The following is a guest post by Logan Marshall of WildMovement.com. It’s a BIG wake up call. Enjoy!
When it comes to “primal living,” most people know the basics: Get outside, embrace the sun, don’t eat processed crap that wasn’t around 200 years ago. But for me, the lifestyle possibilities don’t stop there. Nope. For me, there are a whole slew of less mainstream aspects. Minimalism is one. Another is spirituality. But in this post I want to talk about an aspect that — given my current situation — is at the top of my mind:
More specifically, how to break out of “ruts” that drain your energy and remove any glimpse of spontaneity from your life. But before I get into the specifics, there’s a short story I want to share with you…
Tom Brown Jr.
I’m a big fan of Tom Brown Junior. A huge fan actually. If you haven’t heard of him, here’s the quick version:
Tom, an American who grew up in New Jersey, was “adopted” by an Apache elder when he was seven. This man, referred to as Grandfather, took Tom under his wing and taught him the ways of the forest: How to build shelter. How to track and hunt. How to find clean drinking water. How to “blend” into the forest and become invisible to animals and humans alike.
He also taught him innumerable lessons about life… including the one you’re about to read. This story comes from Tom’s book The Vision — one of my favorites — I think you’ll really enjoy it.
Tom Brown Deer Story
Tom and Grandfather are hunting. Crouching in the bushes…when a big does slips from the cover, moving along a well worn deer trail. Normally deer are skittish. Hyper aware. But this doe seems to be paying little attention to her surroundings — bulling forward as though her senses were completely gone. The deer continues forward, head down, until it is standing right beside Tom. Close enough to touch. At this point Grandfather draws his bow and, within seconds, the doe is dead.
Following the hunt, Tom is full of questions. He can’t understand why the kill was so easy. After all, they had failed to make critical preparations. They weren’t camouflaged, the wind was blowing their scent in all directions and — in his mind — they’d chosen a bad spot to sit. It shouldn’t have happened as it did. In fact, they shouldn’t have even seen a deer. I just doesn’t make sense.
When confronted with these questions, Grandfather answers slowly. Taking time to choose the right words. When he does speak, his voice is filled with sorrow and pity:
Animals, like humans, make mistakes that ultimately lead to their death. Physically, or on a spiritual and emotional level, as with this deer. People and animals that stay on the same paths will eventually wear themselves into ruts — a complacency to life born of the false security, comfort and monotony of that path. Soon the ruts become so deep that they can no longer see over the sides. They see neither danger nor beauty. Only the path before them. Nor do they abandon the path so often traveled, for fear of losing their security and entering the land of the unknown.
Upon hearing this, Tom is stunned — his mind spinning with examples from his own life. He thinks of his friends at school and how they take the same routes everyday. He thinks of the adults in his life, and how many of them walk through life completely unaware of their surroundings — much like the deer. He thinks about his own life and is shocked by what he sees.
Like the society around him, he has begun become unconscious. Going through the motions. Mindlessly performing the same routines, day after day, dead to the vitality all around him.
Upon realizing this, Tom is filled with a visceral sense of fear and loss and a intense desire to savor every moment, every nuance, of life. He vows to break every rut and routine in his life…and never give himself over, even for a moment, to deadening routine.
The Sad Reality of Modern Life
Sadly, most people are like the deer. And I’m not just saying this. If you take the time look around you, you’ll see that it’s true. Most people move through life in a “walking daze.” Unaware of their surroundings. Lost in their heads. Mindlessly checking items off their To-Do lists…without ever becoming present to the miraculous flow of life all around them.
And I’m the same way.
Even though I’m consciously leading a life of “wild exuberance,” I often fall victim to the seductive pull of routine. I work too hard on my business. My mind becomes restless. I get “tunnel vision” — focusing my entire awareness on a single goal…while missing the subtle wonders that happen everyday.
But I’m working to change.
I am changing. And, in the next few minutes, I’d like to share a few “shortcuts” that have helped me abandon my ruts and bring back a sense of spontaneity and adventure in a world where routine is…well…the routine.
But before I jump into the “rut crushing blueprint,” I first want to explain why — exactly — adventure is good for us. After all, is there anything inherently wrong with doing the same thing every day?
The Science Behind Adventure
It’s a funny little word. It’s also a word that, until recently, was not a part of my vocabulary. But now it is. And I’m using it in this post. Boom. Anyways, here’s what the word “hormesis” means.
Hormesis: A biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect results from small exposures to otherwise harmful toxins and stressors.
