Friday, April 15, 2016

Relentless pursuit

As my last blog post for this course, I would like to recap the practices, discoveries, and effects of re-wilding.

  • Tracing the invisible, undeniable threads of interwoven embeddedness in lived material relations of my environment through biospheric interoception and biofeedback.
  • Unlocking fear and anger, terror and rage, as embodied responsiveness to violation of integrity of the enlargened self to empower feral and instinctive protectiveness. 
  • Externalizing discomfort into experimental actions seeking systemic balance, including the possibility of personal diminishment.
  • Our conception of "nature" removes the human from the equation and distorts our authentic immersion in the world.
  • The profound dissociation between our actions and their impacts may be one of the many consequences of industrialization and globalization
  • Pleasurable experiences in nature seem to sacralize abstracted, romanticized relationships with our surrounds and may conflate recreational escape with benevolence.
  • Along with many other incendiary prompts in my environment, the practice of re-wilding has imbued me with a mounting urgency for social change, reaching a pitch that is almost uncomfortable to bear at times.
  • Re-wilding seems to expose my complicity in the suffering of others which evokes feelings of guilt and shame that seem appropriate, although they are inadequate to enact material changes.
  • I now feel a strong desire to continue to learn about my daily exchanges and to overcome the prescribed ignorance of my active relations within the world.
As I summarize these points, I feel immensely grateful to have grown through these practices, discoveries, and effects, which I feel will have a lasting impact on my life.  My fundamental understanding of the world has been altered.  Thank you to anyone who has followed this blog and witnessed the unfolding of this journey.

May we all be relentless in our pursuit of the dignity of our biospheric self.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016


This week I have been battling questions about work, career, and finding my place in the mess of civilization, and I have started to suspect that the re-wilding practice I have undertaken for this class is one of the most disrupting influences in navigating my way.  Compromise seems like defeat, tolerance seems like a mask for manipulation, and work looks like theft.  As I have repeatedly said in class and in my last post on this blog, I am suspicious of mind-body practices designed to increase feelings of calm and well-being since our society seems to be suffering from a debilitating complacency that could be exacerbated by meditative practices.  Accommodation of discomfort affords the continuation of abusive systems of power.

In Nature Is Ordinary Too, Giblett (2012) reviews the work of Raymond Williams on the false binary of nature and culture, which he reintegrates by way of the idea of livelihood.  Livelihood, according to Williams, is both nature and culture, because it describes the way in which humans and nature are interwoven into each other.  Giblett says that nature is "ordinary, the stuff of work and everyday life," which has been the major discovery of my re-wilding practice on this blog.  Although I have spent several periods of my life living somewhat sustainably on the land, I am no longer content with personal salvation.  

My re-wilding practices have led me to question: How can we re-invent livelihood in our culture in a way that is life-giving?  If we sacrificed dignity and integrity for illusory security and indulgent comforts, what kinds of labor and value can we now wisely offer world? 

Giblett, R. (2012). Nature is ordinary too. Cultural Studies, 26(6), 922-933. doi:10.1080/09502386.2012.707221

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The price of earthly resonance

The gardening experiment has yielded many important insights for my process of discovering re-wilding, some in favor of gardening, but mostly against it.

A lover of dirt and plants and food, of course, I love gardening.  Going to Home Depot was exciting, undimmed by my cynical criticisms at how the treated soil, the plastic pots, and the corporate atmosphere were utterly antithetical to what I was trying to do.  Moments after muttering to myself how absurd it was that you can buy a full-grown cherry tomato bush with green tomatoes already growing on it for $14.95 (and how terrible it is that something so intimate as a plant of food could become a commercial product) - I found myself thinking, "That's not a bad price, really." 

Though I didn't stoop to that level, I still bought some three-inch seedlings in a biodegradable pot to plant in my larger pots at home, and I must admit, I had so much fun planting and watering them.  Like a new romance, I have repeatedly gone outside just to see and admire them, pretending I'm checking on how much sun they are getting and checking the wetness of the soil.  I also noticed that my neighbors have bought many new plants, and I felt a shared celebratory camaraderie with them.

Yet, I still didn't have an answer about whether this pleasant self-indulgence was a diversion or if it was a remedy for dissociation.  In order to attune to the impact the gardening has had on me, and prepare to articulate it on this blog, I did some free movement in my room just after sunset:

breathing deeply with swinging arms
crouching and burrowing my face into the dark of my arms and hair
slowly emerging, belaboring against gravity
expansive breath, leaning full-heartedly into the perpetual discomfort
of being in the world in comfort
as a civilized human.
No, gardening did not help.

