As Americans become more urban, we are less and less engaged with our own survival. Someone else grows, picks and often prepares our food. Someone else long ago located water sources, and today people and systems are in place to get it to our homes. Someone else built our homes and made our furniture. If something breaks down or needs repair, most of us call someone else to figure out what the problem is and fix it.
There is really very little we have to do for ourselves anymore, and with advancing technology on the horizon, there will soon be even less for us to do. We'll talk into cyberspace to satisfy every need, closing one more door between us and the natural and human world that we historically drew on to sustain ourselves.
Yet for thousands of years, the work of survival drove resilience, self-reliance and ingenuity. It also provided grounding as people lived within the natural world.
It provided a sense of permanence at the same time that it reminded us that things change, as the sun rose and set each day and one season followed another year after year. It generated a sense of humility as we saw ourselves in the vastness of nature. As much as self-reliance, surviving in our natural environment taught us the necessity for cooperation.
Technology is an amazing asset, but sometimes it's good to reconnect with our roots, to engage with our own survival and relearn the value of life, remembering that the most basic instinct of every living organism is to survive. For some hardy souls, this might mean a wilderness trek or survival training, and there are organizations that offer that kind of experience. There are many ways we can all give ourselves opportunities to reconnect in this way, though, and during the summer is the ideal time. Try one or more of these ten ways to reconnect with sustaining life, a sure path to happiness and confidence.
Back to Basics: 10 Summer Self-Improvement Exercises
- Grow your own organic food. Get your hands in the dirt. Figure out how to solve garden challenges like other critters eating your food. If you don't have a yard, there are creative ways to grow a lot on your deck or even near windows. If you can't do that, join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), and see if you can do a "worker's share" or volunteer.
- Learn to forage, and visit places where you can do it.
- Learn to make meals with traditional basics: cast iron cookware over a fire, homemade 48 hour yogurt, pickles of all kinds (especially with produce you grew or foraged), only local and seasonal items.
- At the very least, do some research. Eat some meals for which you source every item including the salt. Where did everything come from? What human, animal and environmental resources landed this item on your table?
- Learn to build a fire without matches with a flint and knife.
- Leave your air-conditioner off for a few days, and figure out ways to stay comfortable.
- Find a fresh water source, and figure out how to bring the fresh water to where you live. If you can do it without using your car, better yet. Rain collection is one possibility, even though our rain isn't necessarily as pure as we might like. This small task might prove exceedingly difficult in our current environment, so just figuring out how to get enough water for a day is challenge enough.
- Unplug. Shut down your electricity as much a possible for a period of time. Turn off and don't use any devices. Light your world and figure it out the old-fashioned way.
- See how long you can last without using money. Try to make, grow, barter or trade for what you need.
- Go tent camping! Even if you have a good tent and other camping gear, tent camping is in nature and always ends up requiring resourcefulness. You'll develop your problem-solving skills.
These ten Back to Basics techniques will deepen your appreciation for life and our natural resources, encourage self-reliance, resourcefulness and ingenuity, and teach you the value of cooperation. Your summer experience has the potential to enhance your spirituality, improving every aspect of how you live in the world going forward.
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