I’ve always liked shiny things. A treasure hunter at heart. Treasure comes in many forms, but non so familiar as pure gold! Maybe that was a subconscious reason that I ended up becoming an exploration geologist: travelling the world looking for shiny things fulfilled two of my greatest passions, and our gold hunting trip to the Arctic with Latymer Upper School was a really fantastic time that helped me with a third great passion.
Christophe Blanchard is the Head of Art at Latymer Upper, he runs the school’s expeditions programme, and he is a truly gifted individual. His pleasant manner and happy countenance pulls you in to listen to his smooth French accent as he tells you a story or a fact to do with something or other, of which he is brimming; and he has a lovely set of pearly whites to boot. If I could afford to employ him as our company photographer I certainly would, because his photography skills are stunning! And he does most of it with his phone, with what seems to be little to no effort at all for him. He truly has a knack for it. His students and his school are lucky to have him.
Sarah Fordyce is a bundle of fun, and I am pretty sure she could kill you in a fight! She is always where the action is, and she doesn’t hold back to get stuck in with the hard work. She is a great example of someone who sets the standard for her students. She wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything that she wouldn’t do herself.
Great integrity was what I saw on this trip in Sarah. Her students look up to her; they respect her, and she seems to have found the very most perfect balance of friendliness and discipline with her students, something that all of the teachers out there know, is the holy grail of success and development in the classroom. I guess that’s why the school trusts her with the position of Head of Year 13. She sees them off into the real world. I can see she is good at that job; she gets the students prepared to face reality.
We found just over 2 grams of gold on this last trip, a good find for a place that yields 0.5 gram per metric ton of earth dug. The students worked hard and had a great time with the other activities such as spoon and bowl carving, fire lighting and canoeing and wild camping in the wilderness. But the best times were sitting at dinner with new friends sharing stories, great food and lots of laughs. Everyone on that trip made a new connection with someone else. They got to learn something about another person and hopefully something about themselves too, and that to me is treasure.
Many of us have, until recently, been living life in the fast lane with our foot pressed firmly on the accelerator, our gaze fixed on some desired distant destination. Quite often our minds are either living in the past or cast far into some future hope, dream, or worry. We sometimes forget to enjoy the journey and stop to take in a breath-taking vista or notice the changing scenery as we pass by. How often do we notice the visceral experiences that our 5 senses bless us with? Do we see them as mere pleasantries, superfluous to one’s utmost benevolent strivings? Truthfully, they are vital instruments in building our own reality and teach us about the world and our place in it.
Take time to notice
It’s easy to understand why we sometimes ignore our senses and live in our heads with the complexity of 21st Century life. Our brains have never had so much information to consume. Constant information is now flowing from various channels and we seem to have become incessant consumers of it. With a pursuit such as this and a failure to live presently our minds can easily become disconnected from our moment to moment physiological experiences.
How often do we notice the way our heart beat increases in rate when we feel anxious, or how relaxed we are when we consciously take a moment to fill our lungs with fresh air? These seemingly simple and insignificant phenomenon are what help maintain a connection with our experiential reality.
Life has dealt us all a curve ball with current circumstances and, with almost everything shut down, maybe we have a little more time to be still and enjoy a diary that is not booked up for months in advance. We have an opportunity to think differently about our lives and the course we could take. As we evaluate and assimilate these new ideas and objectives for our lives moving forward let us include goals for our wellbeing and mental health as a high priority.
It is often said that joy can be found in the simple things of life so here are a few suggestions or conscious challenges that can help you stay grounded in your experiential reality and improve wellbeing:
Eat a meal mindfully
Who doesn’t like to eat? I have yet to meet someone that doesn’t, however do we give full attention to this mostly enjoyable experience? Go ahead and try eating with your full attention. Turn off all distractions and sit comfortably at a dinner table. Observe the colours of your food and how it looks. How does your body respond to what you see? Eat the food and notice what sensations and flavours you experience. Try closing your eyes and see if that changes anything.
Connect with the natural world
Many of us are now enjoying walks in the countryside or getting out to a local park for fresh air and social distancing. It is well established by research the benefits that nature has on our health and wellbeing. Go for a walk by yourself in the woods or some natural environment. Consciously breathe in and out deeply and rhythmically as you go. Notice any smells or noises that your nose and ears bring to your attention. You may hear the sound of the wind brushing through the leaves in the tree or the sound of a myriad of birds singing their joyful songs or simply the sound of your body walking on the earth. Count how many colours you observe. Stop to look at the detail and structure of a flower or plant. What thoughts come to your head while you are walking?
When engaged in a creative process it is difficult to be worried or anxious about anything else. Whether you love to draw, paint, sing, dance, crochet, play sport, complete a puzzle, write poetry or any other activity; you may find that it serves as a great way to escape or soothe feelings of anxiety and worry. Whatever you choose to do, give your full attention to it. Be spontaneous leaving behind any expectations of yourself and let your curiosity guide you.
You may want to keep a diary to record your observations and experiences. You will find that through practice of these exercises the detail will become richer and more meaningful.
If these suggestions don’t suit your needs then come up with something that works for you. Pick an activity of daily living which you take for granted or consider to be menial and live the experience fully, being mindful of any thoughts that come to you. Observe those thoughts and judgements and let them pass.
Ultimately, each of us are responsible for taking care of ourselves. To become more useful to others we first have to replenish our own resources. At Polaris Outdoor we understand the importance of the relationship between our environment and our personal development. We teach people to become observant and knowledgeable to the resources around them. When equipped with the right knowledge and skills an individual will feel confident in any environment.
Confidence is a huge contributor to wellbeing and those who tap into this state of mind regularly find that they are pushing the boundaries of their existence (or in other words they grow)! When we grow life becomes meaningful. When life is meaningful, we have purpose and when you have purpose you find joy.
Sam Ambrose BA Hons Person-Centred Psychotherapist