Matt Niswonger

Tools of liberation // Zen and the art of happiness

One of the core principles of Adventure Sports Journal has always been spreading happiness. We care about the human spiritual journey and we offer this magazine for free to help you on that journey. We distribute at over 1,000 locations throughout California and Nevada. Since 2001 we have faithfully printed and distributed millions of copies for anyone who is interested, regardless of economic status. For most of our readers the cost of a subscription isn’t substantial, but we still make ourselves available to anyone, regardless of material wealth.

That’s because we believe the outdoor activities we cover are more than just ways for bored, wealthy people to look good on Instagram.

For us surfing, climbing, skiing, mountain biking, trail running, hiking and the other adventures we cover are rituals of human happiness. If done right, these adventurous sports are ways to bring forth the full dignity of human spiritual progression, regardless of what you look like, how skilled you are, or how much money you have.

We don’t emphasize the latest cool trends or the death defying accomplishments of the very best outdoor athletes on social media. Fashion, looking good, and being a part of the “in” crowd are all outside of our core coverage. What we care most about is YOU.

Maybe you didn’t walk into a bike shop or coffee shop planning to pick up ASJ, but here you are. This magazine called to you. You saw this publication as an opportunity, and we are so glad you did.

Maybe this is your first time reading ASJ or maybe you regularly read our columns. Either way I’m here to tell you that human liberation is possible, your liberation starts right now, and the path of adventure will liberate you forever if done correctly.

When I say “correctly” I don’t mean in the sense of being good at something. What I mean is having the right intention: you will find the present moment, Nature will touch your heart, and you will move closer to full, permanent happiness.

When Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh said “My actions are my only true belongings,” he was pointing the way towards human freedom and liberation. In other words, when we are happy we feel free to make others feel happy as well.

There is nothing casual about our mission, but we are very lighthearted. We see that being overly serious isn’t conducive to happiness. That said, we willingly choose the rigor, fear, and discomfort of outdoor adventure because this helps us transcend the challenges of everyday life. We choose adventure because the happiest people in the world are found on the slopes, on the trails, and in the water. We want this for you. In fact, as you read these words you are being liberated right now. A possibility has awakened in your heart.

What is this possibility? It’s the possibility of your happiness and the ripple effect it will have on your friends and family. It’s the possibility that you will embrace the challenges of life with gratitude. We don’t shy away from suffering; we embrace it and transcend it.

Think of ASJ as the opposite of Instagram or TikTok. We don’t care about looking good, we care about true happiness. Even though looking good is an aspect of true happiness, it only authentically comes from the inside. In contrast with the essence of all social media platforms, looking good is just an incidental part of this path, not the core focus. We only care about looking good, if it arises organically as a result of happiness.

Thank you for reading my words. If you agree that the adventures we cover in the pages of ASJ have helped you experience liberation and happiness, please send me an email. I’m interested in your take on these existential concepts. How has the path of adventure changed your life for the better?

As I type these words we stand on the brink of winter. I can feel it in my bones and I resolve to challenge myself in the snow this year. I will lean into the biting cold of nature and let my body suffer while my soul reverberates with joy.

How about you?

— Matt Niswonger

Read other editor’s notes by Matt Niswonger here. 

Help us continue to reach folks in a meaningful way be becoming an ASJ member. Learn more here.