In a hyperconnected, technologically saturated and complex world men need to find time, places and relationships that restore their true nature and inspire them.
Nature connection is one activity that when done intentionally and mindfully can help men reconnect with themselves and remember what they value and envision for themselves, their family, their community and even future generations.
Since I was a young boy nature has been a sacred place for me that reminded me of essential truths: that I was safe, that I had an inner life worthy of respect, that I had the inner resources within me to protect myself and others, and that I could trust myself.
I always felt at home in nature and was able to restore my confidence at times when I had suffered losses or was faced with difficult decisions or transitions in my life. Nature has been and continues to be a teacher and guide for me.
I was fortunate to grow up in a small town in Ontario, Canada where I had close access to lakes, ponds, forests and spent countless hours immersed in individual and group activities including fishing, camping, and canoeing. As I aged and developed wilderness survival skills I undertook longer and more remote wilderness trips alone and with friends. The longest trip I did was a 68-day hiking pilgrimage during the winter from North Carolina to Ontario retracing an ancestral migration that my Irish ancestors undertook in 1794.
When I spend immersive time in the wilderness, especially on multi-day trips, I become more self-aware, clear minded, sensitive and honest because of the vulnerability of being exposed to the forces of nature and because the usual distractions of everyday life are removed. Each day I spend in nature on longer trips I find that layers of concerns, false beliefs about myself, and doubts fall away. As these layers fall away I experience and connect with the wild, diverse, and intense smells, conditions, sights and sounds that I encounter in the wilderness. At the same time I become even more aware of my true feelings, desires and authentic visions for my life.
When I am camping or fishing I interact with the immediate world around me to create shelter, make fire, and to eat. I am challenged to use my own resources to make a place for myself and others in a wild and sometimes harsh context. This is both a spiritual and an instinctual experience of connecting to deep, primal, principles of life and mature masculinity including provision, protection, resourcefulness, strength, patience and interdependency. Time and time again, nature reminds me and inspires me of my essential nature as a man.
In a busy, complex and challenging life context where men have multiple responsibilities and feel pulled in ten directions, intentional time in nature can offer inspiration, self-remembrance, and clarification of what is most valuable in one’s life.
Nature connection does not have to be prolonged and remote but can also include intentional and mindful walks or outings in parks and forests where one lives. The most important thing is to engage in the activity intentionally and mindfully. This means to be committed to being present and attentive with oneself and the environment, to remove distractions such as cell phones and technology, and to protect one’s time even if it is short and to treat the experience as a sacred.