This post will coincide with the Articles that I have written for the may and June newsletter. I believe that of all the pursuits that a person can undertake, Being connected to both the earth and to the community around you, as well as opening your awareness and allowing yourself to become party to the world around you are some of the most noble. It is not possible to know how much of an impact these ideas can have on your life until you start to work on them. This idea really started to come alive for me just recently, when Gregg, Jeff, and I were teaching a wild edible plants class. As we were walking the students through the park and talking about the important and easily identifiable plants I started watching them. As we progressed I would catch one of them saying, “wow, look at all that burdock, I can’t believe that I never noticed it before, Or, walking up a hillside and having the youngest member of our group notice a hillside full of Virginia water leaf, Cleavers, and Garlic mustard, when only an hour or 2 earlier we had walked by the same spot and to her it had simply been a forested hillside. Everything that we learn in life, as it pertains to wilderness skills or not, increases our awareness.
As we learn we start to notice more, which makes us more curious to learn and it snowballs from there. We are on a never ending learning curve, that can consume and destroy us, or it can open us up and help us know ourselves and be a part of the world on a much deeper level. It seems in today’s society that everything is very shallow and surfacey. This is because we have created a society for ourselves in which we do not need to be connected or to belong, we can just watch it on our smart phone, or on Hulu. This is not, however, fulfilling to the human spirit. We are pack animals and we need our clan. Historically societies were set up in such a way that everyone was interconnected. The hunters need the hide tanners and leather workers to make the quiver which held the arrows that were made by the arrow makers, using the arrow points made by the flint knappers, which were fired from bows made by the bow makers, etc. etc.. There was no part of that culture which was unnecessary or wasteful, and everyone felt connected. Everyone was a part of the community and a part of nature. When you feel these connections you will feel a much deeper sense of meaning, and self worth.
There is no substitute for dirt time, in the pursuit of a deep connection to the earth, and no comparison when your awareness is rising. In order to attain these heightened levels you must spend time, a lot of time in nature, in the woods, or the desert, or the coast, wherever you live, you need to be outside to gain the benefits of these practices. Aside from simply spending time outside, there are exercises that you can do to work on it. A few examples are the square foot practice: This entails marking off a 12″x 12” square on the ground, once you have marked out your area, you simply lay down and look at you square foot. Notice how the grass moves a little in the wind, how the ants group on certain twigs more than others. Notice how there are different layers, even on this tiny scale, you will see the canopy life, the ground life, and the in between life. Many people are skeptical about this exercise, it seems mundane and unnecessary, but no one that I have shown this to has come back less than shocked at how much life there is on such a small scale. Write down your findings, and maybe even make a few sketches. If you are trying to learn something new, drawing it forces you to take a deeper look at the details. Another good exercise is camouflage hide and seek. A group of people gather around a tree or other land mark. The one who is it, puts their face into the tree while the others hide. The trick here is that the people hiding have to be within sight of the one who is it. When the counter reaches their pre-determined number, they stop and turn around. The counter must then pick out the hiders without leaving the starting point. The hiders should employ natural camouflage techniques, to mask themselves. This forces the hiders to blend into the back ground, and the counter to work on ultimate awareness to find them. One of my favorites is the dark circle. In this exercise, you join a group of people sitting in a circle in the dark (no talking) After a few minutes you all turn your backs to each other, and sit for a few moments, then every 2-3 minutes you walk 5 paces away from each other until you are far enough away from each other to feel that you are alone. Then you sit. I like 15 minutes, but you can use any number as long as it is long enough to affect your fear. The point is that you are alone in the wilderness at night, but the security of knowing that there are others close by makes it easier to relax and enjoy the solitude.
With so many practices at hand in the vein of learning, growing, and connecting, there is no reason not to give it a try, I promise it will change your life for the better. and if nothing else, it’s quality time in nature.