At the border of Minnesota and Canada there is an area known as Quetico Provincial Park/Boundary Waters Wilderness Area. This vast expanse of wilderness is filled with forests and interconnected lakes that permit trips mainly by canoe, as native americans might have done hundreds and thousands of years ago. Entering into a week-long canoe trip in Quetico you will leave behind not only civilization but also a lot of the habits that you developed in daily life.
The first thing that is apparent when you take a boat ride into the park is the space. In many places the waters seem to go on to the horizon, or are broken only by a distant line of trees. While this initially may be daunting as you realize you will have to paddle across the lakes, you will soon discover the relative ease of traveling by canoe.
Not that it won’t tire you out… it’s important to find a rhythm and work efficiently, especially with a partner, to save your energy. If you don’t like deep water then you can keep near the shoreline as you learn to identify where you are on the map and how to reach your destination.
At various points you will have to return to dry land and actually carry your canoe some distance to reach the next traversable body of water. These are known by the french word portage, which can be roughly translated as ‘carry-over’ or ‘crossing.’ At this point you will carefully manuever your canoe and belongings through a forest trail and you may realize the pros and cons of carrying more things on fewer trips or vice versa.
Perhaps the greatest change that you will experience on this kind of adventure is also one of the most subtle. If you are like many people and you live in a world of technology, entertainment, commerce and communication, then coming to Quetico will dramatically change the amount and type of information bombarding your brain at any moment.
Without cell phones, billboards, radios, traffic, and city lights, your brain will begin to fall into the vibration of the natural world. In Korean, this natural vibration of life is sometimes called yulyeo. There is a musical element to yulyeo. Yulyeo, like music, is filled with different melodies, rhythms and arrangements, and altogther is creates a harmonious song that can be said to be greater than the sum of its parts.
At first the silence of nature may be almost deafening to unaccustomed ears. But after a few hours you will be keenly aware of many things- the wind, the trees, the water, birds, and small animals, all with various sounds and movements. Finally, with a little patience, your attention will settle on your own breathing, your heartbeat, the feeling of the sun and breeze on your skin, the smell of the water in your nose, and thousands of other tiny cues and signals from your own body.
This change in awareness is a change in the brain. Sometimes just getting back to nature can be enough to rid us of accumulated stress and emotion. But sometimes, although we surround ourselves with things that should be calming, we still have a hard time to let go of our worries and tension. If this is the case then it is time to do something more directly for the brain.
One method for returning the brain to a more harmonious rhythm is called Brainwave Vibration. Developed by Ilchi Lee and practiced at Dahn Yoga centers worldwide, Brainwave Vibration is a simple moving meditation designed to relax the brain’s super conscious neocortex and activate the deeper kinetic and self-healing functions of the limbic system and brainstem. Once you try it you may realize you have unconsciously done this when you were upset and needed to clam down, or when comforting someone else.
In fact, even if you live in the middle of a big city you are still very much connected to the rhythm of life, or yulyeo. Because this is the natural rhythm of the earth. It is around us, under our feet, in our eyes and ears. Only when we are overwhelmed by the other rhythms and vibrations do we lose the sense of yulyeo, but it can be recovered at any time with patience and focus.
So, if you find yourself longing for more of this kind of experience, take a trip to Quetico Provincial Park for some time with nature. Or head to a Dahn Yoga center and try Brainwave Vibration. Soon you will rediscover the natural peace and harmony that exists in all of us!