I recently returned from my first “solo” – a twenty-four hour immersive experience in wild nature in the Spanish Pyrenees organised by Active Earth and Way of Nature UK – which I attended as part of my Fellowship on the Clore Social Leadership Programme.
The four-day Solo in Wild Nature programme, which culminates in the solo, is led by Korbi Hort and Andres Roberts, both experienced “solo” practitioners. Andres is a proponent of deep ecology, and in fact had recently returned from undertaking a 28-day solo in America, the experience of which he shared with our small group in preparing us for our own solo. Korbi has lived and climbed around the St Anviol valley for over a decade, and led the outdoor activities which included hiking and canyoning, and our scouting for potential locations, which preceded the solo.
The solo provided a genuine space and opportunity for meditation and reflection. We prepared for it through practical learning with Andres introducing us to Qigong and the philosophy of aligning body, breath and mind and Korbi leading us through a guided meditation.
Some members of the group took with them to their solo a specific question which served as the basis for their inquiry, whilst others, such as myself, determined to utilise the experience for the practice of mindfulness. Journeying out with only the basics – sleeping bag and water, with food and tent as optional – we travelled light and treaded lightly.
Arriving just after midday to a beautiful scenic spot, with no distractions such as phone, laptop, books, writing equipment, the focus was exclusively on wild nature and ourselves.
It was the first time for as long as I can remember that I was so off-grid. It was a unique opportunity to soak in an epic backdrop, sunset and starry night. It served to refocus and re-energise my busy mind, by focusing on the now. To practice what we had absorbed on meditation and mindfulness, particularly that which is taught by Thích Nhất Hạnh.
The beauty and power of wild nature only serves to heighten one’s array of senses, and the unique environment and the particular circumstance serves as an unparalleled opportunity to consider deeply the inquiry taken into the solo. For me, this was in developing a greater understanding of my place in the world, and my role in it. Through my experience, I have discovered no better way to develop an authentic perspective, than perched on a cliff top with the valley below, sky above and a horizon as far as the eye can see.
Returning the next day, we concluded the programme with a collective review of our experiences. What did we notice, how were we effected, why is the solo experience so powerful.
What I received from the experience is a renewed appreciation of the world around me, and a real acknowledgement of the importance of taking a step back and step out of one’s regular routine to develop a true perspective of ourselves. Others discovered within themselves the answers to the questions that they had taken with them into the wild nature. The solo is as much about what you give, as what you receive, from wild nature.
What you will find on the solo is down to you.