To me, being a Conscious Adventurist means being a conscious part of my surroundings. I don’t view being in the outdoors as an ‘activity’– such a challenging hike or a surf set where I’m in it for the sweat and adrenaline. Rather, being in nature is an opportunity to connect to something larger than myself and bathe in the awe of the universe.
Life’s universe can often be unfair. People die, loved ones hurt us, and jobs don’t work out as we’d like. It’s tempting to lament our connection to the world as opposed to embracing it. But there’s no adventure in that.
My parents, both Montana natives, taught me that life is full of painful trials that only the salvation of the mountains can wash away. You cannot be lonely, hurt or angry when surrounded by nature. First of all, there are so many living, breathing lives to account for-the millipede that makes its way across your path, the Autumn leaves that shimmer with burnt orange. And if you’re lucky, the mountain goats that frolic high above the tree line.
The outdoors represent life without the distractions of our monkey mind. When you stare and mountain peaks or deep river valleys, it’s easy to lose yourself and feel insignificant. And trust me, forgetting to think about yourself can be a gift.
I had my first heartbreak at age 25 while living in Seattle. The pain was so great, I felt I was being drawn and quartered. It consumed me and I wasn’t sure how I’d make it to the mountains. I didn’t even know how I’d get out of bed. Anger and depression are seductive bedfellows, after all.
However, you are cheating the world if you stay lying down. Montana women don’t stay in bed. They get outside.
So I forced myself out and went to the Cascades. The air was crisp and sky clear, unusual for the Pacific Northwest. Step by step, breath by breath my own troubles melted away. The smell of the pines and the view of Rainier, not only distracted me, they made me grateful for being alive. It was just too beautiful to be sad. My pain melted like April snow. I was forced to let go of the past memories (how I threw a coffee mug during our last fight) and future predictions (I’d die alone with eight cats) and just inhale the mountain air. I wasn’t going to waste this moment. I felt utterly free.
That was almost 15 years ago. Since then I’ve found refuge in the mountains for every trial and celebration in life. The outdoors remind me of what is important by encouraging me to let go of what I do not have and just appreciate what’s around me. They give me inspiration for my life path. And most importantly, they remind me that adventure isn’t about conquering. It’s about being present and immersed in a new world.
Heidi K. Isern
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. – Albert Einstein
Heidi, a native Montanan, is a strategist and writer based in San Francisco. She currently is the Managing Director at Parliament and previously led portfolio business development at IDEO. She is passionate about fostering greater human connections to business, communities, and the outdoors.