REMEMBERING THE WISDOM OF WILDNESS

Re-connect to the wisdom of wilderness, and perhaps our planet will save US, says Darren Austin HallArtwork: Stéphane Recoupé

“To be whole. To be complete. Wildness reminds us what it means to be human, what we are connected to rather than what we are separate from.” — Terry Tempest Williams

The worst kind of loss is one you’re not even aware of. The loss of the wild and our allied wildness is one such loss, haunting us in a multitude of inner-howlings and muffled cries; deep, psychic pains and distant, all-engulfing yearnings.

We may taste it in the devastating awe of a sublime valley of meandering meadows and lakes surrounded by towering mountains. Or else in the skin-crawling terror that some city slickers can experience in the dark woods. We get little nudges of it, too, when we boldly take risks, calling upon unknown resources. In the ecstatic place when limits are transcended and we witness how much more powerful we are than we believed.

And we also find it in the rebellious streak that smirks at authority figures, sometimes playfully, sometimes out of a sheer desire to transgress any kind of ‘taming’ of our primal being, as if it were a grave betrayal. The story of our wildness—what it is, what happened to it and what to do with it now—is old and complicated, but it’s one worth remembering, for it harkens back to the most ancient wounds that usurp us all.

Our natural world, horrendously abused, is now in a state so perilous our very survival as a species is threatened. This is an example of just how deep the wound of separating from our wildness goes. At the heart of perhaps one of the longest and most insane of wars in our story as a species, it is also one we are largely ignorant of: the war against both nature and the wilds of our own human nature.

I realized this returning to Toronto after a recent vision quest in Manitoba, and realizing what we’ve lost in choosing to pave over Her wild, ragged skin; to relegate Her rawness to sanitized city parks; to drown out the peaceful pulse of Her wilderness with the perpetual motion of the traffic and busyness that charge our cities with a certain kind of restless madness.

Moreover, how we have become cut off from something so vital and necessary; something that keeps us in constant alignment with what is true and good, on a path of virtue, and away from the suffering that modern culture wreaks upon us by way of social conditioning.

But all it takes to remember is to acknowledge the inherent wisdom that awakens within us when we’re in the wild, like a silent soul-switch.

In any moment of heartache, when you’ve felt called to take a walk in park or, better yet, hike in a forest, didn’t you experience an almost immediate peace-of-mind? And perhaps a subsequent yet even more powerful cascade of wise insights, resolve, and answers? In my one-on-one healing practice, I often send people besieged by turmoil to the park to sit beneath a tree, to ground into the earth and simply ask questions. I counsel them to enter a state of meditative receptivity and to wait to see what happens. It never fails.

One incredulous friend later admitted she thought it was some ‘hippy bullshit’—but that within minutes of sitting, she found extraordinary insights. On this note, one ancient name for Goddess Earth is Sophia, meaning ‘wisdom’—also at the root of the word philosophy: philo (love) of sophy (wisdom). Or Sophia, the Earth Goddess, whose quality is wisdom.

I believe that when we encounter any kind of wilderness, even in a city park, an extraordinary resonance takes place between it and the wilderness buried deep in us. Suddenly, stagnant emotions, thoughts and experiences find flow because what is wild is always in flow, cannot be tamed nor contained. To take a hit of this means an immediate sense of liberation.

It’s a feeling we experience as teenagers: as our hormones thrust our bodies into adulthood, and we feel the unhinged energies of our being expanding. In traditional cultures, these were times to take the boys and girls into the wild to teach them how to navigate these new energies, so that their wildness could be channeled, and not devour them in arrogant hubris and inflated egos vulnerable to narcissism.

Nowadays, kids do drugs, and partake in other risky activities to test their mettle against these dynamic evolutions. All too often, it leads to disaster—disasters we often survive (we are sturdy folk). But some are are never able to escape this deep yearning for more aliveness, chasing the sensation for the rest of their lives in whirlwinds of drug and alcohol abuse.

For the great call of the wilderness is forever present.

If we choose, we can learn to ride the stallion of our desires using the tools of our spiritual practice, while fostering a quiet reverence for the wild, knowing that there will always be a part of us that lies beyond our control. For if we don’t figure out how to live in harmony with our wildness, we’re doomed. Something we’re reckoning with as a species right now.

And so I invite you to rediscover the wild in you and to find ways to connect more deeply and even sacredly to the wilds of the world.

  • Perhaps this means a month-long discipline of mini-vision questing a la urban shamanism, going to the nearby park every morning to sit in gratitude and receptivity for potential flumes of wisdom.
  • Perhaps this means shaking for twenty minutes a day and letting the voice vent into roars, yells and spontaneous songs.
  • Perhaps it means following our instincts more, our gut-truths, and heart-wombing wisdom; giving head to our heart.

Whatever your way of connecting to the wisdom of wildness, know that you are healing the great wound between ourselves and the Earth, a wound that has pushed us to the harrowing brink. Know that these small acts are in service of a greater movement that is sweeping through our species as we begin to remember a deeply eternal love for Earth, and for the wild.

