Safe, Meaningful, Fun: The Therapeutic Power of Canyoneering

When most people think of canyoneering, they envision an adrenaline-fueled adventure sport that takes them through some of nature’s most breathtaking landscapes. While this is undoubtedly a big part of the allure, there’s a lot more to it than meets the eye. Here at Juniper Canyon and Legacy, we see canyoneering as a vehicle for personal growth and transformation. Our ethos is Safe, Meaningful, and Fun. Let me recount an experience where this ethos came alive in the most unforgettable way.

It was a chilly day after Christmas. The team, missing their families and battling the cold, had an objective: to conquer a canyon down in the North Wash. We knew we had two options – merely go through the motions or infuse the experience with intention and purpose.

To ensure safety, the guides assembled to go through our established safety protocol, delegate responsibilities, and set expectations. Canyoneering is a high-risk adventure, and clear communication is paramount – between the guides, and with the clients. This kind of meticulous planning sets the foundation for an enjoyable and risk-minimized experience.

This particular adventure came at the tail end of a long week. All I could think of was returning to the base, where the promise of a warm shower and the comfort of indoors awaited. But something changed when the Juniper Canyon Coordinator joined us. She encouraged me to add a deeper layer of meaning to the adventure by using a thematic prompt, tying it with the theme of the week: “What is my relationship with control?”

Together, we crafted the following thought-provoking idea: the canyon is unchanging, but how do we react to it? What parts of this adventure do we feel a need to control, and how do we respond when we can’t?

Armed with this shared intention, we descended into the canyon, and something extraordinary happened. The team dynamic shifted, and a more playful, engaged energy started to resonate through the canyon walls. Amid the laughter and camaraderie, I began to ponder the day’s prompt in my own experience. I noticed that I was so focused on efficiency, I was forgetting to appreciate the beauty around me. I decided to let go of control and let the adventure unfold naturally.

After emerging from the canyon, we gathered to reflect on our individual relationships with control. It was enlightening to hear the varied insights from the team: the anxiety of not being in the right order, the preoccupation with discomfort, the acceptance of unavoidable realities. What we all realized was that the awareness of how we seek and handle control empowers us to make a conscious choice – to either hold on to it, or let it go.

Canyoneering is not just an adventure, but also a microcosm of life. It compels us to examine our responses to situations we can’t control – be it in relationships, work, school, or day-to-day activities. Once we bring awareness to our relationship with control, we can decide whether it serves us or hinders us.

In the grand scheme of things, canyoneering offers us more than just an adrenaline rush; it serves as a therapeutic journey of self-discovery and transformation, embodied in our ethos: Safe, Meaningful, Fun. Whether we’re rappelling down a canyon wall or navigating life’s challenges, we find that the experience is far more rewarding when we engage fully, savor every moment, and embrace the wisdom that unfolds along the way.