Experience.

But what do we experience?

Here we are in Nepal, trekking through the lower regions of the Himalayas, on route to our goal of Mera Peak. We are experiencing new sights, sounds and smells. A new culture, new friends and, for most of us, the first effects of altitude. But is this really what we are experiencing?

Only if we choose to. Maybe we experience our thinking about our experience. Hence why being immersed in such a unique environment can be so good for us. If we have become habitual in our thinking, actions and behaviour in response to a known environment then a complete break from the known can be a great opportunity for a reset.

When life is normalised I believe we really do experience mostly our thinking about our experience. And often this is through analysis or evaluations of our situation or comparisons to others or comparisons to how we think we should be.

When immersed in the unknown, the ‘not normal’, we become much more aware of the real world that we could be experiencing. We have been trekking for four days now, starting our routine at 0630 and generally arriving at the next camp by 1700. The days have been pretty long and (for most of us) harder than expected! There has been plenty of time to find oneself stuck into a pattern of thinking while struggling to put one foot in front of the other. However, the difference is, when you raise your sight to the horizon you are confronted with an incredible scene which is somehow so contrasting to the one just moments earlier. You are suddenly present, in the real experience of the world around you.

An expedition like this provides so many moments of sensory assault that soon the habit becomes to be truly present in the moment. When conscious of the present moment and conscious of our thinking we then have choice about how we want to experience the world.

And it’s easy to think grateful thoughts here in Nepal, and follow that line of thinking to how one can choose to be in the world. With four weeks on expedition perhaps this reset of habitual thinking could be a key to transformation.

The known to the unknown.

So here we are, stepping over the threshold from the known to the unknown. We are about to board the small plane for the flight into Lukla, the gateway to the Himalayas, and start our adventure.

The team arrive in Kathmandu

Joseph Campbell, the American Psychologist, (whose research into mythological stories inspired George Lucas in his creation of the Star Wars movies) identified the stages involved during a mythical ‘hero’s journey’. Campbell’s model is a great metaphor not only for the basis of blockbusters but also for adventurous journeys.

Source: psychologytoday.com

None of the team on Mission Himalaya will appreciate me labelling them as Heroes (!) but we can all be the hero within our own story. We have been living within our comfort zone, in our known and familiar surroundings, but have all had that yearning for adventure. Answering the call to adventure TRBL and the BattleBack team have provided the ‘supernatural aid’ with this incredible opportunity for the Mera Peak exped.

TRBL training weekend

We will all have had to pass our ‘threshold guardians’ and this can represent anything that may have been a barrier to our inclusion on the journey. For me I have been my own biggest threshold guardian, feeling a significant need to remain in my comfort zone with my young family, but I am grateful that with the support from my ‘mentors and helpers’ I have taken the leap.

Stepping into the unknown

Now we are set to embark on our journey proper and embrace the challenges ahead. The team are feeling strong and the sense of purpose is clear. We have laid the foundations to allow space for our own ‘revelations’ and potentially transformational adventure.

With high hopes that we can summit Mera on Remembrance Sunday and return via the Amphu Labtsa Pass and Everest trail. We can all look forward to returning with our own personal ‘gifts of the goddess’ and most importantly a new Dit to spin back in the old known world.

Journey with a purpose

So I decided to call my blog ‘journey with a purpose’ as, for me, this is the simplest definition of an expedition. And this expedition in particular is certainly a journey with a purpose.

I love the idea of using outdoor experiences for personal development and have long been an advocate of getting outside and having an adventure. However, I have never experienced an adventure like this one we have planned; off to the Himalayas for 23 days of consecutive trekking with the 6500m summit of Mera Peak on Remembrance Day our aim.

I have definitely had some personal experience of the benefits of adventure to aid recovery. Having formerly been a Commando helicopter pilot, flying in operations in Afghanistan, going on training exercises in the Arctic, performing deck landings to ships at sea, I suddenly found myself a bit broken. Shortly before deploying on my 4th tour of Afghan I suffered an vasovagal syncope (blackout) which, as you can imagine, is not conducive to being a helicopter pilot. 12 months later and I’m medically discharged from the Navy and on civvy street without a job and still feeling the associated symptoms to my blackout of anxiety and low mood.

DMOC-2010-124-045-UNC
Commando Sea King in Afghanistan 

I was feeling pretty lost at this period of my life and I consider myself so fortunate to have had the support from my then fiancé, Amy, who helped me to recognise my mental health challenges and also the opportunities around me for recovery. Along with support from Amy, friends and family I threw myself into my adventure sports and spent long days at the crags, beaches and rivers.

At the time I just felt that getting out climbing etc was a good distraction from my lack of a plan and I knew that it helped me feel better. But since those early days I have continued to learn and experiment with the ideas around how adventure and outdoor experiences can be of huge benefit to us all.

cropped-img_63221.jpg
Having an adventure in Scotland during team training for Mission Himalaya 

 

In my next blog I will share a few of my discoveries on how and why I believe adventure and outdoor experiences have helped me but essentially I think it comes down to three things:

1. Having a sense of purpose (an autotelic goal).

2. Being totally immersed in the experience.

3. Reflecting and taking the learning from it.

Mission Himalaya 2018 is going to tick all these boxes.

cropped-478-04-he-2018-hero-image-1170x500px-v1-0-rbl-logo-new-leeds-log...

Mission Himalaya 2018 Expedition

cropped-180425-map-with-marked-days6.jpg

This October and November, The Royal British Legion and Leeds Beckett University will lead a team of 13 serving military wounded, injured and sick (WIS) personnel and veterans, on a challenging expedition to the Himalayas and I consider myself very fortunate to be included!

In this blog I will be sharing with you my thoughts, images and video on this journey and hopefully I will be able to capture some of the transformational experiences for those of us involved.

Check out the link below to see our planned route:

Map with marked days