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Rewilding: Discovering Our True Wildness

Rewilding: Discovering Our True Wildness

“Be someone who transitions well. Accept it. Integrate it. Look for the opportunity in it. It is not other than you, rather it is also you.” ~ From last month’s article.

Recently I was returning from a two-week vacation in Thailand with my wife Lena. While the trip itself was worth it the return trip was grueling.

Our attempts to upgrade to business class many weeks in advance using my huge stash of miles all came to naught as we were informed at the last minute there were no seats left. To add insult to injury they also announced that our itinerary had been changed again at the last minute and that our flight plan would take us from Thailand to Japan, from Japan to Los Angeles, from Los Angeles to Dallas, and from Dallas to Albuquerque over about 40 hours. Most of the trip was in middle seats in the cattle car section in the way back of the plane. As a young guy I used to fly all over in the cheap seats and not mind at all but at seventy-four this is not the easiest way to fly anymore. Since I cannot sleep sitting up for more than an hour without nasty cramping, I watched endless movies and stayed awake for 39 of those forty hours. While this was no picnic there were hidden benefits. On the very last leg of the trip into Albuquerque, I looked out the window in a state of exhaustion and felt a strange subtle shift within me. As I watched the sun beaming behind some fast-moving clouds and the New Mexico high desert appearing and disappearing below me, I felt a great expansiveness overtake me and unexplainable feelings of love flow through me. I felt strangely relaxed yet riveted by the experience. I was no longer located within my seat on the plane even though my body registered that I was indeed sitting there.

My awareness was way outside the plane without limits and yet included the space within the plane as well. This made no logical sense as you can readily tell by my explanation of it and yet everything felt totally normal and natural.  I was no longer identified with the body that was sitting in the chair although I was aware of it just as I was aware of being everywhere else including in all the other passengers, the plane itself, the clouds, the sun, the land and so on. I felt totally marvelous and as if I had come home somehow, not just to my home state but to a way of being that was always here. This feeling lasted many hours until I eventually arrived at my house in Santa Fe.

Now here we are going to go on a winding journey to see if we can understand a much greater dynamic and movement taking place for humankind. So, stick with me here as I take you from one topic to another that may at first seem unrelated but are in fact totally related as you shall see.

While in Thailand I was reading an article about how the government there was making plans to include up to sixty percent of the land as protected space to be left natural and undeveloped. After the horror of traveling through the city of Bangkok with its endless buildings I understood why they had come to this conclusion. In fact, this kind of planning is starting to catch on in countries all over the world. It has been called “rewilding” by some, allowing land to return to its wild natural state. This information led me to a series of insights that I found most interesting.

Miguel Ruiz, the Toltec shaman who wrote the book “The Four Agreements” speaks a lot about how we have allowed ourselves to become domesticated, powerless drones in a world that conditions us from birth to be controllable citizens, easily managed by religions, governments, and prevailing authorities. He talks about a process of deconditioning ourselves to return to our natural state, self-empowered independent thinkers undefined by the cultures we exist in. This is a different kind of rewilding but a rewilding, nevertheless.

Although we are encouraged to become domesticated by our cultures and nation states there have always been rebels who have gone their own way. These rebellious ones have a mystique about them that catches the attention of others who either hate them and want them to toe the line or those who admire them and secretly wish to be like them. I am reminded of the defiant bikers with their antisocial ways, gang bangers who live contrary to the laws, and cowboys of old who lived out on the range outside the controls of everyday life. I am reminded of today’s populist politicians who are incredibly admired by their base for not following the agreements and rules of the game, behaving antisocially and making up their own rules as they go. There is something quite compelling about these archetypal figures who often have a magnetic draw for many and notably among certain heavily domesticated women who are attracted by their wildness and independence. It is as if many people recognize their loss of wildness and want it back somehow.

Yet there is a fundamental flaw in this dynamic. It is as if people cannot discern between what is self-destructive and what is rewilding and this is for the reason that at a deeper level people have been trained to see the world from a certain conventional outlook. Even when they think they are getting back to their roots by being rebellious they are actually just being self-destructive or admiring someone who is very self-destructive and by definition destructive toward others. At the end of the day the rebellious ones and the ones who admire them are all experiencing the world from the very same vantage point, I am here and everything else is out there. I must rebel against it to find me, to define me. But as they say what you damn damns you back, what you resist persists, what you resist you become. No real freedom there, just the appearance of it.