The earthly resonance in my body seems to harbor a kind of greed, a hyperextension of myself into the space, a grinning mockery derived from theft.  If I live in safety and have plenty of food to eat while others don't, then I am the beneficiary of their suffering.  Perhaps the only way I can cut out the kudzu, the cancer, the aggression of my existence is to diminish myself in some way.  Gardening doesn't do that at all, and in fact, brings me more happiness and pleasure.  It is exactly this kind of happiness and pleasure that seems somehow out of place in the reality of how I live.

I watched a documentary last week called Living on One Dollar A Day about a group of college students who attempt to live for 8 weeks in rural Guatemala.  They were very hungry and lost a lot of weight.  I was eating dinner as I watched it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Gardening as Re-wilding?

This week for my re-wilding practice, I will start to explore more action-oriented embodied responses to my alienated embeddedness in natural systems.  One of the most common circulating ideas about how to create a more socially and ecologically sustainable world is by growing one's own food.  I continually read and hear about urban gardens, Community Supported Agriculture, the Slow Food movement, and tons of other frames of reference about the central importance of gardening as a radical form of resistance to our abusive complicity in systems of power. 

From my ongoing practice in global interoception and imagining earthly biofeedback, it seems that my experience would confirm that gardening can eliminate many layers of dissociation in one of my activities, eating.  Yet, I admit, I find myself somewhat perplexed by this response to the complex crises of the world.  I have worked on many farms in my life and found great spiritual and relational benefit from it, though I continue to see it as a playful joy of my youth and somehow distinct from my serious adult activism (LOL).  Although it may help me to feel less alienation in my own life and reduce the degree of dissociation, how does it impact the dynamics of the global system as a whole?  I recognize that I shouldn't expect one action to resolve all the problems in the world, but gardening seems somehow dissonant, as if it's aimed in a direction that is not targeting the central problem.

I couldn't tell you what I mean by the central problem, nor what I would suggest for a better action, so I thought for my practice this week, I could try this out.  I'm on my way to Home Depot to get some soil and hopefully some seedlings to plant cherry-tomatoes in a pot which I will grow outside my apartment.  I hope to report back on the experience and attune to whether or not this action interacts with my visceral discomfort with the current state of the world.  I also hope to consider how being at Home Depot, a huge corporation, and patronizing its business impacts the process.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Please meet Layla Abdelrahim.

I greatly enjoyed this talk and found a lot of commonality with her ideas.

She suggests, "To subvert our symbolic predatory culture, we have to start questioning our anthropology."

I would ask, what are some wild kinds of subversion?  If language and symbolic thought and hierarchical relationships are products of predatory culture, what embodied actions are available to us to respond to systems of control? 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Campus Walk

Today I attended a workshop in sustainability education through the Center for Sustainability at the University of West Georgia.  It was an incredible and synchronistic experience, as I also met two people I had been hoping to contact over the next few weeks regarding their work, which I experienced as an uprush of fatedness or a sense of being exactly where I'm supposed to be.

During the workshop, we watched a Ted Talk about the "Ghastly Tragedy of the Suburbs" by James Howard Kunstler, which is a hilarious exploration about the relationship between architecture and citizenship.  He argues that the structures in our public realm correlate with the decline of our cultural civilization.  We then took a walk through the campus in silence as we contemplated whether the places we inhabit are "worth caring about."

I greatly enjoyed the deepening of the group field as we walked in a respectful distance from each other while also staying close enough together to maintain a spacious cohesion.  We seemed to be looking up more than usual, and I noticed several participants seemed to gaze into the distance without focusing on anything in particular.  I appreciated the way we created a generous, exploratory, reflective mood together.

I noticed that my associations with place are largely comprised of the emotional or ideological context in which humans occupy the space.  Though I typically enjoy my walks on campus, eyeing red-tailed hawks, feral cats, squirrels, and all the varieties of plants and trees, today I found myself gazing at the buildings, windows, walkways, and parking lots through my emotional response to the overarching institutional goals housed in these structures.  Amidst growing confusion and doubt about the value of the educational system and the scholarly enterprise, I felt a sinking despair as if this vibrant land was somehow being tortured by disingenuous and egocentric thinking that permeated the space.  I found myself wanting to withdraw my energy from the institution so that I would not be contributing to this misuse of land and space.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Focusing on the fight flight response

For this week's practice, I felt torn about how I should proceed.  One way would be to continue with imagining and kinesthetically experiencing my embodied embeddedness in the biosphere of the planet.  It continues to feel like a revelation to have finally resolved years of cognitive dissonance about environmentalism as a sentimental attachment to aesthetically pleasing places or creatures.  I have finally found a way that "connecting to nature" (by becoming aware of my immediate consumption and impact on other planetary phenomena) can help cultivate greater integrity and ethical behavior.

