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Walking retreat - first reflection

First thing on Monday morning. How delicious, warm, beautiful to spend last night in our own bed with darling Catero. Bliss. My body softens and settles.

So how was that four nights camping in the mountains and climbing the nine Munros? I drove north thinking of adventure, connection and mindfulness. Did I find them? Did I live them? I guess like most of life, the answer is "yes, partly". I lived them partly in the ways I had expected, and I lived them in ways I wasn't expecting too.

Adventure. It was an adventure for me. At 17 I left school and went out to Gibraltar to try to get a temporary job. I couldn't find one. It would have been easy to have come back home with my tail between my legs. However I decided to go on. Not for long, but I spent some days, on my own, hitch hiking round Morocco. I was very naïve. I had done hardly any hitch hiking before. It was very good though. I came back to Gibraltar, met up with my cousin and we hitched back through Spain and France to Britain. I'd grown in confidence, in my sense of self. That time when I was 17 and travelled round Morocco on my own became part of my personal narrative. Nietzsche's remark "What does not destroy me, makes me stronger" felt relevant. This trip to the Fannaichs, to try a series of nights solo-camping for the first time, feels a similar energy to the one that pushed me out into Morocco on my own at 17. Kennon Sheldon in his fascinating work on the multiple determinants of wellbeing (Sheldon 2004; Sheldon and Hoon 2007) argues that it's helpful to see wellbeing as being determined by a series of levels. Two that he discusses involve others - our social relationships and the society we live in. Four facets are personal - psychological need satisfaction, personality characteristics, goal choice/satisfaction, and personal narrative/sense of self. Adventures like this affect my sense of self in ways that feel important and helpful.

Connection. I talked about this at the end of yesterday's blog - feeling my roots spread out more through Scotland, feeling a different sense of myself in relation to the countryside. There is research suggesting that how connected we are to our surroundings changes our sense of ourselves. So a study comparing the self-concept of people who had moved house a lot with those who had stayed longer living in one place showed that the personal self was more central to the self-definition of frequent movers than to that of nonmovers, whereas the collective self was more central to the self-definition of nonmovers than to that of frequent movers (Oishi, Lun et al. 2007). I definitely feel a broader sense of my self after climbing over 70 Munros!

As for Mindfulness, I'll talk more about that tomorrow.

Oishi, S., J. Lun, et al. (2007). "Residential mobility, self-concept, and positive affect in social interactions." J Pers Soc Psychol 93(1): 131-41. [PubMed]
Sheldon, 2004, Optimal Human Being: An Integrated Multi-level Perspective. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum. [Abe Books] [Amazon, UK]
Sheldon, K. and T. Hoon (2007). "The multiple determination of well-being: Independent effects of positive traits, needs, goals, selves, social supports, and cultural contexts." Journal of Happiness Studies 8(4): 565-592. [Abstract/Full Text]

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