'You won’t get to see a wolf on a Wolf Walk, but you may get to connect with your inner wolf'
A fitness trainer and life coach is helping others reach the goal of discovering one's life journey as they take on the physical journey through the mountains of Ireland.
Wolf Walks Ireland is a guided hike led by David King, former military sniper and survival instructor (SERE). "The inspiration for Wolf Walks Ireland came from a strong personal belief that in today’s modern hyper-connective world we are slowly becoming more reliant on technology and less on our natural intuition and ‘gut feeling’," he explained. "We are losing that connection with nature and ultimately ourselves as humans and therefore we lack trust in our decisions and choices."
Conducted nationwide, Wolf Walks was founded in August 2020 and is open to anyone over 16 years looking to take ownership and improve their mindset.
"Inspiring people of all walks of life and background to step away from the daily hustle and grind in order to take time to breathe, reflect and pause can allow us to discover where we are on our life map and possibly make a change to our path if we realise that we are feeling a little lost,” says David, the Dublin native who grew up in Navan and now lives in Athlone with his fiancée, Sandra and their two boys.
Like his father, who died in 1985, David joined the army in 1994. "It was always a dream for me to follow in my late father’s footsteps and wear the uniform of my country with pride and honour."
After 21 years of service the 49 year-old retired as a sergeant. "I believed at the time I had achieved all my goals in the military and it was time to write a new page in my book, which has turned into a wonderful new chapter," he said. "My intention was also to spend quality time with my family."
From risk management and medical support, to navigation, sniper and survival techniques, David brings all his military skills to each Wolf Walk.
"When we add the above to qualifications in neuro-linguistic programming, a master practitioner in mindfulness, meditation and breathwork guide plus controlled remote viewing it gives each group and individual an unwavering sense of confidence in me as a leader and as a guide."
Designed by David himself, a Wolf Walk includes various talks, meditation, breathwork and even cold-water immersion. Prior to the walk each participant is informed of the appropriate equipment, attire and safety brief.
"While each walk is researched in what we call a ‘recce’ where I walk the route previously and map out a plan, I love to let the energy of the group dictate how the day unfolds."
From battling the elements to looking deep within yourself, participants set their own intentions on what they hope to achieve on the Wolf Walk. While the journey may sound tough, David is there every step of the way.
"When we understand that we are a living, breathing ecosystem just like nature we can rekindle that connection and feeling of being alive,” he says.
David recalled their most recent Wolf Walk in Glendalough, Co Wicklow.
"We started the day with a short ‘walk and talk’ where walkers get to know each other and the conversations flowed as we climbed along a beautiful river bank beside stunning waterfalls."
Using nature as an example, he then spoke about the stresses of life and guided them through a river meditation.
"The ‘Walk of Life’ was next as I reminded the group how in today’s world we strive to reach the top, but miss the wonder of the journey to get there." As they embarked on the steep climb in silence, each walker was encouraged to reflect on their life journey so far - “the traumas, the wins, the perceived failures, the internal conversations bringing up many questions."
Upon completion the group was greeted with panoramic views of the lakes below.
"We used this as an opportunity to chat and share, and question what we as individuals noticed on the climb. The view might be amazing, but what did we learn on the journey?"
Followed by a forest meditation, participants descended along the rock pools of the river, where David began what he called the 'Stress Shelf'.
"Each one of us shows up on a daily basis with the baggage of life weighing us down. A smile can hide so much hurt, pain, stress and worry. How we acknowledge, take ownership and embrace ‘positive acceptance’ is key to how we react and respond to the current and future curve balls of life. We go through a stress exercise as a group and take time to reflect."
The group proceeded to sit beneath the trees, reflecting on what 'time' means to them. "The tick tock of the life clock continues no matter what we are doing or how we are feeling."
Afterwards David had them step out of their comfort zones and take on a 'positive risk' through a combination of breathwork and cold-water immersion. "We begin to understand how precious life is as we feel the cool water on our skin, how tiny we are, surrounded by the enormity and wonder of the mountains and valleys and then it suddenly hits, we are part of the magic."
If the discovery of your life's map doesn't encourage you to reach the top and back, a hot cup of coffee and a chat to wrap up the day just might. "As intended, everyone leaves a Wolf Walk with a thousand questions and an impact that will vastly improve life for those with an open mind."
According to David, the question of the wolf's symbolism pops up on every walk. "‘Mac Tíre’ the Irish Wolf, roamed Ireland long ago and left its footprint on these shores. The wolf pack operates as a community with many similarities to humans. A wolf has an amazing inbuilt intuition, it is strong, dynamic, powerful yet graceful, loyal to the pack and fierce when challenged.
"If we can develop what I call a ‘wolf mindset’ we can improve in all aspects of our lives, develop a stronger character, trusting our beliefs and core values, facing adversity with tenacity, fortitude and resilience. The seasonal changes a wolf pack faces are no different from the challenges we face daily, they come and go, how we respond to them is key."
Recently a Wolf Walk was held in memory of Emmett Mayon, one of David's closest friends and fellow Wolf leader, who passed away last year. All proceeds went to Movember.
"Raising awareness for men’s health with a focus on suicide awareness, prostate cancer and mental health is something I am passionate about," he said. "In the past I have suffered from poor self-talk and over the years I have lost friends to suicide, plus family undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Taking on a tough challenge to raise much needed funds and awareness was a no brainer for me and something I will endeavour to do going forward."
The next retreat will take place on May 14th at Kilclooney Wood, Coumshingaun Lough, Waterford. For more information go to www.davidking.ie/wolfwalksireland