Unboxed Life

Boldly existing outside the box through conscious living and constant learning.

What Nature And Thoreau Can Teach Us About Unboxed Living

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I have not lived.

-Henry David Thoreau 

Editor’s note: All the photography on this post was taken by me. I was not able to bring my proper camera on this particular trip so please bear with the quality of the photos, thank you.

Having grown up in a small, country town on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State and being in such close proximity to the immensity of nature I have come to love and crave the outdoors. I love backpacking, camping, hiking, kayaking, climbing, pretty much anything that has to do with being outdoors and safely in the arms of natural splendor. This past week I was on a backpacking trip and got to thinking about what being outdoors and engrossed in the beauty of the natural world can teach us about Unboxed Living. I thought about people who have come before me who understand and honor the connection between nature and the human spirit. When contemplating nature, for me, one name comes to mind: Henry David Thoreau. Author of many American classics and above all else an avid outdoorsman, Thoreau mused often in his writings about the effect that nature has on human beings and has left us with some profound and insightful material.

What I would like to do here today is explore, through the writings of Thoreau, what being in nature and drinking in the natural beauty of our world can do for our Unboxing Journey and how we can leverage that experience to expand our minds. I hope that if you are someone who doesn’t typically enjoy the outdoors that you will keep an open mind. Nature can touch us all in weighty ways even if we don’t choose to lose ourselves in her splendor.

In the grasp of nature we can find what comprises our spirit and our soul

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature.


If you ask anyone who has spent any time in nature or in the solitude of the trees they will tell you that out there with nothing between you and the raw power of the Earth you can become intimately acquainted with who you are. I have talked before about self-awareness and its importance to the Unboxed Life and there is no better place to explore your own humanity than in nature.

Thoreau talks above about how a lake is like an eye or like a mirror that reflects back to us what we release into the world. Just as our reflection stares back at us when we gaze onto the glassy surface of an alpine lake, so does the quiet of nature reflect back to us what we have manifested in our physical world for better or worse. With the power to create our own lives comes the responsibility, and at times, the brutal reality that we are not honoring said power. It is impossible to escape the reality of the state of our physical and mental well-being when we remove the fluff of everyday life. When we are striped of our armor and the tools we use to insulate ourselves from the rest of the world, the solitude of nature reveals our true selves to us. Increased self-awareness is a valuable asset in our Unboxed Journey.

Meet the divine in the presence of nature

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand


No matter what you think of when you contemplate the spirituality in your own life, one can become intimately acquainted with its presence in the arms of nature. Part of living Unboxed is realizing that our own spiritual beliefs and the things we hold in our hearts can be strengthened by challenging them against other ways of thinking. How are we to know if what we believe is actually what we know is true if it is not questioned. Within nature that higher divinity resides in its most raw and primal form in which we can begin to peel back the layers and find the truth which we seek. Whether you believe in God in some shape or form or in some other incarnation of the divine it is impossible to deny the presence of some spirit in the mountains and trees of the natural world.

Not only can we walk with the divine power present in nature, but we can begin to realize our own marvelous power which resides within us all. Each person is capable of a process by which we can create the reality in which we reside. We first feel with our hearts, then contemplate or critically think with our minds, and lastly physically create our passions with our hands. Testing one’s self against the raw power of nature puts those gifts into sharp focus and allows us to realize our shortcomings and begin to hone those skills. The amplification powers of the natural world make this even more possible for us.

The grandeur of nature forces us to realize our own insignificance

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.



This quote, to me, really transcends just the discussion of nature and can tell us so much about how we should see the world. Service to others in one of the core principles of Unboxed Life and is something that I feel passionate about. Thoreau asks us to place ourselves on eye level with the smallest and most insignificant of nature in order to gain perspective on the world. The same goes for our lives as we move through the world. We should seek to place ourselves on even ground with even the lowest and out-cast of society, those people in whom the world has seen no value. We should seek to make ourselves even with them and in that place of vulnerability we will find what true service really is. Let us not hold ourselves above anyone no matter their place or rank in the arbitrary social structure and strive to bring our worldview in line with the least of us.

From this place of humility and resignation we can realize our own insignificance and the triviality of the seemingly endless responsibilities placed on us by society. With our eyes at the level of the real world we can become free from the bonds of the social order and begin to live deliberately and with passion rather than by the rules of others. Whatever that means for you the practice of simply placing one’s self in nature can be invaluable practice for taking a new and unknown perspective.

In the company of the raw power and splendor of the natural world we find our primal selves, and it is good

A lake is the landscape’s most beautiful and expressive feature. It is Earth’s eye; looking into which the beholder measures the depth of his own nature


Much like the systematic removal of the thinking powers of our minds as we grow into adults, society has taught us that our primal selves are to be controlled and ultimately conquered and squashed. This stifling of the primordial being has lead us to an existence often void of passion and out of touch with the origins of our species. The opposite is true in nature where the primal is powerful and the primordial is the key to knowing one’s self. When we find ourselves surrounded by the vast expanse of nature and left without the crutches of the modern world, the primal self comes to the surface and is revealed to us. I am not saying we should all discard self-control and live like animals, what I am saying is that being aware of the primal part of our own beings gives us the power to use it when need be. Being able to grasp onto the passion and power that resides there can be such an asset when we seek to leave behind convention and seek Unboxed Living.

