Lessons from the Wild: What I learned From BWCA Retreat

Last week I co-lead a wilderness experience in the Boundary Waters with expeditioner Lisa Pugh (she’s amazing btw!).  Seven of us all together journeyed through lakes, rivers, islands, and forests for 4 days.

I’ve been in the wilderness before (many times), but now the messages and medicine of the wilderness was so clear I can’t stop myself from sharing it with you.

  1. Rushing is pointless. The first day I couldn’t wait to get into the Boundary Waters. I wanted to get as far away from civilization as possible. I noticed myself working really hard to paddle fast. Then I wondered to myself, “why I am I in a hurry? Why am I rushing to get somewhere? What do I think will happen when I get deeper into the BWCA? Magic? Happiness? Fulfillment?” My rushing was preventing me from enjoying the beauty, magic, and connections that were right in front of me.

  2. Attitude is everything. One of the days was pretty cold—maybe 40’s or 50’s. I found myself longing for a warm day just like the first. Here’s the thing though: Hating the cold made the cold worse. So instead I asked myself, “is there anything I can do to make this better?” I put on some extra layers (basically all my clothes) and felt much better knowing I did what I could and I just had to roll with the weather.

  3. Let nature be nature. All the days were different—we had to be real with whatever conditions nature offered. The first day was beautiful—70’s/80’s and sunny. Gorgeous fall colors. I went swimming! The next day was a little rainy and pretty cold. The day after was warmer and a bit windy. The last day was tranquil and a beautifully misty. This is nature expressing itself in different flavors—how could we expect anything less from nature?! And this is life too. Life dishes out all kinds of flavors—joy, fear, frustration, peace, tranquility and so much more. All we can do is open to what nature (life) offers and respond accordingly.

  4. We’re in this together. I was shocked at how beautifully all the women on the trip supported one another. And….one of the reasons to go on an expedition like this is for the people. All the women came in with different backgrounds and intentions. Some were more experienced with the wilderness and some were less. The expedition is a group effort—and we learned to take care of each other through the whole process—helping with cooking, filtering water, and setting up tents….along with being supportive and understanding through challenges. Everyone has fears as well as strengths. These come out when you’re in the wilderness. When we’re dependent on each other for survival we develop a lot of empathy and understanding of human nature.


This was my second time up in the BWCA and the first time I went I didn’t portage.  I was struck by Lisa Pugh’s mastery for creating an empowering, supportive, and challenging expedition.  Lisa has taken out groups to the BWCA for 28 days at a time!  This was probably a cake-walk for her!  

I was in awe of how this wilderness experience paralleled meditation retreats and what a great way to bring people out in nature, challenge what’s possible, overcome fears, and meet people who are into the outdoors.  We will be brewing up ideas for expeditions Fall 2020! Check out our trip here and join us next year!