Grounding: Begin by Going Outside

by Ramsey Demeter

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like there is something about modern culture that leaves us feeling disconnected — from ourselves, other people and our planet. This deep sense of isolation can lead to a host of problems: depression, anxiety, conflict, destructive actions. What then is the antidote to this malady?


There are many ways to cultivate a sense of real connection and groundedness. For me, finding ways to get involved with my community — volunteering for causes I believe in — has been transformative. Another, more personal, way to connect to self and place, has been to get outside to make and sleep in a shelter made with only my own two hands and natural materials from the forest floor — leaves, sticks, branches. To sleep in such a shelter, when it's well-made, is like spending time in a cocoon. It protects, humbles, nourishes, revitalizes. To emerge from such a den after a good night’s rest can feel like a rebirth. Time moves slowly, the mind is quiet and senses reawaken to the groundedness of the here and now.

Practicing wilderness living skills is a radical proposition. As the Living Earth economist and voluntary simplicity advocate David Korten said, "The less we're dependent on money, the freer we are."  When we learn to provide for our basic means of living — shelter, food, medicine, etc. — outside of the mainstream economy we grow ever more resilient and autonomous from that system. This both challenges the status quo and creates alternative ways of living, albeit at the individual level, where our choices have the most effect. By learning to hand build natural survival shelters, you are ensuring that you will never be without a home, and that is radical.

May we all find ways to transform our experience towards one of deeper connection.


Ramsey-DemeterAn instructor with 4 Elements, Ramsey Demeter has a healthy obsession with developing a broad and deep skill set in wilderness survival and living skills. For him, these skills are about rekindling something primal — awakening resilience, creativity, joy and a caretaking ethic — to become more fully human. Trained at the Tracker School, he practices and shares many arts with his students: shelter building, friction-fire making, landscape and animal tracking, trapping, natural camouflage and movement, basket weaving, cordage twisting, bow making, expanding awareness and much more.

Ramsey will be co-teaching most of the classes in the upcoming Earth Skills Field Series, a joint offering between 4 Elements Earth Education and HAALo. The first class, Shelter Building and Herbal Tick & Pest Repellents, takes place on May 30.

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  1. Beautiful post Ramsey! Keep up the good work at 4 Elements. I can’t think of a more worthy use of time than reintroducing young ones to their mother. No nature fear here!