Why You Should Spend Time Alone In The Wild When Your Life Sucks
Have you ever spent time alone in the wild?
I mean really alone. No friends, no phone, and no connection to any type of exterior stimulation. If you have, you’ll know it’s a little intimidating…
I’m not talking about pulling a Christopher McCandless and secluding yourself to the wilderness of Alaska for good
I’m talking about leaving all the stimulations your life is inevitably pervaded with and submitting yourself to the mercy of Mother Earth.
Just you…your thoughts… your soul… your demons… and the wilderness.
To be clear, my life does not suck. I’m in love with my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anyone else’s even if it was Brad Pitts’ (…ok, I’d consider it).
But, recently, there have been parts of my life that have sucked pretty badly.
I’m gonna get a little vulnerable here…
I recently went through a break-up that did a number on me. Long story short, I was engaged, and now I’m not :).
It’s pretty obvious why that would suck… I was with someone I thought I was going to spend my whole life with. All my future plans, ambitions, and dreams evolved around this person and I was triumphantly and pompously throwing up the deuces to singledom.
So when that was all swept out from under me…well…pardon my French but it felt like shit.
Right after it happened, I knew a lot of pain was on its way. Like a monstrous wave, painted a heinous black with painful emotions, just swelling and building to crash on top of my world and crush me like a pile of sand.
Feeling these emotions looming, I decided to submerge myself in work. To completely bury myself in a stimulation that could occupy my mind, my thoughts, and hopefully numb my emotions.
Well, it worked… for a while.
I began working 12-15 hr days and avoided anything that would force me to be alone with my thoughts and emotions. I’d wake up at 7:30 AM, hurry to work, work without stop till 6, go to the gym, then come home and work on my other businesses until 10 – 12… then go to sleep and do it all over again the next day.
On weekends I tried keeping myself busy by climbing, running, working even more, and sometimes being with friends. At times, I would fail at keeping myself occupied and find myself alone and my emotions would start boiling to the surface. It hurt and all I wanted was for the next week to start so I get back to work to turn my emotions off again.
It took me about 4 months to realize this wasn’t sustainable. Although I was feeling OK and I was successfully suppressing my emotions, I realized I was…well…suppressing my emotions.
I realized the pain beneath wouldn’t just disappear one sunny day and that I had to face it.
So I did what any sane man does when he’s trying to overcome a difficult trial, I got in my van and took off to Yosemite National Park.
It’s crazy how difficult it was to actually break away from work and force myself to go on a trip alone. To leave behind all the “crutches” I was using to subdue my pain.
I felt like an alcoholic trying to quit cold turkey.
I deleted all the work apps from my phone, left my computer, and deleted any sort of social media.
I wanted to completely disconnect and remove any type of stimulation that could be used as an “escape” from being alone with my thoughts and emotions.
Like I said, it felt like tearing off a band-aide made with duct tape. But as soon as I did and I was on my own with my tires tearing up the asphalt with my 1986 85-hp engine screaming down the freeway going 60 with the hot wind blowing through my hair and the western horizon in my sight… I was free 😎.
To summarize what could be a 10-page article, my trip was absolutely incredible.
I went completely alone but I did meet up with some friends for dinner that were camping in the valley.
I also found some other solo-adventurers there to climb some pretty big walls with by going to camp 4 and posting a note on the bulletin board.
Although I went alone and wasn’t doing any work or having any connection to the outside world, I still felt the yearning to be completely alone and face my emotions head-on.
So I decided to pack my Gregory and lace up my boots and took off into the high Sierra wilderness and do a quick 20-mile loop around the north end of the park.
I’d never spent a night completely alone deep in the wilderness where there’s absolutely no one to talk to (or rescue you).
The thought intimidated me and excited me at the same time. And when those two things come together…it’s nearly impossible for me not to do it.
It was on this trek where I saw just a couple other souls over the next 36 hrs that a lot of things started coming together.
And this is what I ultimately want to share with you today.
The Plague Of Stimulation
It seems as though we are constantly trying to fill our lives with things that stimulate us. And I guarantee you have done and are currently doing it without noticing it.
What’s a stimulation?
It’s anything in your life that keeps you from yourself—i.e. being alone with yourself, your emotions, and your own thoughts.
You see, as social creatures, we are drawn to these stimulations. We feel that when we’re busy, or when we have “plans”, we are either important or that we’re making progress in our lives in some form.
The main culprit is the constant and desperate effort to improve our social status.
Anything that makes us look or feel more attractive, richer, smarter, funnier, or even more charitable we are drawn to like flies on poop.
We are constantly filling our day with these things – work being a big one.
Now, I know work’s main purpose is so we can survive. But I believe we are driven by much more than that.
Ask yourself, “Am I driven to do what I currently do for work just to survive? Or do I feel like if I accomplish X then I will gain more respect, more power, and more control and freedom over my life?”
If you resonate with that, that’s normal.
We should be driven by more than just survival. BUT… my point is, work is a huge stimulant that most of us turn to to avoid being alone and dealing with what “sucks” about our life.
Next is our social life.
When we’re not working, we’re constantly trying to surround ourselves with people.
This stimulant is healthy to some degree, but most of us overdo it.
We fill every weekend with plans and every holiday with trips and adventures with friend groups and we end up at a point where we’re completely dependent on it.
We feel like we need to be around other people to be ok and to feel important — or even more, to feel like we’re not loners.
Don’t believe me?
Next weekend just
But that’s not my point and I’m getting to my point; it’s just important you understand these things first.
