Adventure as a Medium for Growth

Jan 31, 2017

Adventure as a Medium for Growth |

I think it happened as I swirled precariously around the outside edge of a massive whirlpool they called The Washing Machine.  I wore denim shorts and a lifejacket, thankfully, and it was the first day of my period.

I was sixteen.

Whitewater rafting wasn’t my zone of genius at this tender young age; nor was anything that didn’t involve my nose in a book or my pen scribbling across my journal.

Though I had grown up in a decidedly adventuresome family, I always had to be coerced to come along.

(I remember a particularly momentous struggle when I was sixteen and my parents insisted that we go on a family cross country ski outing.  I begged – begged! – to be able to stay home and do my homework)

But somewhere in the telling and retelling of the story of being dumped out of the raft on a 5+-rated raging rapid, in my jean shorts, on my period, and living to tell the tale, a realization started to trickle in…

I can do Challenging Things.


(and they’re kind of exhilarating)

This was the beginning of my love affair with the outdoors, and, specifically, what I would call outdoor adventure.

(outdoor adventure, to me, is time spent in the outdoors during which you face The Unknown, or some physical, mental or emotional Challenge)

It wasn’t the thrill of the moment, necessarily,

not plunging my hands into stinging jellyfish as I swam 13km from one province to another

or feeling altitude sickness as I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro

or even the frostbite I got while scuba diving in the winter that one time

but that

staying the course

facing the unknown

and believing that I was up for the Challenge

took a certain amount of mental and emotional fortitude that I came to truly admire in myself.

I got intimately comfortable with what it took to engage in outdoor adventure


(self-belief, trust, stamina, intuition, 

and the ability to be my own best cheerleader)

and regularly had experiences that had me saying,

“Well, if I can do that then I can do….anything.”


Adventure doesn’t just cultivate confidence, although, arguably, for most women and girls, this is no small feat in and of itself.

The way we navigate adventure and the Challenge and Unknowns that it involves is a window into the way we navigate our lives.


Adventure experiences are a way to ask ourselves:

“What happens when I’m confronted with a Challenge?  What does my self-talk sound like in those situations?  How does that show up in the rest of my life?”

“How do I approach Challenge and the Unknown, generally?  Do I have a compulsion to not only engage in the Challenge but do it bigger and better than anyone else?  Do I seek ways to flee uncomfortable or scary situations rather than facing them?”

And here is the beauty:

By and large, when we experience these things about ourselves in the Great Outdoors, or anywhere we might be adventuring, we are experiencing them in a “safe way.”  We’re experimenting with Challenge and the Unknown in a way that is fairly low stakes:  perhaps only the ego is at risk.

(I was *probably* pretty safe churning around the Washing Machine, right?)

Think of adventure as the petri dish within which you can begin to cultivate your courage.

The Becoming Podcast has been on a short hiatus while I focus on writing my book, but oh what a comeback episode I have for you!

This month, I spoke to Toko-pa Turner, who many of you may know as the unofficial patron saint of many of my circles and gatherings because of the sheer number of times I’ve quoted from the wisdom of her book, Belonging.

Toko-pa is a Canadian author, teacher, and dreamworker. Blending the mystical teachings of Sufism in which she was raised with a Jungian approach to dreams, she founded The Dream School in 2001, from which thousands of students have graduated. She is the author of the award-winning book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home, which explores the themes of exile and belonging through the lens of dreams, mythology, and nature. This book has resonated for readers worldwide, and has been translated into 10 different languages so far. Her work focuses on the relationship between psyche and nature, and how to follow our inner wisdom to meet with the social, psychological, and ecological challenges of our time.

Here’s some of what Toko-pa and I talk about in this episode:

> The dream that changed Toko-pa’s life, causing her to question her career and, ultimately, her identity

> How we can court our dreams to support us during times of radical transformation – and the reasons so many of us have a hard time remembering and working with what shows up in our dreamscape

> Toko-pa’s perspective on the message of Belonging after the divisiveness our society has experienced in the years since it was published

> What happened for both Toko-pa and I when we fell out of belonging from the ideologies of the “wellness world”

> How to build community when you’re under-resourced

> “The Big Lie” when it comes to belonging, and how we can reclaim a sense of belonging to the greater family of things, as Mary Oliver so famously wrote

Listen to the episode on iTunes


Show Notes

Toko-pa’s Website

Belonging:  Remembering Ourselves Home, Toko-pa’s book

The David Abram video about animism mentioned in the interview

Toko-pa’s self-guided program, Dream Drops

Companion, the program that accompanies Belonging


Also, while you’re at it, if you enjoy The Becoming Podcast, I would be so grateful if you would rate and review, and even subscribe to it on iTunes.  That goes a long way to helping more and more people find and benefit from hearing these interviews!  Thank you so much!