Taking back life by rediscovering nature
Nature is Life. It is the epitome of all health. It is the cheapest and most effective medicine for many of the ails of modern society. Being resigned and sedentary to indoor life is akin to succumbing to an early grave.
I grew up in and about the New England area of the Northeast United States. In geo-speak that’s about 40-45 North and 60-80 West I played and spent many years of my youth enjoying outdoor activities of all types available to the region. Summers were spent swimming in the ocean, canoeing the many rivers in the region of Massachusetts, and hiking the White & Green Mountains of New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont. Winters were spent skiing those same places via the Alpine and Nordic sticks to guide my feet. Those were, by far, the happiest memories of my youth. Whether they were alone, with my boy scout troop, friends, or family—all I can recall is how happy and healthy I was to be there; in Nature. Looking back I realized the only things I had lifting me to those heights were fresh air, sunshine, elevations, water…things that many in “civilized” life take for granted. I have many happy times in front of the old Nintendo as well, but nothing compares to Nature. As an adult, I have come to realize that what was shaping me was a long forgotten philosophy pioneered in the very Earth that bore my feet as a babe-Transcendentalism. This way of thinking was revolutionary in the mid-nineteenth century, and was pioneered by the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau in the now gone wildernesses of Eastern Massachusetts.
Coming into adulthood, I was fortunate to repeat many of these Nature activities. I had this fortune via a military occupation, and it was something not cherished, but taken for granted. Life in the field involves great hardships and feats of endurance while out and about in different locales throughout our world—but one thing often remains the same. No matter where you are, enduring all kinds of unspeakable “suck”—you are often in the bosom of Mother Nature. I again realize in hindsight that this is what makes much of that “suck” bearable to degree. I was not enlightened enough to realize it at the time, but keeping in the simple ways of Nature was keeping me healthy, happy, sane…and alive.
Upon leaving military life I had a change of circumstances, and I decided against my better instinctive judgement at the time. I had some injuries, anxiety, depression, and many other conditions I will spare the dear reader. I decided to attempt to cure my ills with the advice of doctors I was seeing, and the methodology of Modern Society. That included ignoring my diet, lots of television, and countless prescription drugs, among other vices. Over the years my condition worsened, and I was gaining weight at an exponential pace. I kept following the advice of mainstream doctors and society, even though I could see it was only worsening my fate. This downward spiral progressed over a decade into a 150+ pound weight gain. Finally in 2013 I decided I had enough! Bombarding myself with prescriptions, and being told to gently “exercise a little” was no longer a working formula. I took a leap of faith to commit to a month of hiking, eating well, and working out in the pristine Santa Monica Mountains—lands I had not laid eyes upon in over a decade. It was there that I was so blessed to meet Tami and TJ. They helped me dig into my subconscious and realize what I had forgotten many years ago; Nature is the Answer. Hiking and being with Her is the epitome of serenity!
In the Santa Monicas in Spring of 2013 I reignited with a fierce wildfire what I had long ago abandoned. I took the attitude home with me, and began spending as much time as I could allow in Nature. I started with small trails around my home, dog walking trails, and before I knew it I was back to the Green & White Mountains of my youth taking on the peaks! I took back the summers and enjoyed the ocean again, and took to the lakes and rivers in my kayak. I cut the cord on my cable TV within a week of being home.
Any time spent marathon watching a sitcom I was now spending outside. By Winter I was snowshoeing, skiing again, and doing ultra-endurance events.
I have continued this astounding feat…as I found I am but a helpless prisoner to Nature’s calling. Nature is a drug—it is like bathing in the waters where Heaven meets Serenity (see here: https://youtu.be/Bf5TgVRGND4). I have even upped the ante and I do backcountry skiing-I earn those turns on the uphill climbs. You may only make one or two runs, but the feeling is a hundred fold better than riding a ski lift for 100 runs. While backpacking, sleeping and breathing the fresh air of the mountains actually enhances your REM sleep and dreams I have discovered as well. I have learned through Nature to be less fearful of life’s challenges. I have learned that there is nothing lost by trying—even in a failed attempt at natural conquest one has a valuable lesson in lost pride. I have been fortunate to meet many, many friends in the outdoors community-and I take every moment as a precious gift that I am able to be in Nature, either alone or with a friend. From atop the highest peak, to sleeping in a lean-to shelter under the Milky Way…all the way to the mud soaked “insanity” of an obstacle course raceEVERY moment outside is a Gift. Cherish it, bask in happiness, and pay it forward! ~Namaste~
Additional note from Tami: Ben is too modest. I was so fortunate to meet Ben that first month when he began his journey back to health. About a year and a half later, with Ben’s encouragement, I did my first Spartan Run. By that time, Ben was a beast and a world-class competitor in endurance events. He inspires me almost daily with what he continues to accomplish. It makes me so happy to see how truly connected he has become with nature and that he is a kindred spirit on the trail for TJ and me.