This adventure company is teaching people to be more self-aware through outdoor exploration.
You can dance in the rain, or you can run to the car, says Charlie White, founder and creator of Move Mountains , an adventure company based in Incline Village, Nevada. And that’s a choice we each have to make with our intentions on an everyday basis.
White’s company, Move Mountains, is all about teaching people how to use what’s already inside of themselves to improve their lives, strengthen their relationships, be better leaders and so much more. Through outdoor adventures like hiking and snowshoeing in the greater Lake Tahoe region and beyond, Move Mountains facilitates ways for people to grow by stepping just slightly outside of their comfort zone.
“At the most essential level, we are here to improve people’s self-awareness and offer them opportunities for positive intention,” says White. “We want to help them to do something with that intention when they go back out into the world, to have a positive impact on how they perceive themselves, and to become a better communicator.”
Creating a business out of a passion
As a social studies teacher who often took groups out on the water or other outdoor trips, White felt a strong duty to inspire civic responsibility in others — both by modeling self-awareness and compassion and by being involved in the community. After shifting from teaching to an administrative role, White found he needed to get back to that duty and purpose. He took everything he loved about teaching and put it into a business — and Move Mountains was born.
Launched in 2013, Move Mountains now has more than a dozen adventure facilitators who each possess a unique background. There’s a yoga instructor, a retired teacher and even a president of a nonprofit organization — each conducting adventures on the side — and they all have one thing in common: they love people.
In fact, it’s a requirement by White that his Move Mountains team members love people more than they love the adventure. White doesn’t just hire tour guides who love outdoor sports, he hires facilitators who have a desire to learn, who are capable of inspiring intention, staying incredibly present on every adventure and reading their group well. It’s a unique and difficult set of skills to acquire.
In fact, White says, the biggest challenge Move Mountains faces is making a correct decision for every single group on how best to move into the mindful component of the adventure. If the facilitator misreads the group and makes the wrong choice, the trip could go very badly. But if the facilitator asks all the right questions and stays extremely present in the moment, that’s when the magic happens. And it happens in the great outdoors, among any elements Mother Nature sends that day.
“The beautiful thing about being outside is that nature is humbling,” says White. “Being in nature strips you of your dependences. It’s a great reminder that there is something bigger out there, and you are not in control.”
Enter the prime learning zone
Once the groups are outdoors on their adventure and the facilitator has done an assessment to gauge what level of mindfulness practice should happen, the Move Mountains way edges the group into the prime learning zone to activate the mind and body. White knows, as does science, that the brain does a much better job of remembering the lessons learned during time spent in that prime learning zone — with just enough stimulation to spark interest — and just enough dopamine release to feel rewarded.
It’s that sweet spot of learning that happens when someone is nudged just beyond their own comfort level. Push too hard, and people feel fear. Without enough of a push, they don’t engage and won’t remember what they learn. Just the right amount of challenge puts them into a place where they are comfortable trying something new and comfortable sharing with others.
And that’s the goal of Move Mountains adventures: bring people to that place where they step slightly out of their safety zone, and then go through mindfulness practices ranging from simple breathing all the way to a loving-kindness scan. Those moments stick with participants long after they leave the wilderness, and they are more likely and able to continue to practice presence, gratitude and intention as they go back into their everyday life.
Adventure primes mindfulness
More often than not, travelers, locals and corporate groups go off on Move Mountain adventures solely for the outdoor adventure component. And those groups are often elated and pleasantly surprised to experience something more on their trip — a mindfulness element, which leaves them feeling better and more empowered than when they arrived.
According to White, the mindfulness component for each group is totally based on the facilitator’s reading of them. Once into the physical component of the trip (whether that is out on the water during a kayak trip or at the top of a mountain during a hike) – that’s when the moment happens. Sometimes, a facilitator will just ask the group to stop and close their eyes and feel their breath in their body.
Sometimes, a facilitator will ask each member of the group to say something that he or she is thankful for. And other times, a full body-scan meditation will be appropriate, and participants will be taken through a guided meditation, in which they check in with everything from “their toes to their noggins,” feeling tension and releasing it.
“Ultimately, we are stimulating the body through physical challenges, and that stimulation will be dependent on the need of the participant,” says White. “Then we get them in touch with the awareness side by doing something unfamiliar to them — having them tap into their body’s feeling to make it through the objective at hand.”
These moments help people to understand how to pay attention to themselves better in their everyday life.
White wants people to know that Move Mountains adventures are for anyone and everyone — ranging from students, couples, families and corporations to teachers, doctors, public service officials and more.
In summer, activities include hiking, backpacking, kayaking and paddle-boarding; and in winter, activities include snowshoeing, backcountry survival and more hiking.
Move Mountains also travels to facilitate on-site experiences for companies in conference rooms, in parking lots, in gyms and anywhere outside to create fun and authentic opportunities for people to connect — a part of the business that really picks up when conditions are less than ideal outdoors in Tahoe.
Making a difference
Although adventure is a big part of what brings people to Move Mountains, participants offer testimonials of marriages saved by a touching adventure, greater appreciation for a mom while out on a kayaking trip, and greater cohesion of corporate teams.
White wants to take care of the people who do the care-taking, too, and he frequently takes out nonprofit groups to help them feel the impact of a positive mindful adventure in the great outdoors. He also built in a charity component to Move Mountains, devoting a portion of the proceeds from private and corporate group adventures to offset the cost of adventures for school teachers, doctors, policemen and even underserved youth.
If you ask White, even though Move Mountains arranges the experience for groups and leads the adventure, it’s the participants on the trips who do the real work.
We provide access to people with the understanding that the tools and resources they need are inside of them,” says White. “We are creating the experience that allows people to uncover the beauty that has always existed within them. And they leave with that.
How to create your own mindful adventure
Charlie White offers these suggestions for creating your own on-the-spot mindful adventure.
- Get outside. Go into your own backyard or head to a park.
- Breathe. Take a few deep breaths and with each new breath, try to recognize something new in your space — something that you hadn’t yet paid attention to.
- Set your intention. Pick something around you outside that you are thankful for. Then pick something about yourself that you are thankful for.
- Set a goal. Choose just one thing you need to work on and commit to it. Keep it top of mind as you go about your day and begin to take action.
You can also ask yourself these questions to better understand yourself and your needs.
- How are you? (Don’t judge yourself on the answer.)
- What excites you?
- What scares you?
- What are you grateful for?
- Who do you need to thank in your life?