In which we might just find the way to live one of the most splendorous truths imaginable; we might find the way to let the world save us.

Discover more about Darren Austin Hall and his work at Darrenaustinhall.com

DEAR DIARY: A CONVERSATION WITH THE DIVINE

As Neptune goes direct and the Sun moves into Sagittarius, it’s the perfect time to instigate a conversation with the divine. And your journal is the place to start, says Katie Simpson.

Almost 18 years ago, I bought my first journal. It was a small back hardbound book covered in pictures of Mickey Mouse designs. I’ve since journaled for self-care, self-expression, and so much more.

In the past year, my journal has provided a surprising new benefit: it’s become the space where I have dialogues with the Divine. This began on more intense days, such as in the build up to a New or Full Moon ritual. But now I can have these conversations during lunch breaks, late nights, or days when I am sick.

To be clear, these conversations don’t require any mind-altering substances. The most I have in my system may be a cigarette or a glass or two of wine. And my most profound conversations with the divine occur when I’m completely sober.

Journaling and talking to God both happen in my journal but look very different. When I’m journaling, I write my thoughts down as they come. With the Divine, it’s a written conversation. It sounds and looks like two different people having a discussion. I will write something, and then She responds. The best way to explain it is like the old written notes we used to pass in class. Only I am both one of the writers and the messenger.

These dialogues are a gift, but not one that’s unique to me. I believe that with a little time and effort, you can have these kinds of conversations as well. Here are a few practices that have helped me commune with the Divine through the written word.

:: The faces of God ::
As a religious studies major in college, I learned a lot about the different faces of God. For example, in Hinduism, you could see Kali, Goddess of destruction, and Sarasvati, Goddess of wisdom, as two separate entities. Or they could represent two different aspects of the same Divine Feminine.

So often in the Judaea-Christian West, we focus on God as a judge, ruler, or father figure. But for many women, it’s difficult to connect with this. Personally, I connect best with Jewish idea of the Shechina. She is the feminine, the maternal presence, that I see when I reach out to God. And as such, she is the one who communicates with me on the page.

To begin a dialogue with anybody, you need to feel a connection with them. It’s the same with the Divine. Perhaps you need God to be a fierce warrior. Or perhaps you prefer the idea of God as Sophia, or wisdom.
There’s no wrong answer. So think back to which icons, saints or experiences really made the divine manifest for you. Is there a pattern? What images and ideas do you gravitate towards now? Exploring this is a great start to feeling a connection with the Divine.

:: The inner God block ::
For me, God has never just picked up the pen on her own and started writing: she writes through me. Which means that before the Divine can show up on the page, I have to make space for her – space beyond the doubt, the criticism and the disbelief around God, that so many of us have developed.

To give her space, a free-writing practice is critical. Each morning, I sit down and write three pages, either typed on my computer, or in a hardbound journal. No editing, no second guessing, just writing. Have I perfected this practice? No, but showing up helps me be honest on the page. This way, when the Divine does decide it’s time for a chat, I don’t fight it. I just keep writing.

This practice does take time: I’ve been doing it for over two years now. A couple glasses of wine could be a faster way to muting the inner critic. However, drugs are only a quick fix. Taking the time to show up and write will prepare you to have a dialogue with God, whether it’s 8am or 8pm.

:: Just ask ::
My dialogues with the Divine don’t start off in a complicated way. In fact, they usually begin with a vulnerable honesty.

“I’m so scared of telling him, what will happen?”

“I’m feeling so tired today, I just want to rest in your arms.”

I don’t believe there’s one right way to start chatting with God. For me, it’s about being simple and direct. My dialogues began by me being honest about where I was and what I needed – while the maternal Shechinah simply listened, and held me.

It’s very rare that God reaches out to me or begins the dialogue. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have had any dialogues with God if I hadn’t started the conversations. Why? I wouldn’t have even known I was hearing the Divine.

And what YOU need when chatting with God could look and sound completely different. However, it is up to you to show up. It’s up to you to say you want the conversation, and in fact it’s critical that you ASK for it. The Divine is all around us, waiting. It’s up to us to show we’re ready for a deeper connection.

:: Say Thanks ::
I’ve seen it time and again in human relationships. Want to mess something up? Take a person for granted. Believe that your employee will simply continue producing great work and never leave – and just watch that relationship ferment into a bitter and moldy fruit.

The Divine doesn’t need gratitude. However, simply assuming that you can continue to have dialogues with God won’t do, since becoming proud and assuming of this connection is a surefire way to destroy the dialogue.

Being in the presence of the Divine should always feel like a gift. As such, showing good manners and saying even a quick thank you after the fact can help. There are other ways to show your appreciation: donate money to your favorite charity; give a loved one a call and tell them you love them; pick up some trash from your park.

Divine dialogue has become a gift that helps me be the best version of myself, for others and for myself. Whether you find God on the blank page or in the woods, know that it is your birth right to have time and space directly with her. But taking time to discover what aspects of the Divine resonate with you, and then actually asking for that relationship, are fundamental to creating and sustaining this connection for the long haul.