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Archive for August, 2012

As a child, I felt a deep sense of disappointment. Instead of investigating ways to feel love for the world, I spent most of my first 35 years figuring out how to better fit in—believing that would alleviate the dissatisfaction. I learned, or at least subscribed to, the notion that there was something fundamentally wrong with me because of this feeling, and that it should be overcome.

Over time, I began to recognize that this ache rarely left while I was participating in the world that humans created, no matter how well I looked to be “fitting in.” Conversely, it often did feel satisfaction outside in nature, which brought up a deep sense of belonging to the earth and the universe as a whole. This happens while being welcomed by a tree as I lean up against its trunk, waving to a bird in flight and seeing its wing move just slightly in response, or walking through the woods where the leaves dance hello. It feels now as though that disappointment was self-induced when shutting myself off from the life of nature. The longing in my soul was requesting for me to interact with all living beings—trees, plants, domestic and wild animals. It had asked me to delve deep in to my core and engage all my senses. Not only the primary five, but also another sense that comes into play when the other five are heightened. I call it my wild sense, or ancient self. This name because it feels to me like a part of human nature that has always been in us. We needed it to keep ourselves keenly aware of danger and to find safety. Now instead of engaging this sense, we have built houses and buildings to protect us. In doing so, as is usually the case with protection of any kind, we also shut ourselves off from nature and separated ourselves from the very life that supports us. 

This morning—months into contemplating the subject—I received the Wilderness Awareness School’s newsletter, in which they wrote;

“According to best estimates, we have been biologically Anatomically Modern Humans for around 200,000 years. We have been fully behaviorally modern humans for 50,000 years. Agriculture really only began 10,000 years ago. The Industrial Revolution was over a 100 years ago. The internet was invented 30 years ago. iPhones came out less than 5 years ago. What are the implications of this? We have spent most of our existence as a species as Nature-Connected Bipedal Hunter-Gatherers. We have deep instincts and inclinations to behave in this way. Some of these instincts may even be genetic and biological.”

So, how does one go about touching their ancient self? This awareness isn’t really achieved with a technique. Ultimately it happens on its own. Yet there are things to do that will prepare you to become more open to allowing it. I’ve come up with 5 suggestions that have worked in my life.

  1. Spend time in Nature. While doing so, become a participant in the outdoors. Pay attention to all that surrounds you and what is happening. What birds are singing? What are they doing as they sing? Where do the chipmunks live, and for what reason do they sound their alarms? Pay attention to the movement of the leaves, and notice which plants grow wild near you. If you are gardening pause from time to time and feel what the plants are doing? Stop before planting something and hold it in your hands, getting to know it as a being. I also recommend being without another human while in nature, and to either remain quiet, or speak out loud and then be silent to allow for a response.
  2. Spend time with animals without an agenda. This has quite a bit of overlap with the first suggestion, but is worth its own bullet. As you are with animals, do the same as with the plants. Pay attention to what they are doing and how they feel doing it. They do not use words, instead behavior is their language. Humans so often think we know what is best, that we don’t listen to what animals are saying through their behavior—correcting it to what we want instead. I ask you to simply observe them out of curiosity about their nature. As you walk alongside your dog, imagine what it would be like to walk on four legs, what does is feel like to be always as close to the ground as your cat is, or what is the motivation for digging a hole or singing a song?
  3. Get involved in making, listening or dancing to music. For a long, long time people have been making music and dancing for ceremony, celebration, communication and connection. It is understood across all languages and cultures, although each location has its own preferences and uses. Music and movement allows humans to become aware in a way verbal language and thinking overlooks. It can give expression to feelings that are otherwise difficult to express. Any kind of music will do. Whatever captures your soul and whisks you away from analysis.
  4. Listen to your body.  This is an all-body awareness. Which means we need to first have reverence for the body we were born with—an undeniable challenge in our society. Yet, we cannot expect entertainment or anyone outside of us to change their ways or opinions. We have only control over our own. This, like much of what I’m saying, is an inside job—cliché as that sounds. Look for ways that allow you to feel appreciation for your body. Exercise, eat well, get bodywork. Once you have a reverence for your body, you will more easily listen to it and trust when it tells you something by putting a knot in your stomach, creating tingles of excitement or when something just feels right in your bones.
  5. Let go of what you think you are. Positive and negative labels put limitations on you that you may otherwise outgrow. By dropping any preconceived notions of who you are, you make room for being in the moment and awake to your potential. Labels also put filters on your experience, altering your perception of what is happening. Without knowing ahead of time what and how you are to interact, you are more available to spontaneity.

It is easy to blame our current predicament on technology. However, my guess is that the separation started long before technology existed. Perhaps the beginning was with the invention of agriculture, or the birth of verbal language. Regardless of where it started, my call out to you is to shift your focused attention that technology and language need and expand it so it includes all that surrounds you. Become a participant of life, centered in your body while allowing your ancient, wild self to awaken. Know deeply that you are an integral part of the whole and be aware that you belong—not because of what you do, but because of what you are. And what you are is alive. Enjoy it.

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