Yet after last week's practice about "action," I was also piqued to explore some of the topics we have discussed in class about the fight/flight response, which seems to be often portrayed as an instinctual residue from our animal roots and a source of unnecessary and chronic stress.  But what if anxiety, rumination, and irritability are in fact signs of a suppressed instinct?  In the spirit of re-wilding, I wanted to try to activate the fight/flight response in a way that results in the betterment of others.  Perhaps by expressing and releasing justifiable outrage and terror, it is resolved and dissipates naturally / automatically.

In order to combine these two directions, I decided to try a focusing session on my current impact on the biosphere with particular allowance and attention toward anger and fear related to that awareness.  I laid face down on my bed and took deep breaths in and out.  I first became aware of the air flowing in and out of my body and imagined all the places where that air had previously been, including inside of other people and creatures.  I also imagined/ felt the warm flesh of my body filled with blood and tissue and muscle that seemed to be composed of so many different plants and animals from all over the planet.  As that familiar dissociation began to arise in me, that realization that I have no awareness of the ways I am intimately connected with those people and places, I started to feel rage in several places in my body, a hatred for the unknown miseries in which I participate.  I also amplified a creeping sensation of shame and guilt that I could now recognize as fear - fear of becoming someone despicable, fear of the violation of my integrity, a repulsion toward the culprit of myself.  In contrast to that reactivity, I also felt a heaviness, a defeat, in my limbs, an acquiescence, complicity, paralysis.  It occurs to me that this could be a form of the "freeze" response as well, or it could be the successful suppression of the rage.

In reflecting on how rage and terror might be healthy responses to the world, I was reminded  of a quote by Derrick Jensen that is something like, "Love does not imply pacifism- just ask any mother grizzly bear."

It also reminded me of Wilbert Alix describing the ability to sense danger as a function of being able to "read reality" with our senses:

One underlying effect this practice had on me was to somehow restructure priorities in my awareness, so that all the minor difficulties in my life, including my ongoing struggles with the culture shock of being in doctoral studies, seemed very peripheral and unimportant.  I felt realigned with what was essential to me and to my existence, which was somehow superficially more stabilizing but fundamentally more destabilizing.

I have also greatly enjoyed selecting a different exercise each week to discover what re-wilding means to me.  The other books that I had selected to follow for this blog were horribly centered around romanticizing nature as a non-human place, so I will not be using them.  Perhaps this is yet another aspect of my re-wilding practice - to sniff out each step of my journey with hypervigilance and embodied knowing.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Biofeedback, supplication, and action

I live in unsustainable indulgence paid for by the blood of others.  How can re-wilding help me transform my role as an oppressor?

Dance is an important language in my life which I intend to use for my mind-body practice of re-wilding this week.  I came up with three themes to explore through dance in response to this question:

1) The first theme is to imagine what it would be like to have biofeedback from the entire earth (including its humans) in response to my impact and consumption.  Since I don't actually have a biofeedback machine plugged into the earth, perhaps movement is an alternative way to experience the dance between myself and the earth.  Ribeiro and Fonseca (2011) discuss improvisational dance between two people: 
"The collective body intelligence can be understood as an ability to plan and to solve collective body 'problems' and to make decisions collectively during dance improvisation" (p.76). 
Another apt quote is by social choreographer Michael Klien (2007): 
"There is simply no other or better word or concept than 'choreography' to describe an active inquiry into the non-concrete reality that deals with complex relations and connections within the natural world. ... These are things we are only able to apprehend aesthetically, kinesthetically, intuitively" (p. 221).  
In my practice today, I intend to explore kinesthetic awareness of the complex human and earth systems of which I am a part.

2) Since I now recognize "nature" to be a nominal marker for the support system through which one imposes on one's environment to survive or indulge in pleasures of comfort, I have become more poignantly aware of the harm I cause to others and the benefit I gain from this harm.  I wonder if spiritual practices of confession or asking for forgiveness offer an opportunity to begin to reroute that blockage in the body.  For my second theme, I will make myself available to movement sourced in expressions of supplication.

