Sunday, October 6, 2019

Road Lessons Six, Seven, and Eight: Nature, The Sacred, and Meaning and Purpose

From a talk I gave to Mental Health Con, Estherville, Iowa, Sept 28, titled Eight Lessons I Learned on the Road ...

I want to leave time for questions, so I'll run through the next three real quick:

Lesson Number Six – Getting out in Nature

I could go on and on about this. One really important point: Our DNA was built to be out in nature. Our whole modern life: We are fighting against our DNA. This, I believe, more than anything else, is the root cause of mental illness. Not to mention much physical illness. Depression, anxiety, addiction, obesity, heart disease, you name it. We’re falling apart. We’re simply not built for modern life.

So, what can we do? Well, how about a walk in the park? Here’s a few things that will happen: Exercise, stress reduction, light therapy, aroma therapy, oxygen therapy, wow! moments. And now we’re finding the trees release mood-enhancing endorphins.

My recommendation: A one-hour nature hike, at least twice a week. And get away from the crowds. Try it. Note how you feel. Also, do it in bad weather. Do it with mosquitoes. Then take the time to stay out in nature all day. Breathe it, soak it in.

I beg you. Get out in nature, get out in nature, get out in nature.

Lesson Number Seven – Cultivate a sense of the sacred.

It doesn’t matter what your conception of God is or faith or spirituality – always make a space for the sacred. In my case, being out in nature has brought me closer to the land and to the people who used to live in nature, not outside of it.

Under a night sky, all bundled up, hot tea in hand, I feel I am watching what I call Paleo TV. A moon peering out from the clouds as the roar of the ocean booms off the cliff. A shooting star breaking loose above the desert. The big pines swaying with the wind in the forest.

My first commandment: I am Mother Earth, giver of life. Honor me, hold me sacred.

But you are the hero in your own script, your own narrative. This is your journey. I urge you - Get in touch with your own sacred space. Enter it without prejudice, without judgment. Tune out your daily mental chatter. Allow yourself to become open to new insights, new perceptions, new wisdom. In time, neurons that never talked to one another will start talking. Be alert. Pay attention.

Finally, lesson number eight – Meaning and purpose …

Having a reason to live was the key to my recovery, back in 1999, coming out of a suicidal depression. Reinventing myself as an expert patient researching and writing about my bipolar gave me a new lease on life. I found myself looking forward to waking up each morning. I experienced the thrill of learning new stuff, of picking up new skills. I enjoyed the company of new online friends and a few face to face ones. From the feedback I was getting, I knew I was helping a good many people.

Well, as you know, in 2016, my world fell apart again. What was my reason for going on this time? Well, you know the answer. I embarked on my journey of discovery, healing and connection. The thought that what I learned out on the road might help others is a large part of what kept me going. And here we are, together, in Estherville. Say no more.

Thank you very much for having me here.

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