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solo adventures

Wild Alaska Inspired Me to Change My Business

by Laura Reyes

David Bowie isn’t the only one singing about changes. My first trip to Alaska inspired me to shift my business. That seems a dramatic statement, but such a peak experience stayed with me. Here I revisit how I started HeartSplash, what three values remain constant, why this updated point of view resonates so much with me, and how I hope it will help others.

In the Beginning

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés explored and celebrated the soulful, native part of us in her bestselling classic about the wild woman archetype, Women Who Run With the Wolves. [1] HeartSplash was grounded in the notion of the wild self.

When I was initially brainstorming for the business, I started taking solo retreats and I took my well-worn copy of her book with me. I wanted to see for myself how this wild self was at play in my own life. I was getting away for clarity. I was reading for clarity, I was writing for clarity, I was hiking for clarity. During that first retreat, I wrote:

I feel my job will be understanding the bridge from the wild woods to the concrete jungle.

I was looking to connect to this deep, soulful part of myself and offer my services from that place. The idea of the wild self needing space to roam served as inspiration for my self- expression, which was painting at the time. This seemed a meaningful focus for the business. I wanted to help people struggling with burnout. At that time I understood the need to get away to rest and restore. But my notion of wildness was understood through the mind and not through the body.

Alaska changed everything. To be in a place so rugged, vast, and wild ignited a wildness within myself. Once my wild self connected with the pristine wilderness, there was no going back.

When I returned from Alaska, the business was already in transition. I was coming up against the reality that the reason that my offering wasn’t resonating with people was that it didn’t resonate with me anymore. I started to put the pieces together to evolve HeartSplash and offer my services from a place as authentic as possible. When nothing else made sense, the principle of “shoot what you love” kept me hiking and photographing in all the nearby State Parks.

The following principles guided the establishment of HeartSplash. They are still in place, but are now seen through the lens of my adventures into bigger and wilder places.

Self-Care

The initial tagline of the business was self-care through the creative arts. Learning to practice self-care was what I was offering others. I did my research. But there was a gap between what people said they thought was a good idea, and what they found compelling enough to pay for.

My graduate studies gave me the credentials and the grounded understanding of how to help others. Helping others has been a huge focus: be it as a volunteer, teacher, therapist, or Mom. I was like so many others that were drawn to healing and helping professions. Before healing others, we had their to discover what was most healing for us.

My healing journey has been a long one. My sister died when I was young so I have tried therapy, art therapy, as well as many other holistic approaches. Through my deep dive into these alternative treatments, I came to understand the body as an energy body that was capable of profound healing. In Alaska, I felt physically and mentally stronger. I wanted to be on the rocky trails and mountains beholding those epic ranges all day long.

The positive shift I felt in my body’s nervous system has been studied and documented by many clinicians. In her book, The Nature Fix, Florence Williams recounts the benefits experienced after just three days spent in nature. [2] This mechanism can be understood on a particle level.

Science explains that direct contact with the surface of the Earth exposes us to an endless supply of electrons which transfer from the ground up into the body and have promising benefits. [3] The shift in what self-care currently means to me is driving the business’ change in focus. Spending more and more time in nature helps me understand that for myself, nothing positively shifts my energy like being outdoors.[4]

Demystify

In the beginning, I designed my creativity workshops to get the participants making art with easy, accessible activities. I wanted them to connect with the artmaking and not have to worry about doing anything wrong.

Fear plays a big part in holding people back from trying something new. As much as possible, I wanted to demystify artmaking. I sought to lower the barrier to getting started. For example: anyone can cut images from a magazine and glue them down, paint with one color of paint, and sculpt tinfoil into a unique creation.

Similarly, I am drawn to the directness of getting outdoors. Admittedly, much of the backcountry and wilderness adventures I am now so moved by require sensible preparation, but the fact that I can head off to a nature preserve, state park, or national forest with no special gear makes me happy. A walk in the woods or along a river is very accessible.

That’s why I am such a big fan of the quick getaway. To determine what the minimum I could take with me in the least expensive way showed me that I could experience a little piece of nature whenever I waned. Last winter I needed a mountain getaway, but found I did not have all the winter gear needed to take full advantage of Colorado. (I have since found that any winter gear needed from ice climbing to snowshoeing to backcountry skiing is easily rented–so good to know!)

I located a cheap flight to Las Vegas, and spent a few days hiking in the surrounding mountains, desert, and wilderness areas. Taking this trip as cheaply as I could showed myself how accessible and directly available nature’s powerful medicine was.

See for Yourself

When I taught my art workshops, I wanted the participants to explore for themselves, and not just take my word for it. I wanted to create a space for them to experiment with the art materials. This learning by doing, this learning through trial and error has been a cornerstone of how I approached my life.

This is the same idea as the meditation principle of Ehipassiko. This is derived from a sanskrit word which loosely translates as, “Come, see.” This principle invites us to see how a particular principle finds meaning and unique expression in our own lives. It is a mindset of curiosity. It doesn’t place all the power outside of oneself or believe gurus or experts hold the answers. Ehipassiko says, “Hmmm . . . let me see for myself.” [5]

I started HeartSplash with the intention to be of service to others with a business that was an authentic expression of myself. In the beginning, I had A LOT of gaps in my knowledge. In many instances I looked to others to be the experts. I discovered that he fullest expression of myself is rooted in independence.

Both sides of the same coin come into play here: it’s the self-reliance that supports my freedom.

HeartSplash 2.0

These past years gave me the opportunities, often through missteps, to grow, take back my power, and educate myself. Flailing doesn’t serve myself or others. I have no regrets. Every step I took to start the business led me here. The idea of connecting to nature was present from the beginning. However, I needed to do a great deal of soul-searching to welcome and accept the idea of a business and freelance work that is grounded in the outdoors.

Nature is my muse and is how I fully express myself. It’s from this place that I discover my potential and seek to help others. In order to move forward I am closing the door on baby HeartSplash. Everything is not meant to last forever. There is a new look now, a new focus. I am offering this iteration of the blog and business to share stories of my adventures into wild places and to support others with their solo endeavors. Time for the next chapter.

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FOOTNOTES

[1] Estés, C. (1992). Women Who Run With the Wolves. New York, NY: The Random House Publishing Group.

[2] Williams, F. (2017). The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Co.

[3] Ober, C., Sinatra, S., & Zucker, M. (2014). Earthing: the most important health discovery ever ! Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc.

[4] These statements spring from discovering what is true for me, and by no means intent to discount treatments others deem necessary for themselves.

[5] I learned about Ehipassiko through the work of Buddhist teacher, psychologist and author, Tara Brach.

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