3) Moving beyond shame and guilt, I hope to begin to explore the way embodied awareness of my role on the biosphere serves as a catalyst for action.  Here are two examples of courageous humans whose embodied interdependence with their environment has triggered their fight/flight response in order to survive attacks by the oil industry.  


In my practice, I spent about one hour in candlelight, allowing myself to explore these themes and whatever else emerged in the process.  I utilized intuitive, spontaneous movements, similar to authentic movement for my re-wilding practice.
My dance
...rocking, rolling, shaking, vibrating... humming....
...each moment is hooked with innumerable tendrils to some other strand of planetary history, down to the particles in the air I'm breathing, the fabric touching my skin, the very fact that I am living in this part of the world at this time...
...fingers drifting, boundaries blurring...
(distraction, avoidance, return, distraction, avoidance, return...)
...sudden lightness and blossoming presence: this is my true identity, the infinite unknowns that spread out like an ocean of fishes or cells of constant exchange...
...coming into supplication, my heart feels hard like a rock.  (defensively:) This is how I live.  Yes, I know it's awful, but... (so what?)  
Beating my heart, my chest, my legs to break down the armor... 
...just feeling my own callousness brings tears to my eyes...
... allowing the suffering to seep in, knowing there are those who are hungry while I eat, those who are cold while I am warm, those who are scared while I am safe...
...the beating becomes rhythmic and smooth, like a meaty readiness of muscles and limbs, a body in motion, an ally in the fight...
and what a perfect transition into action... (thought: i like this progression, i should try this again sometime)
...recalling a mudra from a Kali Natha yoga video I watched today for Bhuvaneshwari, I make this mudra over my head and over my heart...
...feeling the space left open for imaginative action, for inspiration, innovation...
I feel the desire to aim high in the drainage, to find strategic leverage to accelerate change... legs wiggling, I feel my impatience, which seems understandable...
...grateful to have this time to engage my bodymind as part of my doctoral program to link all that I am learning with all that I seek to create.

(blow out candle)

Klein, M. & Valk, S. (2007)  What do you choreograph at the end of the world?  Zodiac, 212-231.

Ribeiro, M. M. & Fonseca, A. (2011). The empathy and the structure sharing modes of movement sequences in the improvisation of contemporary dance.  Research in Dance Education, 12, 2, 71-85.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Using "nature" to cloak our sins

The task of re-wilding is finally becoming clearer.  Spending time in nature in the hopes of cultivating altruistic intent to protect non-human places is not only inadequate for motivating meaningful change, but it even requires additional consumption of resources to travel to such places.  Seeking personal well-being or insight in wild places also seems to (conveniently) divert attention away from the way that nature is already penetrating every moment of human life.  Rewilding, perhaps, is attending to the mind-boggling complexity of our consumption in the world and finding ways of awakening all the dissociated threads of interconnectedness.

My practice this week was to visualize the origins of things that I touch.  I tried it many times throughout the day all week.  I imagined the origins of cement steps, my pens, paint on walls, paved roads, stone tiles and hand rails in a public bathroom, woven polyester of office furniture and classroom chairs, and the mined marble of a table top.  I concentrated on acknowledging that every liquid I drank was rerouted from rivers and rainfall.  For an extended practice for today, I decided to pick one corner of my house and commune with the objects within that area.  I chose one shelf of my spice cabinet and held each container of spices in my hand for several minutes, tracing each aspect of it to its origins in the non-human world, and visualizing the earthly sources of glass bottles, plastic and metal caps, painted surfaces, plastic and paper labels and price tags, and of course, the drying and powderization of herbs, vegetables, and minerals.

I had many different feelings during the practice.  I frequently felt frustrated that I had no clue whatsoever how or where objects were made or what they were made of.  I guessed that one jar of spices included nature and people spanning multiple continents and required the use of machinery comprised of mined metals and powered by burning coal.  It also felt overwhelming and dizzying, since it seems hard to believe that we would go through all this trouble just for a little paprika.  At times I felt uncomfortable, disgusted, and ashamed about our insistence on producing absurdly trivial things, such as a little black fuzzy sticker on the inside of the cabinet door to soften the sound/ impact of closing the cabinet. 

I also did a modified version of Endredy's "Food Journeying" exercise in which one researches the origins of one's food.  Looking at the map I created last week, I looked into where some of my resources come from.  Here's a little photo collage of my findings...

