ReWild: Adventure Therapy with Dan
Oregon is home to scenic coastline, high desert, triumphant mountains, lush forests, joyful waterfalls, magnificent rivers, and more shades of green than one previously thought possible. The state itself is almost half forest (48 percent, according to oregon.gov). Oregon offers a multitude of activities to enjoy the state’s beauty year round with snowshoeing, trail running, mountaineering, and rock climbing, among many other activities. It is one of the things that attracted me to move here. I don’t wait for “nice” weather because there is no time like today. I endure, so I can enjoy whatever comes my way to get a shot of serenity from being out in Mother Nature. That’s why the tagline of ReWild is “Rain or Shine, We’ll Get Your Back to Your Roots.” You can find our next ReWild group under the events tab.
The Inspiration for ReWild
There is something restorative about stepping into a forest and enveloping yourself in the sights and sounds. Let the modern world melt away step-by-step into this moment with the smells and sights of growth and untamed life; uplifting and renewing. This isn’t a novel concept: Study after study has found that our connection to nature plays a role in our mental wellbeing. One study points to more positive engagement with the larger human community with immersion in the natural world. Experiencing the natural environment humanity evolved from deepens my feelings of connection to the greater whole of us as a people. This resonates with me personally. The more I can replenish my stores by taking in a hike or challenging myself with a climb, the better. I find myself grounded, focused, and present for the ones I love. I come back to my life outside the wilderness more ready, more steady, and at peace.
The Perfect Location for Adventure Therapy
We (including myself) are especially spoiled here in Portland. Forest Park, located just a few steps from civilization, is one of the largest urban forest reserves in the country. It includes over 80 miles of trails and spans over 5,200 acres. It has something for everyone, including connections to the Arboretum, the Pittock Mansion, and a spooky witch’s house. If so desired, the Wildwood trail winds 30 miles, all the way around the Portland area. With Forest Park being so close, it is my go-to for self-care hike or trial run right after work with the doggos.
ReWild for Self Care
Let’s not forget the importance of self-care- life is stressful. A lot of stress involves being internally preoccupied: Did I pay the daycare yesterday? Should I have spoken up in that meeting? Do we need milk? When we’re in our homes, workplaces, and cars it can be hard to shift our attention away from these matters or our phones. Being in nature moves our attention outward and creates a wonderful opportunity to be present in that moment with mindfulness.
ReWild with Mindfulness
Mindfulness is an exercise rooted in Buddhist practices. As one example, Sylvia Boorstein states, “Mindfulness is the aware, balanced acceptance of the present experience. It isn’t more complicated than that. It is opening to or receiving the present moment, pleasant or unpleasant, just as it is, without either clinging to it or rejecting it.”
While It does sound complicated, but can be practiced using external experiences. Walking through a forest, for example. To begin, I suggest pausing after you get out of your car (or off your mode of transportation). Observe any lingering stress of the commute, stretch your legs, notice what comes to mind, then take a moment to breathe into that space and prepare your senses for the experience. Notice what is around you, use each sense to envelope yourself in the wooded area you now reside. Move intentionally and with purpose to make the rewilding begin.
ReWild with your Five Senses
Beginning with your senses is an excellent mindfulness and grounding tool. Senses create strong memories and can elicit strong emotions. This is how we can translate and bring with us what we learn from being in the wild back into our daily lives. As you begin your excursion, take a moment to remember that it’s more than sight as you see the beautiful trees, the flowers blooming, and the moss lazily hanging off the branches. How many smells can you detect? Can you catch the scent of the rich soil, hidden beneath the smell of the trees? Take a moment to touch the rough bark. Feel your feet as you walk the path, appreciating the connection to the earth community at large. The sounds of the forest may be numerous or they may be absent. Listen. Appreciate the silence and the space between bird calls. Remember to stay hydrated, and notice taking a drink.
A ReWild Snapshot
It can be nice to try a “snapshot”. I find there’s always one spot in my hike that feels perfect- serendipitous, perfectly green and still, a trickle of water somewhere, with just the right amount of fog. Using your above mindfulness skills, take a “snapshot”. This “snapshot” can become your own personal mindfulness meditation to be used when you’re not able to get away into the woods. You could be typing a blog post, then pause to “return” to that beautiful spot you enjoyed so much.
So, go forth, get outside in what way works for you, challenge yourself, breathe in that accomplishment, savor whatever failures may come for these are lessons, begin to get back to our roots, ReWild yourself, and practice mindfulness recreation. And please, remember that greenspaces are for everyone. Leave nature as you found it and leave no trace so that all can enjoy the benefits of these wonderful spaces.