I could go on and on and on and on about what I hate about social media. But my point today is that it’s a MASSIVE stimulant that occupies our attention more than it should.
And I’m convinced no one has a healthy balance with it.
We’re all on it too much and we rely on it too much for our worth and importance. It’s like my point with spending too much time with friends but worse…much worse.
It’s filling our time with fake and groundless social stimulant.
It gives us the temperamental feeling of safety that we’re connected to others when we are really distancing ourselves. But again, I could go on…
But what I’m trying to say is that social media is one of the easiest stimulants to turn to when life is hard. It’s right at our fingertips and with just a few buttons, we can get people giving us their attention and telling us how pretty or how special we are when in reality it’s only making our pain and that void we feel grow deeper and deeper.
Here’s my theory…
when your life sucks — or part of it sucks — our first inclination is to turn to one of these stimulants.
We immediately think that if we can be more successful at work or somehow improve our social life we’ll feel better and that void within us will be filled.
The truth is, turning to these things does help us feel better temporarily. Our brain can superficially convince our emotions that because we’re making good money or because we have a lot of friends or that people are interested in us, we’re doing ok.
Whatever things that “suck” about our lives are covered up by this new and powerful feeling of importance or worth… and it’s addicting.
But the real truth is, that loneliness and emptiness…that void you feel deep, deep down will always be there… no matter how many friends you gain, how much money you make, or how great your social status becomes. Until you overcome that void on your own, without faux stimulation to hide behind and without using superficial things to fill that hole, you will always feel unsettled.
For those things aren’t actually filling it, but covering it up like a loosely stacked deck of cards that can easily be blown over by the slightest wind and expose the gaping hole underneath.
Not until you fill it with healthy, whole, and rich topsoil will you feel true importance, worth, and peace. And where better to find rich topsoil than in
Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you. – John Muir
In his writing, C.S. Lewis often refers to something called the Law of Undulation and I believe it ties to this point that when your life sucks, it’s not without reason:
The Law Of Undulation
Humans are half spirit and half reptile. although their spirit may be directed toward an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change
Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level of which they repeatedly fall back. A series of troughs and peaks.
In gods continual efforts to obtain permanent possession of a soul, he relies more on the troughs than on the peaks. Some of his special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.
The reason is this: God wants us to become like him. He wants a world of souls united to him but still distinct—and that is where the troughs come in. Merely to override the human will would be for him useless. The souls are to be one with him but still themselves. Therefore, he leaves us to stand on our own. He withdraws himself so that we can choose to still believe and follow Him. It is during these troughs periods much more during the peak periods that we are growing to the souls he wants is to be. He cannot temp to virtue like the Devil temps to vice.
Whether you believe in God or not, having the belief that there is
I don’t necessarily believe that God purposely puts things in our lives that suck. It just happens naturally as we are spirits living in a reptilian body that is prone to sickness, doubts, fears, and basically everything else that “sucks” in this world.
But I do believe it’s these “troughs” that give us the opportunity to shape ourselves into someone who is strong, confident, passionate and ultimately at peace with himself and the world around him.
Some of the greatest passions, purposes, and accomplishments are born out of the ashes of disaster.
Another quote from C.S. Lewis…
“If the cause of pain is accepted and faced, conflict will strengthen and purify the character and, in time, the pain will usually pass. Sometimes, however, it persists and the effect is devastating. If the cause is not faced or not recognized, it produces the dreary state of the chronic neurotic.
But some, by heroism, overcome even chronic mental pain. They often produce brilliant work and strengthen, sharpen, and harden their character until they become like tempered steel.”
I know this isn’t a novel concept. It’s in writings all around us and inspirational speakers are always talking about how pain is how we grow.
But the point I’m trying to make is something I think most of us either overlook or simply don’t understand.
I’ll say it again cause I don’t know if you’re getting it…
SPEND. TIME. ALONE.
For how can you face your sufferings and troughs when your life is inundated with simulations that keep you from feeling and fully experiencing your pain?
But we turn to it so frequently as the remedy to pain because it’s easy and if fills us with false importance. And when we feel importance and worth from others… we think we’re ok.
We’re able to hide behind this identity we’ve created and we never have to face our pain. But what happens when you don’t face your pain and suffering?
It never goes away.
Not only does it never go away, it expands and seeps into the cracks and crevices of your soul until it shapes you into someone with grudges, fears, and doubts about life and other people. It gets so deep into who you are that it becomes nearly impossible to eradicate.
Then, sadly, the people closest to you in your life have to deal with it. All your “baggage”, as we call it, is thrown on to this other person and they never even
I know that’s grim, but it’s undoubtedly true. I know it’s true because I could feel it happening to me. I could feel myself becoming more and more cynical towards people and relationships. I felt those fears and doubts seeping into my being and it scared the hell out of me.
Now I’m not saying one epic trip to Yosemite healed me. But it reminded me of something I’ve known and practiced for so long but had forgotten.
Who knows what will come from this “trough” in my life. It still feels like this arbitrary and meaningless pain I had to experience.
But I do know if I run from it, it will control me instead of me controlling it and turning it into something meaningful.
“Everywhere man in confronted with fate. With the chance of achieving something through is own suffering.”
– Victor Frankl
And lastly, I’d like to quote one of my favorite songs…
When I look back on those years gone by all those mountains stemming in my mind. I could have folded, could have turned around But all good stories have their ups and downs. The dark within my dark is where I found my light. The fruit became the doorway and now it's open wide. The Fruitful Darkness... is all around us. The Fruitful Darkness... is all around us... In bloom.