Rewilding Self-Care

Many of us believe we don’t have time for self-care, yet we’ve all experienced the inner clarity, empowerment and connectedness that arise when we gift ourself the freedom of unbridling the self and losing it in nature. Being in nature is the antidote to our over-manufactured and disconnected life. Nature is the conduit to our life-force.

Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day,
to reconfirm
that witnessing presence.
— Denise Levertov

Being in nature is really a mind pretzel: how can we be in what we are? This mental knot is what ecopsychology helps us unravel. Our point of entry is an intimate understanding of our place, like a magnetic compass, in the vast cosmos, and why our sense of place is necessary when navigating a meaningful life from an open-hearted, connected, telescopic perspective.

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— David Wagoner

As living beings, we abide by ancient forces, yet we have lost the taste of their spell. This disconnection creates chaos in our inner landscape and clouds our inner knowing. Fearing the unknown, we make decisions from our small-self. Scarcity incites control. Scared, we initiate behaviors to feel safe: avoid, disassociate, blame, escape, perfect, please, over-produce.

Panicked and frenzied, we abandon the portal to peace — our self-care. A portal we try, at our soul’s cost, to dismiss as wasteful, self-indulgent and unproductive. Yet, living in our over-manufactured world, designed to separate us from our true self, wholeness is what we need most. The forest knows where we are, we must let it find us.

Our true nature is oxygenized by nature.

To live utterly alive in an era of distractions, we need self-care to heal a disconnected soul. What might happen if we rewild self-care -- commune with the natural world as a vital and necessary source of wellbeing — with the understanding that are inseparably intertwined with the natural world?

13.7 billion years ago, atoms spontaneously collided together and created the portal to the universe which is my physical self. You, elk, alder, river and moon emerged from the same collusion of energy too. Which is to say there is a fluidity of time and space that resides in the cells of all living beings.

We can view this fluidity from various perspectives. When we take a telescopic viewpoint, we see the interconnectedness of all matter, or as astronomer Natalie Batalha, posted on Facebook,

...dark matter comprises 25% of the mass energy budget of the cosmos, while dark energy comprises 70%, and the normal matter, of which you and I are made of, is just a wee 5%, and it’s all connected by a cosmic web of bridges that stretch across millions of light years…

When we take a microscopic viewpoint, we see that our nervous system is intimately and intrinsically connected with the vast cosmic web. Our cells are cosmic juice. Which is to say that our thoughts, behaviors, emotions and fears are shaped by our ecosystem, and in turn, we use our thoughts, emotions, pain and fear to shape our ecosystem, as John Keats noted, “The world is a place of soul making.”

Soul making is my life work. As a midwife to the soul, I help others unearth what they long ago buried: a transformative process that begins with a death and ends with a birth. I commingle the telescopic and microscopic perspectives to teach students how to recreate a relationship with mystery and enter the wilderness of their soul. The wilderness is any threshold beyond the plateaus of being that frighten us but must be crossed to become the self one dreams.

This inner alchemy transmutes most rapidly in nature, where an inner calm suffuse our senses and ease our nervous system. Aligned with our true-self, we see multiple perspectives clearly, we fret less, we stop resisting, we enter into a nurturing dialogue with our soul.

Still, friends, consider stone, that is without
the fret of gravity, and water that is without

And the pine trees that never forget their
Recipe for renewal.

And consider, always, every day, the determination
Of the grass to grow despite the unending obstacles.
— Mary Oliver, Evidence (2), from Evidence

The natural world is where we evolved, where we found our metaphors and meaning, and it is the resting place for our soul. 2.5 million years ago, we were wildlife. During those 2 million years, it was just us and nature, completely interconnected in a bio-synchronicity. In fact, there was no separation - us on one side, plants, animals and rivers on the other. Prehistoric humans were one among millions of species living on this planet with no more influence over Earth than mountain lion, otter or firefly.

As wild animals, we lived intimately connected to our subtle body -- the energy, chi or life-force -- that was pulsating in synchronistic vibration with cosmos. Like a magnetic compass, our inner guidance system lead us true North. Though life was unpredictable, uncontrollable and constantly shifting, as connected beings, we did not fear the unknown, deny our soul’s purpose, doubt our belonging or get lost in a haze of confusion.

As time went by, our relationship with the wilderness changed. 12K years ago, the agricultural revolution created barriers between us and the natural world. Living in our over-manufactured world, we forgot how to access our connection to cosmos and to our wild blood. We forgot how to calibrate our compass. Over time, we forgot who we were.

The Privilege to Refuse our Flowering

...I look out
At everything
Growing so wild
And faithfully beneath
The sky
And wonder
Why we are the one
Part of creation
To refuse our flowering
— David Whyte

And yet, this ancient legacy lies deep in our tissues. Ecopsychology proposes that the first 2 million years are more important for our psyches and souls than the last 12 thousand years. Our bond with the natural world can reunite us to our true nature. We might have left the natural world, but the natural world has not left us.

You can rewild.

If you reopen the ancient portal, what part of yourself might emerge?

Expanding your relationship with self-care will help you live intimately connected with the life-force and inner guidance system that is your birthright. You’ll need this guidance system to live present in the world. And the world needs you.

You are more powerful and courageous, mysterious and magnificent than you know. You hold within you -- secreted for safekeeping in your heart – your own unique gift for the world. Each sojourn in the parallel world will take you deeper into the mystery of yourself, where you will pre-member that you are a two-legged animal learning new ways of tuning into the natural rhythms of your inner landscape.

There is a passionate homecoming to be found in the wilderness. Make room for mystery. Take off your shoes and enter reverently.

Sojourns In The Parallel World

We live our lives of human passions,
cruelties, dreams, concepts,
crimes and the exercise of virtue
in and beside a world devoid
of our preoccupations, free
from apprehension—though affected,
certainly, by our actions. A world
parallel to our own though overlapping.
We call it “Nature”; only reluctantly
admitting ourselves to be “Nature” too.
Whenever we lose track of our own obsessions,
our self-concerns, because we drift for a minute,
an hour even, of pure (almost pure)
response to that insouciant life:
cloud, bird, fox, the flow of light, the dancing
pilgrimage of water, vast stillness
of spellbound ephemerae on a lit windowpane,
animal voices, mineral hum, wind
conversing with rain, ocean with rock, stuttering
of fire to coal—then something tethered
in us, hobbled like a donkey on its patch
of gnawed grass and thistles, breaks free.
No one discovers
just where we’ve been, when we’re caught up again
into our own sphere (where we must
return, indeed, to evolve our destinies)
—but we have changed, a little.
— Denise Levertov