So, this leaves us with a conundrum. If we have been domesticated and the wildness programmed out of us then how do we get it back without just being rebellious and self-destructive. And if we don’t rebel then won’t the whole world end up like Bangkok, a paved over, built-up world that used to be a paradise.

Thailand is a Buddhist country and there are many ancient temples that attest to this tradition, some of which I had the opportunity to visit. I was mindful of the power of this prevailing tradition and also mindful that it comes with its truths and its cultural religious traditions that are entwined together to make it less understandable to westerners. So, without being disrespectful it is necessary to ferret out what the essence is, what the universal truths are behind the colorful temples with their icons, incense, and robed monks and nuns. The essence seems to be this: In this physical world we have mammal bodies that act as vehicles so that we can have experiences that teach and remind us about our true original nature, our Buddha nature. The body being physical experiences itself in the world of duality where I appear to be here as a physical thing and the world appears to be out there as a bunch of physical objects in a framework of time and space.  In this context I am always searching for happiness out there but can never find it because out there does not really exist as a separate entity. According to our original nature there is no out there, there is no space, there is no time. The Buddha nature just is. It is not a thing; therefore, it is nothing, no-thing. Our original nature is not inside a body or located in space. It is simply universally aware of everything, aware of itself. It cannot be programmed, cannot be conditioned, never forgets itself, and is totally free. It cannot be in a state of rebellion because it has nothing to resist. It cannot be self-destructive because there is nothing to destroy, rather it experiences itself as loving and peaceful no matter what seems to be happening.

This point of view is not strictly Buddhist but can be found in Taoism, mystical Christianity, Sufism, the teachings of Krishna and so on. It is the perennial philosophy, the teachings of the ages and as they say, all roads lead to Rome. The truth is always the truth, even though different languages try to describe the truth according to the limitations of language and this makes it seem that there are many Gods and many different beliefs rather than one simple truth. On my return trip from Thailand, I was very fortunate to not have my physical needs and requirements met. It took almost forty hours to exhaust my personality and my body to the point where I could get a glimpse of my Buddha nature, my original nature. That was extremely valuable and worth the whole trip’s discomforts. The truth is I am not located anywhere specific. I am more accurately an awareness of whatever I am aware of, a presence, a state of being. So are we all, all the time with no exceptions. That makes you and I not different in any way other than local appearances that of course come and go. This awareness is the real wild man/woman and is our true nature. We are never going to find it if we insist on looking out there for it because from that perspective we take our programming, our domestication with us. We can appear wild and become very attractive to others in a false sort of way. Or we can become truly wild and others will never be the wiser for it.

But what about preserving the wild in nature? Isn’t that important. Yes, it is, because the wild naturally brings out our true nature more easily and our true nature naturally brings out the wild in our surroundings. I was just sitting in a plane but my experience was truly wild and maybe, just maybe there were others on that plane that began to experience their wildness as well. One never knows for sure but wildness does acknowledge the wildness all around. Some call it God, others call it our true or original nature, some call it coming home. In the end it does not matter what we call it. Fundamentally, our wildness is mystery. That is what makes it wild.

All of us human beings are on a long journey. The journey takes us on a path through the wilderness that seems scarry until we gradually find ourselves domesticated, civilized, limited, separate, in a world of duality. We find ourselves lost and unhappy and more fearful than ever. Then gradually we return to the wild but we are not the same as when we started. We have lost paradise and then found it again and that makes us appreciate it more than ever before. Being governed by fear for so long we no longer know how to live without it. Nevertheless, we discover there is no other way than to cast it off. When we do, we are truly amazed.


© All rights reserved. www.thepowerpath.com 

You may make copies of this writing and distribute it in any media you wish so long as you do not charge for it or alter it in any way. You must credit the author and include this entire copyright notice. While the text may be shared, no audio files including lectures, music and/or sound meditations may be posted on any site for any reason without written permission from the Power Path.

José Stevens PhD is an international lecturer, corporate team builder and organizational coach, consultant and trainer. A psychologist, licensed clinical social worker and author of more than twenty books and numerous articles, he is also co-editor for A Journal of Contemporary Shamanism and a board member of the Society for Shamanic Practitioners. He is the founder, with his wife Lena, of the Power Path School of Shamanism and The Center for Shamanic Education and Exchange, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating youth in indigenous cultures. He has completed a ten-year apprenticeship with a Huichol Maracame in Mexico and has studied with the Shipibos of the Amazon and the Paqos of the Andes for the last thirty years.

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