care of themselves.