Monday, November 26, 2012

Wilderness Survival Part 1

The next several posts will be on wilderness survival skills.  No matter how you enjoy the wild places, from simple afternoon hikes, to car camping, to extreme treks at altitude in winter, you may find yourself benefiting from knowing wilderness survival skills.

What do we mean by survival, though?  Survivalist?  Who is a survivalist?  One who does not die is the one who survives.  Aren't all healthy people survivalists?  Isn't the desire to survive implicit in our nature?  Don’t let the fringe cause confusion.  We are all survivalists.  But what about wilderness survival?  Wilderness survival simply means being self-reliant and capable in the woods.  A wilderness survivor is one who is prepared to withstand—even enjoy—nature’s fury.  A person doesn't have to be an extremophile to need wilderness survival skills or to be a wilderness survivalist.

So what is wilderness survival about?  On the surface, wilderness survival is about getting out of a tough situation in nature, alive.  But it is so much more than that.  Wilderness survival in its truest form is about working with nature in all seasons and in all conditions not to only survive, but to thrive.  People don’t die in the woods from the attacks of the wilderness.  People die in the woods out of ignorance and by taking unnecessary risks.  The wilderness is not the enemy that is trying to kill us.  The wilderness is just a wild place subject to weather and other uncontrolled conditions.  Our skills determine the danger of the wild places.  The fact is that most people are quite ignorant of nature today.  Ignorance is the threat rather than nature.  So wilderness survival is about knowledge, practical sense, and skill.  Nature kills the reckless and unprepared and that is our fault.

And this is great news!  This means that we can eliminate the dangers of ignorance and then we are not subject to the threats of nature!  This changes our perspective.  We can learn natural skills that will allow us to work with nature rather than hiding from her.  With such skills, we need not fear the worst that the wilderness throws at us.  Rather, we can laugh at the storm and learn from our experiences.

These skills start with proper attitude, observation, and simple, self-protecting techniques. 

Attitude matters SO much in nature.  Understanding that we are a part of nature and not an alien in nature is the first step.  Then knowing that nature has much to teach us is the second.  We can learn amazing, critical life skills from nature.  Knowing that we humans are an integral part of nature rather than separate from nature or a threat to nature is another major attitudinal break through.  But the correct natural attitude also eliminates fear by replacing it with knowledge and wonder. 

Observation then follows as a key to gleaning what information nature offers us.  From learning to see—really see, naturally—we can begin to benefit from nature’s instructions.  And sensing what nature is getting ready to throw our way gives us the “heads up” we need to respond in advance of the coming threats.  Knowing how to respond to these threats changes the threat to an experience.  And experiences make one experienced.  But more than that, when we are tested by nature and found sufficient, we learn something even more important about ourselves. 

Simple, self-protecting skills follow allowing us to respond to nature appropriately to enjoy the changing conditions, weather, environments, and seasons.  Once we know how to use nature to live in nature, then we can relax and flow with the natural rhythms.  Being “one” with nature—knowing our place as a part of nature—is the beginning of amazing experiences and a fascinating education.

Learning basic survival skills is very beneficial not only for safety but for gaining the ability to really benefit from the lessons that nature offers us.  In the following blogs, we will discuss specific wilderness survival skills.

So, what are some surprising lessons you may have learned from nature?  Have you discovered a part of yourself that you did not previously know?  What do you think being a part of nature rather than living apart from nature really means?  

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