Full Moon No. 5, Winter
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Snow Day in Prospect Park, Brooklyn

An Ode to Outside Time

*Disclaimer: in case you're wondering why this Lumen Letter is being released nearly a week after the full moon, well, it's because I, too, am human and sometimes life gets a little crazy. Oh, and it's also because I've been spending so much time outdoors! Luckily, this entire post backs up that statement. As for the being human and crazy life aspect, you'll just have to place your trust in me with those ones. 

If you’re not catching on yet, I like me a good challenge. That personality characteristic has been at once really helpful when it comes to pushing myself in a healthy way and somewhat detrimental when it came to some of my past choices in relationship dynamics. Who doesn’t love a good game of chasing the just elusive enough bad boy? Glad I got that aspect of challenge out of my system early! Now I’m diggin’ the kind of mental trickery I can pull on myself when I label something as a challenge. For example, if I have the desire to do something good for myself that requires some serious consistency and self-discipline, like cold water therapy in the form of 5-minute cold showers, then creating the self-imposed construct of participating in a 21-day cold water challenge will ensure that I stick to my commitment. If I don’t create that kind of structured challenge aspect, then I have nothing to hold myself accountable to, and I do believe accountability is key when it comes to these kinds of tasks.
Ironically, this idea of a 30-day outside challenge was presented to me while scrolling through my Instagram feed one chilly December afternoon. After tagging my wild woods man in the post, commenting that we should totally do this come January, there was no backing down. I was completely aware that January in NYC can be brutal, weather wise, which honestly made the whole challenge scenario even more enticing. Let's face it - doing this challenge in the euphoric, blossoming environment of spring would basically be like cheating. After 21 days of cold water therapy earlier this fall and continuing to expose myself to cold water at the most opportune times (cold water plunge on Christmas Day - video to prove it!), I figured this could serve as a great continuation of my cold exposure journey, furthering my adaptability to cold conditions while serving as a litmus test to just how far I’ve come with braving, and ultimately, embracing these cold conditions.

I’ve now successfully completed this 30-day outside time challenge, and while this challenge is more or less here to stay in my life indefinitely as a general lifestyle practice, I’d like to share some of my “field test” findings with you all.

The Criteria: spend (at least) 30 consecutive minutes outside for 30 consecutive days while disconnected from all technology during outside time. 

Piece of cake, right? Especially for someone who loves communing with nature so much...

Yeah, you'd be surprised.

Here's what I've collected from my experience: 
  • A greater awareness to how little time I actually spend outside, truly disconnected, while in the city. I'm oftentimes listening to music, a podcast, or doing something on my phone when outside. Who doesn't love to catch up on emails while soaking in some sunshine on a grassy mound, or for those of you who don't want to get a lil' dirty, a park bench? That nearly innate (sadly) urge to whip out your Iphone is so deeply engrained in our civilized psyche, and this challenge really highlighted that for me.
  • Energy replenished, spiritually nourished. It's amazing how revitalizing a technology free walk through Prospect Park can be for body, mind, and spirit. 
  • Scheduling a dedicated, intentional time for outside time each day was it’s own challenge in and of itself. I’m very lucky being a freelancer, in that my schedule is basically the farthest from a consistent 9-5 type deal. I have flexibility in my schedule from week to week, which I’m especially grateful for, knowing that I’d get ridiculously bored with the same exact schedule line up. Variety is the spice of life, they say. I second that statement. But even with the flexibility in my schedule, I realized how these chunks of free time throughout my day were typically spent filling in the blanks of communication, social media marketing, class planning, feeding myself, organizing life in general, and lastly, self-care...mostly, in that order, unfortunately. Outside time being a form of self-care that I was forced to prioritize during those 30 days and will remain to keep high up on my priority list from here on out. 
  • Outside time is the ultimate mood regulator. Despite finding myself in stress inducing states on several occasions during the 30 days, I experienced more even keeled moods overall. I tend to get super moody when certain hormonal shifts occur aka PMSing, but not during this moon cycle! That's pretty telling considering I always channel my inner bitch and let her rage a bit during that phase of my cycle. Didn't feel that fire fueling up this time round. So weird, and oh so welcomed. Ladies, perhaps your body is literally craving some fresh air. Everyone, get outside when the going gets tough - it's the most natural of mood enhancers. And while hugging trees may look insane to many, the truth is out: hugging trees, and hanging upside down from them at the park police's discretion (super lame!), keeps me sane, guys! 
  • Cultivated more appreciation for life (in all of it's myriad forms), for this majestic earth that we so often take for granted, and experienced a deeper sense of gratitude in general, day in and day out.
  • Further highlighted that I NEED TO GET OUT OF THIS CITY. As much as I thought I was a city gal, I am, indeed, a wild woman at heart. Prospect Park just isn't gonna cut it for this wilderness craving woman. Don't get me wrong though...I am so undeniably fortunate to live so close to a place like Prospect Park and would be seriously deficient in Vitamin N without it. That's Vitamin N as in nature, folks, and it is an essential part of our diet as human beings!
Another facet of my life that made this outside challenge both timely and poignant was my participation in a book club, created and led by Arthur Haines and Daniel Vitalis. Along with over 350 people around the globe, I am reading through Arthur Haines latest book, A New Path: To transcend the Great Forgetting through incorporating ancestral practices into contemporary living. I'll just leave it at that for now, considering there's much more to explore on this topic in a future Lumen Letter post. Nonetheless, outside time offered a space to reflect on the weekly readings, integrate the material presented, and most importantly, apply the teachings in such an appropriately themed environment as I set out on this new path.

So there ya have it - the first hand findings of how sad it is that this outside challenge had to happen in order for me to truly become aware at how disconnected we are from our immediate natural landscape. Even for someone who thrives on communing with nature. It's just not built into society's priorities. That's what civilization, and ultimately, domestication will do to ya, kids. Forget the "Don't do drugs" t-shirts, I'm gonna make t-shirts with the slogan, "Don't do domestication". That's the message we should be teaching the kiddos these days. END RANT. 

You may be thinking, what is she talking about, this domestication stuff?

If you're lost, don't worry - you are most definitely not alone.

And I can guarantee you are most definitely not alone when it comes to the lack of time you spend outdoors in any given day. But hey, it's normal, right? We've designed our lives to revolve around moving from one controlled indoor environment to another, while typically complaining about those short increments of being exposed to the weather when it's not next to perfect during our commutes from Box A (home) to Box B (work). Just because it's "normal", doesn't mean it's healthy, and most certainly does not mean it's natural. Humans are highly adaptable creatures, for better, or for worse. 

So, my dear readers, I challenge you to participate in your own outside time challenge. Make your own rules, or follow the ones I presented. I don't really care what you do, as long as you do it outside!!!
Quiet that voice in your head that's making excuses, right now. Yes, this may be a challenge, but it isn't a ridiculously hard or painful one. Hey...at least I didn't challenge you all to the 21-day cold shower challenge, am I right?!

Like REI says, #OptOutside

Luminous love,

First subscribe, then #OptOutside
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