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Channeling Your Inner Wildness: A Conversation with Kenton Whitman

When I reached Kenton Whitman by phone last week, he had just moved out of his yurt. The 40-year-old wilderness enthusiast and life coach had spent a year in the woods of Wisconsin with his wife Rebecca and 2-year-old daughter Mirabelle, in an attempt to live a simpler, more natural existence.

The experiment in primitive living was nothing new for Whitman, for whom living wildly is not a recreational activity, but a calling card. A Zen-practitioner, life coach, martial artist, author and wilderness survivalist, Whitman is a new-age Renaissance man whose talents span a wide gamut. However, the foundation of all his endeavors is a desire to connect deeply to nature and to help others do the same.

Kenton Whitman

Finding a calling in the wild

Whitman was active in the outdoors as a child growing up in Wisconsin, but it was his experiences working at a wilderness outdoors camp that had an indelible effect on his life philosophy.  Equipped with nothing more than a K-mart sleeping bag, he fended off swarms of mosquitos while sleeping in the nooks of trees.  His primary source of food was wild edibles and the remains of road-killed animals, such as snapping turtles, snakes, and groundhogs.

“I used to think of the wild human being as primitive and violent,” he said.  “Then, I had this experience living outside–being pretty wild–and I felt like there was this real inner transformation that occurred.  My mind slowed down, I had feelings of compassion, a greater curiosity about the world and a lack of fear-based living.”

The led him on a path to helps others harness their inner wildness. He continued to work on his own self-development and wilderness skills while practicing Zen and reading the works of nature-oriented writers such as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other Eastern philosophers. When he started training other individuals, he witnessed that they experienced profound positive change as well.

The birth of Metamorphosis

His experiences working with wilderness pupils motivated Whitman to start his Metamorphosis program, an 11-month self-development class where participants learn wilderness survival skills to help them conquer fears and live a more fulfilling life.

Whitman said that one of the keys to the program is disabusing people of their typical antipathy toward discomfort.

“Many people approach the outdoors with fear, so one of the first things I do is try to let nature be the teacher and to set things up so that though they’ll experience some slight discomfort, it will come with a realization or an insight or something positive,” he said.

He added that a typical example of training session might be jumping into a icy pond and then using flint to start a fire or learning to reinterpret the buzzing of a mosquito as a symphony instead of an annoyance.

As students progress, they continue to buff up their survival skills, gaining a self of self-confidence and purpose in the process.

Whitman said that his clients come from all walks of life, including those with physical and developmental issues.  He said that he has witnessed many individuals with emotional issues or disorders such as ADHD  bloom in the woods, where their mental states can become gifts, giving them “an unique insight into the ebb and flow of nature’s rhythm.”

He added that once his clients achieve breakthroughs of higher self-confidence, happiness and self-reliance in the woods, they carry their positive energy back outside of the woods.

For Whitman, this is one of most heartwarming elements of his job.

“It’s an example of the healing power of nature, where time in the woods transforms an individual by bringing out their innate ability to encounter life with curiosity, passion, joy and a sense of adventure,” he said.

For more about Kenton Whitman, visit the homepage for his Metamorphosis program or his Zen-self development blog.


  1. […] by Daniel Lawton, a nature enthusiast, activist, and practitioner of mindfulness who writes for Lost in the Woods. Check it out! This entry was posted in Updates by Kenton. Bookmark the […]

  2. […] by Daniel Lawton, a nature enthusiast, activist, and practitioner of mindfulness who writes for Lost in the Woods. Check it […]

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