In other words, it’s a term signifying that small doses of a bad thing can, in fact, be good.
For example, while excessive alcohol consumption will turn you into an blubbering, overweight idiot…small doses may reduce your risk of heart disease. In addition, while extreme exposure to sunlight will turn you into a wrinkled, cancer-ridden prune…limited exposure is critical to your overall health and wellbeing.
In short: Small stressors are good for us. Huge, overwhelming stressors are — of course — not.
The problem is that today, few of us face any real “stressors.” On our trip from home to work and back home again, we simply aren’t tested and challenged like we once were.
This is unnatural.
And it’s taking a toll on the general population. Both physically and emotionally. Without some degree of adventure and challenge, something within us withers. We become bored. And, as science is now proving, we actually live shorter lives.
Alright cool. So adventure is good for us. Sweet. But how can we create and seek out “primal thrills” in a world that looks absolutely nothing like the one our ancestors lived in?
Answer: By thinking “outside the cave.”
In a radically different environment, we need radically different solutions. This means passing on the “grizzly bear death chase” and instead going, say, traveling.
Adventure 101: Four Ways To Reawaken Your Inner Risk Taker
NOTE: While all of the following strategies are great ways to smash your ruts into oblivion, please don’t take them as universal prescriptions. Instead, mold them to suit your current level of adventure. For some people, “extreme sports” might mean BASE jumping from the top of the Eiffel Tower. For others, it might mean jogging around the block. And that’s fine. Determine where you are on the “adventure scale”…and then do something to expand your comfort zone.
1. Go Traveling. If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you’ll know that travel is — hands down — the best way to break out of a rut. Because you’re suddenly faced with new people, situations and terrorizing monkeys…you are forced to drop all emotional baggage and give the present moment your undivided attention.
When I traveled through “La Moskitia” — the largest stretch of preserved rainforest north of the Amazon — falling victim to routine was not an option. It was all too new. It was all too exciting. It was all too adventurous.
2. Practice Extreme Sports. Ever wonder why countless people flock to death-defying sports like rock climbing, freestyle skiing and skydiving? It seems kind of weird when you think about it, doesn’t it?
Well…given what we’ve just covered, not really. We crave adventure. And when the office fails to deliver, “slacklining” between two skyscrapers will have to do.
Now don’t take stupid risks, obviously. We’re talking about calculated risks. Risks that are not about putting your life in danger, but rather about pursuing the purity of the experience. For me, snowboarding does the trick. So does competitive running. So does…
3. Go on Epic Adventures. If you’re familiar with my blog, you’ll know that I advocate a specific way of “working out.” It’s called the epic adventure. And it goes a little something like this: Head out in nature, any natural setting will do, and simply…explore. Run barefoot, climb trees, swim in the ocean, trudge through shin-deep snow.
I’ve found that this way of staying in shape not only makes you freakishly fit, it also breaks up the monotony of daily life and satisfies your inner desire for adventure. One time while out on a barefoot run I jumped over a porcupine. That certainly got the adrenaline pumping…
4. Compete. I was listening to an interview with Daniel Vitalis the other day when I heard him say something really interesting: “Right now there’s a huge anti-competition movement going on in the world and we start to think there’s something wrong with us. But actually, what competition means is to bring out each others excellence. And what I’ve learned is that I want to compete, not against others to conquer them but against myself.”
As a long time competitive runner, this resonates deeply with me. There’s something about an intense game or a grueling race that not only improves your fitness but alters your perspective. And that, my friends, is what adventure is all about.
I know I’ve given you a lot to think about in this post. And hopefully you’ve gotten at least a few powerful “takeaways.” But before I wrap up, there’s one more thing I want to stress.
And that’s this:
Life is freaking short. Yeah, maybe if you’re a hardcore “paleo buff” you can extend your time on earth by a few years, but not by much. You’re still going to die. And you’re going to die soon.
With this in mind, take a second to really look at how you’re living. No seriously. Stop reading for a second and REALLY look at your life. Are there unconscious ruts that you’ve fallen into? Has your daily life lost the spontaneity and “juice” that it once had?
If so, make a decision — just like Tom did — to break free from routine and purposefully seek out adventure.
Not just for your health, but for your overall sense of happiness and fulfillment. For your energy. For the memories you’ll have looking back on life…knowing you didn’t let a single day pass you by.
When he’s not running barefoot or climbing trees, Logan runs a health and fitness blog at www.WildMovement.com. If you enjoyed this article, he invites you to join the Wild Movement and sign up for his Free 4-Day Bootcamp.