Harnessing the Unboxing power of being in nature does not require you to get lost in the woods or live off the land for weeks at a time. Even a simple walk in the woods, strolling barefoot on the beach, or swimming in a secluded lake can bring you in touch with all the splendor and beauty of our world. Above all else it seems a shame to have around us so much magnificence and to not participate in it. I promise you that if you give yourself to nature that what you get back will be far beyond your expectations. What is your favorite place or activity to do outdoors? What is your next outdoor adventure? The world is out there, ready for us to experience it for all it has.


11 comments on “What Nature And Thoreau Can Teach Us About Unboxed Living

  1. Jennifer Stuart
    July 11, 2012

    I’m not gonna lie- at this point in my day, I did not have time to read each word of this post. I will later, though. I think it is interesting that you apologized for the quality of the pictures- they are utterly stunning. I looked at them to connect with nature, even cyber-ically, at this moment in the day. I will make a point to go out into the woods today. It is amazing how long the grounding effect of being in the woods will last for me- one hour in the woods today means at least a few days of buzzing happy energy in my blood. Thanks for that reminder, and I look forward to reading this more thoroughly later!

    • Tanner Colton
      July 11, 2012

      Totally ok, I knew when I posted it that it was kind of long. I even took out a lot of stuff I had originally written, I just love nature so much and feel there is so much to say about it! Thank you for the compliments on the photos, I was happy with them but with my better camera could have really captured the other-worldly feel of the place. It was literally like being on a different planet, so great. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the rest of it when you get a chance to read it. Take care.

  2. kolena
    July 11, 2012

    I really liked this one. First off great pictures:) Second I competely agree there is something about being in nature that touches your soul. I try to get outside everday for a bit just to calm my mind and find some relaxtion.

    • Tanner Colton
      July 11, 2012

      That is so great! Like I said, it doesn’t have to be as extreme as climbing a mountain, it can be as simple as a walk in the park. You are so right that the connection with the soul and the spiritual aspect of being outside is so good for us as people. I hope you can continue to find that peace outdoors. Thanks!

    July 11, 2012

    Agree..I like to think a lot too….while I was enjoying the nature in Everywhere in this world….and before I go to bed:P….great post and keep up the good job:)

    Cheers:)will come back from time to time and check on you:))

    Sorry to have drop a link in here because wordpress.com do not allow wordpress.org to sign-in!!! Weird!!


    • Tanner Colton
      July 11, 2012

      No worries on the link, that is strange. Thanks for checking out my post and I am glad you can connect with it. Please do come back and check out the blog again and let me know if you have any feedback on anything I do. Take care.

  4. Mary
    July 12, 2012

    I agree it’s pretty hard to deny the existence of a Divine Being when you see the amazing, beautiful world we live in. Kind of like when you hold a newborn baby in your arms for the first time, you just know God has a plan for us all, and that amazing tiny body is pretty divine. Love the pictures, did Trista see how good they are, hopefully she gave you some pointers, but they are really beautiful.

    • Tanner Colton
      July 13, 2012

      Thanks for the comment! There are many things that force us to confront our beliefs and what we hold true when we strive to experience all that is in the world. Sometimes our beliefs and truths are confirmed, sometimes they are challenged, but all the time we can grow as individuals. I find being in nature to be one of the most awe inspiring things there is in life. I appreciate the compliment on the photos, I wish I could have taken my proper camera but either way it is impossible to really capture what that landscape was like, pictures, as they say, don’t do it justice. Take care!

  5. Jennifer Stuart
    July 15, 2012

    Okay now I got back to actually reading it 🙂 I do love it. Nature has been powerful for me. I have spent time in nature with people at rainbow gatherings, which have been very transformative for me, partially because of the people. I have also been in nature alone, but not for more than a day straight, as far as I can remember. I am now living in a city for the first time in my life- and I feel that some of the things that we think of as being about pure nature can also apply to the city, when we see it a certain way; when we really open our hearts and lose expectation. There is so much magic when people are all coming together, creating little cultures and designing things, we are part of nature too; and at the same time, absolutely nothing compares to coming upon a particular mountain range for the first time. Magic is all around us, and this post did a fabulous job of reminding me of that- thank you so much!

    • Tanner Colton
      July 15, 2012

      That is an interesting idea that we can find the aspects of nature that draw us into itself in our everyday lives. I think you are right one. I enjoy the peace, solitude, serenity, and the slowness of time when I am in nature. If I was conscious of it and deliberate about how I spend my time I think I could create that even in my own neighborhood. I also like how you draw a parallel between the creative powers of human beings and what we find in nature. That is so true and such a cool thought, thanks for sharing. Take care.

  6. Pingback: Unboxed Lessons From Unboxed Professionals « Unboxed Life

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