Rewilding means reconnecting with your “wild untamed soul.” Remember the way home with this practice.
If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So, we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. THICH NHAT HANH
I don’t know about you, but I find it easy to slip into a way of being in which I feel separated from everything. My clothes, my house, my job, my family; all of these “I, me, mines” reinforce an idea that I am something distinct from the rest of the universe. In fact, most people spend their lives building this sense of self, like building a real-life bitmoji, first establishing its character and then spending their lives defending and supporting the story of that character.
Inevitably, though, life wins. No matter how much we try to protect our fragile sense of self, greater forces will have their way and break down what is made up.
A Culture of Isolation
Modern societies like to pretend we can isolate and separate ourselves from nature, and many aim to insulate themselves from the earth, to create a permanent disconnect between our bodies and our Mother’s touch. Most children learn to walk with rubber-soled sneakers before their toes ever know the soil or grass, pebbles, mud, or sand. Ticks, mosquitoes, and poison ivy become the boogeymen of the forest, and hyper-sanitized indoor spaces are where many people now feel most at home. When we can seal ourselves indoors, eating food in sealed packages, drinking water from sealed bottles, ingesting prepackaged information, even breathing air filtered through air conditioners, we can easily think that this is the way things really are.
But, of course, this is not the way things really are. Our bodies were not grown in petri dishes but evolved out of the living earth, a part of all that is. We share our cells and the air in our lungs with all of life. The pollution we put into our atmosphere we put into ourselves. Remember that the air we breathe today was on the other side of the planet just a few days ago, exhaled by trees and the ocean. In this way, these great characters of nature live within us, and they exist in relationship with us. Our existence interpenetrates. As Thay says, we “inter-are.”
Remembering Our Interdependence
The word universe is made up of two separate terms, “uni,” meaning “one,” and “verse,” which means “song.” Our universe is “one song.” Everything that exists is vibrating to the tune of creation, and we are a part of that great music that is playing and being played through us and all that is.
When we invite our awareness to rest in the present moment, we can clearly sense that the way of everything is in a state of interbeing. This knowledge that all of life is connected lies at the root of many spiritual and mystical traditions.
When we invite our awareness to rest in the present moment, we can clearly sense that the way of everything is in a state of interbeing.
During a five-day mindfulness immersion in the winter woods at Kripalu, we spent at least five hours outside every day. We navigated over frozen streams and stood under huge trees, as the wind blew fresh snow down from the boughs and onto our upturned faces. We tracked fox, coyote, white-footed mice, and fishers.
One of the students in the program was quite tall and imposing, yet out on the trail, he was surprisingly unsteady. He seemed out of his element. After a few days, he shared with the group that in his normal life he spends 95 percent of his waking hours sitting behind a computer. When he isn’t at a screen, he’s reflecting on how he could have done a better job at work or preparing to go back to work. “I feel so disconnected from reality,” he said. He was not only disconnected from other people and the natural world but also from his own body and self.
Take yourself to a place you enjoy in nature, or look out a window onto a green space or other natural setting. Stand or sit comfortably, with your feet anchored into the support of the earth.
Gently lengthen your spine up through the crown of your head, as if your spine just grew an inch or two longer. Draw a soft breath in through your nose and hold it in for a moment, then exhale slowly and allow your shoulders and abdomen to relax as you follow your breath all the way out.
Take a deep breath in and exhale through your mouth with a gentle sigh or sound. Soften your face and relax your jaw; allow your teeth to part slightly and your eyes to rest like big pools in their sockets. Let go.
Watch the little pulse of movement in your belly as the body breathes on its own. Stay with your breath and notice the activity of your mind. Feel the breath entering your body, and feel the breath leaving your body. The atmosphere of the planet is moving in and out of you. Each exhalation is inhaled by another being, perhaps by a tree. Each inhalation was exhaled by other beings, trees, and oceans. This breath, has been recycled on our planet for hundreds of millions of years. This breath, right now, so ancient, yet so fresh.
If you’d like, take a walk as you stay with your breath. If your attention wanders into thinking, come back to the anchor of your breath. Look around, take in your surroundings. Notice the way that life is connected. The bird, connected to the air, rides on currents of atmosphere. The puddle holds the water that cycles through us all. The material for your clothes was grown on farmland. The cotton blossomed under our only sun, was watered by passing clouds, then harvested and spun and woven and delivered by other humans until its destination in this moment with this body. Notice how things are connected, how they “inter-are.”
How might you bring this way of seeing with you to your life indoors, at work and at home?
Whenever you are in your “normal life” and things get stressful or you feel disconnected from the web of life, try pausing to remember a restorative time you spent outdoors. Close your eyes and take a soft breath in and a long breath out. Just remembering the sound of wind in the trees can help to center and calm you. Remember that nature is not an abstract place outside of you — you are a part of nature. You are an imaginative and self-aware expression of the creative life force in this universe. One song.
Excerpted from REWILDING: Meditations, Practices, and Skills for Awakening in Nature by Micah Mortali. Sounds True, 2019. Reprinted with permission.