Wednesday, September 15, 2021

From Wilderness Comes Wisdom


Hola Relatives,

I depart this coming Monday for my 48th year of vision questing with a good group of fellow questers. We are out for a week with two day solo time fasting in solitude seeking the deeper connection and the wisdom it brings. Below is an article I wrote twenty four years ago which appeared as a guest editorial in the International Journal of Wilderness. What I had to say those many years ago are even more true today so I share it with you. Check it out and see what it brings up for you.

Wilderness Wisdom to Save Our Souls--And the Planet
Dr. Tom Pinkson

A friend of mine, a philosopher of sorts, remarks occasionally on the absurdity of NASA's attempts through sophisticated monitoring equipment to pick up signs of transmissions from intelligent beings from other galaxies. Isn't it ironic, he states, that we spend all these millions of dollars trying to find these weak transmissions from somewhere far off in space, when there is a field of intelligence that we are actually embedded within and which surrounds us at all times. A "seamless web" as social scientist, Gregory Bateson, author of "Steps to an Ecology of Mind", (1972) calls it, an interactive wave system of multi-leveled, multi-dimensional connectedness that constitutes a field of consciousness that is to be found in the water, vegetation, earth, mountains, and the very air that we breath for our lives. Indigenous peoples worldwide have believed in it for 40,000 years, for understanding it guided their lives--and such beliefs evolved and survived based on their success. This is the living world of Gaian Mind that regulates and sustains our planet in a homeostatic balance through the billions of years of its existence.

It is precisely this Gaian wisdom-nature that we are so alienated from which results in our looking out into space for signs of intelligent life when it abounds within and around in all directions in profundity and magnificence. We fail to see how we are imprisoned in linguistically-based boundaries of yours and mine, inside and out, predicated on identification of ego self as differentiated from environment and field-- the sea in which we live. These boundaries are socialized into us by conditioning so successfully, that we are unaware of the distortions through which we perceive so-called reality. These distortions lead to the values of western civilization which are polluting the world--white male Christian dominance, private property, corporate capitalism emphasizing profits and economic efficiency over people and life on this planet, violence and arrogance towards indigenous peoples and peoples of color, valuing the material world over the inner world, and the rational, versus the intuitive way of knowing via dreams, vision and receptive, resonant attunement with the living mind, soul and spirit of nature. These beliefs and their attendant behavior patterns have all arisen as a result of establishing and maintaining our identification of self as separate from this field of non-human intelligence in which we are embedded. As a result we have lost our soul and don't even know it. The boat is sinking and, like Nero fiddling as Rome burned, we are caught up in the show.

Pockets of Indigenous Wisdom: The broader view of Nature is still alive in a few remnant indigenous cultures and the knowledge of surviving elders among tribal people such as Native American Huichol elders, a shamanic people of north-central Mexico with whom I have worked since 1981 who still follow their traditional ways dating back to the paleolithic past. They say we are perdido, lost, that we have forgotten that the earth is alive, that all life is sacred, and that it consists of an extended kinship involving mutual, reciprocal responsibility to care for one another and maintain balance and harmony of the whole. They believe in the broader fields of consciousness of Nature and communicate with it through belief, ritual, ceremony and other cultural practices.

"Life in good part, represents an effort to put the tribal existence in rapport with nature's rhythms and cycles," says anthropologist Alfonso Ortiz. We in modern, "developed" cultures have forgotten our oneness with nature and so treat it, and ourselves, as separate and removed from one another. Our very designation of undeveloped land, of nature "out there", as "wild", as "wilderness", is indicative of the depth of our alienation from that which we are.

Yet it is "out there" that we find our best teacher for reconciling our relationship with nature because it is there that we most easily discover that we are not separate from it, that we are part and parcel of its'--our, very existence. It is in the undeveloped, "wild", natural world where the only input is what nature creates, that we can experience on all levels of our being the encompassing dance of inter-relatedness. On the summits, in the desert, the forest, the ocean, we most easily can see we are but a small part of the whole compared to the vast cyclic rhythms of creation. Ego is humbled, boundaries begin to break down, and we begin to get that we are nature, united with all of existence and no more important in the great scheme of things than a tree, a cloud, a rock, an animal, or a plant.

Each has its portion, which is its' essence or soul, of the larger presence, Gaian mind, or spirit, if you will. For the Lakotah People it is "Wakan Tanka", Great Mystery. The soul is the part of the whole present in the specific: the specific person, flower, tree, rock, animal, valley, mountain range, ecosystem, etc. People throughout history have gone into the wilds of the natural world, the wilderness as we call it, to attune, commune, discover, reconnect with and cultivate the relationship of their deeper being, i.e. soul, with the greater entity of numinous mystery. It is present, always, everywhere, yet usually blocked from our awareness due to our alienation and atrophied senses with which to know it. But many who enter the sanctuary of wilderness have sensed the broader connections which were reality to most humans for forty thousand years or more.

From Wilderness Comes Wisdom
Wilderness is the ultimate setting for experiential learning to rekindle our alienated awareness. For the laws of nature reveal themselves to anyone who takes the time to open to their teachings. Reflective inquiry, receptivity, patience, respect and attentive mindfulness serve as a key to open the door to "wilderness wisdom" and its compelling lessons for strategic stewardship and sustaining healthy biodiversity on our planet. The historical prevalence of transcultural vision questing and emergence of wilderness experience programs worldwide, are evidence of the pragmatic effectiveness of humanity's R & D to discover the deeper truths of who we are, where we came from, why we are here, and what are the wisest choices on how to live a good life. Paying attention to nature and living in accordance with its dictates pays off. It provides a win-win outcome. The spirit of nature speaks to us, not in human language of course, but it does nevertheless communicate.

I see this every time I take a group of people out into a wilderness setting for a period of time. Over the days and nights of living in accordance with natural rhythms, people gradually become entrained to them and get more relaxed, more peaceful, slower, more sane, more open, see more, enjoy just being, become kinder, the list goes on. It is so interesting to notice that as it comes time to hike back out and we get closer and closer to the signs of civilization, they start to get tighter again, complain about noise, too many people, the obtrusiveness of so much technology. I think they are starting to go through withdrawal symptoms from the natural state of biological entrainment they experienced in the wilderness environment. In the wilderness the truths of birth and death, balance and harmony, the interconnectedness of all beings and the sheer miracle of ongoing creation, speak out their messages to all our senses, our deeper psyche and to our very soul. The dialogue takes place and sometimes we are not conscious of its impact until it is disturbed, i.e., on the hike back out, and the anticipation of re-entering western Euro-centric culture.

Twenty four years of diverse wilderness experience has imbued me with an open ear and I want to close by offering a voice, one that comes out of listening in wild places ranging from cold, star-filled nights on high peaks, to steaming hot jungles of the Amazon, to voices that cannot speak directly through the cultural artifact of human language. The voice says simply, "Hear me Two Leggeds, I speak the truth. You are my children, but so too is all the lived. You must relearn to live in respectful harmony with all your relations or by your own hand, not mine, you will destroy your only home and take many others with you. Hear me Two Leggeds, come out here to what you call the wild places and sit with me awhile. I have much to share with you. I can fill your soul with the nourishment it needs for health, healing, wholeness. I can enrich understanding of your true identity and purpose in being here. But I need your help, I need your cooperation, I need your protection. I need, dear ones, your love. Please, for your own sake, hear my call. Save me, and I will help save you."

I will be praying for each of you from Quest...for growing your ability - all of our ability - to Live Love Now right into the face of the many challenges we all face.

All Blessings.



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