by Carin Kiphart
“You get peace of mind not by thinking about it or imagining it, but by quietening and relaxing the restless mind.” ~Remez Sasson
In a world that constantly barrages us with information, it becomes a daily struggle to unplug and find peace. The “need to” and “should do” and “must do” of our ever-frantic lives overwhelms us and creates a stress that threatens to unravel.
As a child my happiest days were those spent outdoors. Even then, peace came while watching the flowers bend in the wind and the clouds stretch across the sky.
As an adult it became a struggle to unplug and “justify” time to do these simple, fulfilling activities that truly are life’s happiest moments. Even hiking in the mountains close to home, I couldn’t get away from myself and my thoughts about “hurry up and get back to”… the email, business, website, or whatever was waiting on my desk.
So in order to find true quiet I ventured to the ends of the Earth. The answer for me to find this peace was to become an explorer, seeking peace over the edges of the world, the literal edge of human existence. My soul sought the extreme.
There is a line that marks the edge of the survival zone of our species. I found that stepping over that edge is both the scariest thing in the world and the most peaceful. The knowing that I am “beyond” allows me to release all “human” thoughts and concentrate on simply “being.”
In my search, I have found four of the most incomparable and inhospitable places on earth that represent “over the edge” for me. Being in these places, means truly disconnecting with “man’s world” and fully embracing and connecting to the natural world and its rhythms.
It is immensely powerful and a strange dichotomy, balancing on that line, more alive than ever, yet so near to possible death.
The Ocean Depths
To have never experienced the depths of the ocean carrying your life support on your back is to have missed the world’s ultimate realm. At depths below 100, 150, and 200 feet you have truly reached a world beyond.
Here is a place to feel alone and insignificant, yet strangely connected and serene. It is magnificently quiet, yet thriving with energy and life. It is impossible not to feel the pulse of the earth, the breath of the sea, and be pulled towards it like a child to the womb.
The line between life and death for a human here is thin and fragile, connected only by a small amount of portable and limited air. To me, it is the ultimate place and peace on this planet.
How can you Experience the Sea?
The sea has always been a place of calm no matter how you experience it. If you cannot reach the great ocean depths, perhaps you can find the quiet in a sunset walk along the water’s edge or sitting at the beach on a blustery day while the wind whips the waves.
Take a mask and fins and enjoy an easy snorkel in the shallows of a gorgeous coral reef. There are many ways to enjoy the gift of the sea.
The rarified air holds a similar, magical, and spiritual place in the hearts of explorers. To sit above the clouds swaddled in the arms of the world’s greatest mountains is humbling.
At 20,000 feet you are fast approaching the limits of a human’s ability to survive. Yet it calls. Why? Climbing higher and higher we step into the realm of certain death. We dance on that line and revel in the freedom from human constraints.
The explorer in me wants to know and see and understand more—to test my abilities to the very limit, unlock the mysteries of the unknown, and understand myself and my place within it. It is the most spiritual place on earth.
How Can You Experience the Mountains?
The Himalayas are the extreme in finding peace within the mountains. Any chance you have to be able to look up and stand in awe of soaring peaks brings calm and a sense of place. Hiking a mountain trail, camping by a reflective lake, or a drive through the rolling hills outside a hectic city atmosphere can relax and revive the soul.
You need to only brush the closest tentacles of the bottom of the world to feel the power of this place. My arrival here signaled my release from planet Earth into truly another realm. Any description of this place begins with, “You have left the planet.”
As harsh and as unforgiving as the highest tip of the great mountains, the bottom of the world can quickly rob you of life while capturing your heart and soul. It pulls with a gravitational force unequaled. Antarctica is a captivating siren that lures with equal and relentless parts beauty and danger—a force to be reckoned with only on her terms.
How Can You Reach the Bottom of the World?
In my mind, there is no way to simulate the feeling of being at the bottom of the world, unless you have the chance to go to space. If there is a way to explore the last great continent, you will never regret it. Go.
The Heart of Africa
I recently made my first foray into the great deserts and plains of Africa. Flying over the great desert before ever stepping foot on the soil, I knew I was lost forever, that Africa’s vast sands would lure me to want nothing more from this world than to be forever a part of it.
Standing bewitched at this edge of human existence along the great migratory routes is truly to see the world raw. To exist side by side the charismatic megafauna of this earth at the mercy of nature’s whim is to attack life fully awake. Ever shifting and shaping, the mesmerizing ebb and flow of the expansive deserts enchants.
How Can You Explore the Wide Open Spaces?
Wide open space, opens minds wide. Seek out the hundred mile views of the West, watch an elk herd cross the open valleys of Yellowstone National Park, or sit in a field of waving wheat. Experiencing open sky and miles of landscape is humbling. It makes us realize how insignificant our daily stresses are and helps us bring perspective to life.
If You Can or If You Can’t
The explorer within never rests, continually seeking an edge to leap over to feel alive and discover the world around and within. For me, I needed the literal ends of the Earth and if you can, discover these places and feel their immense power.
If you don’t have the opportunity, find some place in nature to pause and reflect—to gain perspective again.
Where is the magic for you and where do you find peace in nature?