Where my water comes from:

I had brussel sprouts today and found out that most brussel sprouts in the US come from California.  This picture appears to be cucumbers, but I was thinking of the backbreaking labor of migrant farmers and the costly transportation of vegetables from coast to coast.

Where the silicon chips in my computer come from:

Factory in China where the hands and breath of other humans contribute to my life:

Where my fuel comes from out on the ocean:

Where my electricity comes from deep in the earth:

Where my plastic comes from:

I also listened to a audiobook of Clarissa Pinkola Estes called the Power of the Crone in which she describes wildness as a way of being. 

I am the backwoods woman meeting the city teacup
The gyspy at the convent of the straight-lipped nuns
And the giantess at the dance of the ants
And the banshee running with the french poodles
I'm the stack of bones higher than ladies' hats
I'm the little sister, the mariposa, the butterfly maiden, who makes earthquakes
I'm the seagull at the garden party
I'm the harvest bride with greasy chin who stands with women who pretend to have no appetite whatsoever
I am backwoods, not front parlor
And I am looking for my sisters who can move sure-footed through the roots of trees
My sisters who can see most clearly in the dark.
 ~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

As I go through the doctoral program at UWG, I am inspired to draw on wildness as a guiding image to integrate embodiment and integrity in my contribution to the world through my endeavors.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Remember the earth whose skin you are. ~ Joy Harjo

Today's practice was very different and powerful, and I'm excited to articulate it here.  After many days of struggle trying to settle on an exercise, I began reading the Ecoshamanism book and realized why I had been intrigued by Endredy's work when I came across it years before.  Though he does use the term "shamanism," which I personally find abhorrent, unnecessary, and potentially manipulative, the rest of the book nearly redeems itself for this error with its unique integration of nature-based awareness with radical lifestyle changes.  For example, amidst numerous exercises involving climbing trees, chanting, and ritual, he suggests several "prerequisites" for beginning the work, including "maintaining a material standard of living that is not significantly higher or lower than that of the so-called third or fourth world" and "purchas[ing] only products that fulfill vital needs."  He describes "counterpractices" as practices that are designed to reverse our habituated entitlement, such as fasting or "food journeying" in which one researches the origins of all the food one eats.  This practical orientation to nature seems rare in the ecopsychology literature and seems to indicate a sincere investment in doing work that results in reducing harm, as opposed to inconsequential theatrics.

I had a brain flash after watching this fascinating video by a Georgetown University economics professor, Pietra Rivoli, about a book she wrote called The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade.  She describes her process of tracking a cotton t-shirt over three continents from production to disposal and the implications of a global economy through her encounters with the cotton growers in Lubbock, Texas, the factory workers in China, and the seller of used clothes in Tanzania.

I realized that the consolation that "nature" offers me is the coherence of an interconnected world where all vital activities are visible from start to finish.  When I see a bird, I know that it eats, drinks, sleeps, poops, mates, plays, and will eventually die within a (seemingly) comprehensible and contained ecological network.  If I am indeed a part of the earth's body, then the union of the mind and body of the earth can exist within me.  Perhaps there is a form of interoception that refers to the ability to sense my interactions with other earth phenomena.  Yet the global economy and industrialization have made this extremely difficult, as I can barely even imagine (let alone know) all the different places and people and animals that are involved in even the most commonplace of my activities, such as typing on the laptop I'm using now.  Derrick Jensen's analysis of the relationship between civilization and social justice underscores the futility of spiritually-oriented solutions, which resonates with my failed practice from last week:

The purpose of my mind-body practice of re-wilding is essentially to realize my enlarged identification with the world around me, not as an abstract, idealized, or nostalgic fantasy, but as an embodied awareness.  So for my practice this week, I decided to create a visual image of my undeniable embeddedness in the world.  I used the reverse side of a large piece of wrapping paper that I had saved, and after sketching a layout, I used markers to depict my home with all major appliances, my car, grocery stores, gas stations, internet and cell phone towers, banks, sewage treatment plant, power plant, waste disposal and recycling center, and laundromat.  I drew drops of blood around some of the power, gas, and water lines to include the wars, illnesses, and catastrophes that have resulted from the misuse of these resources.  After I covered the immediate ways I take space on the earth, I added many lines leading outward to represent impacts that continue far beyond my imagination and knowledge. 

