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Mindful : August 2018
level it was in 1987.” But fast-forward to 2018, and national parks are in such demand that they’re trying to manage the crowds with online reservation systems. This year, Alberta Parks Canada had 1,600 reservations in the first 24 hours, a record since the sys- tem was put into place nine years ago. Between 2015 and 2016, a full 16% of Americans went camping. Based on my own conversion story, I offer one possible explanation for why camping may be regaining popu- larity, especially in our gadget-driven technological age: It offers one of the most reliable ways for us to experi- ence awe. When we’re presented with something vast, like the ocean or a mountain, or something containing a great multitude, like the stars of the night sky, it transcends our under- standing. The unease I feel when taking in the boundless spaciousness of the ocean, or even my fear when I imagine some creature lurking behind me on that dark beach—such moments remind me of what Immanuel Kant called “negative pleasure,” a term he attributed to experiences of the sublime. We feel small and slightly dis- turbed—a dread inspired by encoun- tering something we can’t fathom. → Safety First Most of the time, you’re not in real danger, just uncom- fortable, but it’s good to be as sure as you can about that. Rashes, blisters, serious bites, infections, concussions, dehydration, even hypothermia—these and more have happened to campers. Be prepared to use first aid and, if neces- sary, respond to a medical emergency. Follow Your Sensations Irritability and discomfort often come as a big, jum- bled mess of emotions. Take a moment to just be with your feelings. Where are the actual sensations coming from? Ask: What is happen- ing now? Repeat, What is happening now? Breathe Deeply Asking what’s happening now can ground you in the present and separate your fears and agitation from actual sensation. Breathe deeply and let any excess tension surrounding your pain release. It may not be as bad as you think. Accept If the sensations keep annoying you, keep asking what’s happening now, to keep bringing you into the present. If the discomfort is not related to an organic source—poison ivy, wet socks—you may find you’re just tired of not being enter- tained at the level you’re used to back in “civilization.” You’ve struck it rich. Accept where you are, and you may start to get to the beauty of the moment you find yourself in, not the one you keep wishing for. Laugh We try so hard to be where we’re not. When you see that up close, it’s hilarious. Have a big laugh and be awestruck by your surroundings. This is why you went camping in the first place. You went away to come home. Beyond Your Comfort Zone Being out in the elements can make your body and your mind squirm. That’s part of the reason to do it. It can help you stretch your resilience. get real