Getting to the Heart of Wilder

It was on honor to attend Lauren Fleshman’s Wilder Running retreat in Bend as camp yoga coach last month. Wilder is a philosophy. It lives beyond constraints of time and place. In Lauren’s words, “A method of exploration. A stripping down to the heart of it by pen and by foot.” This philosophy, I've discovered, is accessible both in the Wilder wilderness and right where you are. "Wilder" is what makes your heart beat hardest.

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Lauren's words called me long before I agreed to attend as a facilitator. I write. I run. I do yoga. This trifecta is as constant for me as coffee in the morning. And the question I find myself asking most often when I do these things that I love, especially when things get hard, is: What is this really about?

It’s exactly as Lauren explains it — it’s about getting to the heart of it.

Under the care of Fleshman, renowned writing coach Jen Louden, and myself, along with comedian Susannah Spies, 50 people wrote, ran, and did yoga. But something much bigger happened.

Jen shared this quote in one of the writing sessions that keeps whispering to me the way I whisper prescriptive instructions to individual athletes when I move around my classes: "Pay attention to what you pay attention to."

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The topics of Wilder (and of course Lauren herself) are why everyone gathered in the woods. We were there to write, to run, to do yoga… but why? Sure, retreats are dreamy but why are we called to these specific practices? What happens inside us when our pen flows freely, when our legs go fast, when we stretch deeply? 

We all have our reasons but beneath those whys there’s something way more elemental, that's woven into the fabric of who we are. When we practice — whether writing, running, or yoga (or whatever you're called to practice) — our focus shifts inward. We create something tangible — words, steps, poses — but retreat in the process. We extend outward and inward simultaneously. Don't mistake exertion and recovery — what I'm talking about is the refilling of yourself that happens when you pour yourself into the places and actions that help you maintain a deep connection to yourself. These practices help us settle back into ourselves. They help us to relax back into who we are. And that, my friends, is what makes everyone’s heart beats hardest.

I tasted it in the dust as I ran mid-pack. I heard it in the sound of pens moving on paper. I felt it in all of the shoulders I pressed during relaxation after a post-run Reset.

"Kill the thing that pulls back the reins, and run." – Tara Sophia Mohr

"Kill the thing that pulls back the reins, and run." – Tara Sophia Mohr

Wilder was magic. It was a reawakening as to why all of these things matter so much. And it also served as a potent reminder to me that I don't have to be on retreat to practice, to connect, to feel alive. When I pay attention it can happen every time I sit down to write, lace up my running shoes, or roll out my yoga mat. It happens every time I take a deep breath in... a slow breath out... I left Bend feeling more like, well, myself, than I have in a long time. I feel resolved to keep that connection strong moving forward. And more committed than ever to my mission of helping athletes use yoga to achieve their goals — and stay connected to themselves in the process.

Closing ceremony with Lauren and Jen.

Closing ceremony with Lauren and Jen.

I hope that you find the practices that help you stay connected to yourself. Practice. In the process pay attention — really listen — to what makes your heart beat hardest. And let that guide you on.  

"Let me know I am not alone, and that I never need to do it perfectly." – Pixie Lighthorse

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