I found myself taking many deep breaths at unexpected moments as I was doing the activity.  It was as though I was starting to find my footing on solid ground after swimming through the air in a free-fall.  It has been exhausting and exasperating to continually mistake nature for some other place where I don't belong.  Though the drawing seemed to be a mechanical reproduction of mundane processes, I would pause at times and notice that the activity was affecting me emotionally.  I had a sense of undoing my willful ignorance, like I was opening doors in my psyche that had somehow been hidden from view though they were under my nose this whole time.  Beneath this disarming sense of relief, I also noticed a subtle layer of confusion and anger that I had never encountered this activity before.  How is it that I have been involved in environmental activism and ecopsychology for so long with so many exponents in these fields who preach about connection with nature but had always learned to remove myself from the equation, rendering my authentic interdependence invisible? 

I also felt, at times, a comical kind of guilt, like I had been caught doing something naughty that I thought no one saw me doing.  For example, I noticed that I totally forgot to draw the toilet in my bathroom, as if I had completely blocked out the reality of my dependence on a sewage system.  I also had forgotten to draw a faucet on my kitchen sink, and I could feel how some part of me had bought into an imaginary universe based on these dissociated experiences with my environment.  You mean faucets don't just miraculously create water from within their shiny chrome beacons?

I am relieved that I was able to address my disillusionment from last week and devise an activity that has allowed me to go further into this work of re-wilding.  I still don't know what I will do next week, but I trust that the next step will become clear.   

Thursday, February 4, 2016

I'm a fraud

Earlier this week, while walking to class one day, I saw a black and white cat sleeping between two trees in a patch of woods on UWG campus.  Looking at its body curled up among leaves and dry bushes and imagining how its weight and its fur make a personalized impression in that wind-protected nest, I was moved by its intimate and visceral belonging in the world.  I have also become much more attentive to birds near my home and on campus, imagining what it would be like to know myself as strong enough to weather freezing nights, to rest in brown, crinkly places, to forage throughout the day.  They make it look so easy.  It has given me a feeling of courage and some kind of strange joy to imagine that there might be safety in a life so variable and unpredictable.

This quote in the Endredy book seems to speak to this:
"The lover of Nature is the one whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of adulthood.  Such a person's intercourse with heaven and Earth becomes part of her daily food.  In the presence of Nature a wild delight runs through the person, in spite of real sorrows.  Nature says - this is my creature, with all his impertinent gifts, he shall be glad with me."  ~Ralph Waldo  Emerson

For this week's practice, I selected the following exercises from Earthwalks:
1. Barefoot Walk: "The soles of our feet are wonderful sensory organs that we tend to keep wrapped and hidden away - but when they are free to experience the air and earth, the sun and water, they can provide us with a great deal of information that can lead to discovery" (p.33).
2. Count Three: "With each step, as you look at the ground directly in front of you, count three things you see" (p.38).  In describing the practice, he quotes Lew Welch, "Step out onto the Planet.  Draw a circle a hundred feet round.  Inside the circle are 300 things nobody understands, and, maybe nobody's ever seen.  How many can you find?"

Unfortunately, my re-wilding practice was predominantly a frustrating experience this week.  I did, however, enjoy the sensory pleasure of feeling my feet on the cold, wet soil and the silent, observant steps that almost seemed dance-like.  I was attentive to my knee alignment and felt almost like I was performing the deep lunges in t'ai chi-style walking, except I placed the ball of my foot before the heel.  I also saw about ten enormous vultures on my drive into the park standing around (what I think was) a dead armadillo.  I often found myself thinking of taking pictures on my walks to put on this blog, but then would stop myself and ask how the "capture" of a visual experience can serve to objectify and commodify the event.

As I walked, I was often distracted by thoughts from my day and struggled to maintain focus on the activity, as if some unpleasant realization was gnawing at me.  When I finally attended to this feeling, I saw the cognitive dissonance in using fossil fuels to drive almost forty minutes to indulge this sensory pleasure where I fantasize about belonging to the earth.  The very fact that I have to try to belong on this planet seemed to be the ultimate attestation of my alienation.  I was the Other in this place.  I felt like a fraud, like there was no way to be a part of a place that I so wholeheartedly reject in all of my actions, buying food in plastic containers at supermarkets and cruising nonchalantly over paved roads every day.  As if it wasn't enough that my species has taken over so much of the world - we even have to be a nuisance in the few wild places that are left. 

I recently read a piece in "The Coming Insurrection" by The Invisible Committee that speaks to this conundrum:
"The environment is what's left to man after he's lost everything. ... What is frozen in an environment is a relationship with the world based on management, that is, on foreignness.  A relationship with the world where we're not made as well as the rustling of trees, the smell of frying oil in the building, the bubbling of water, the uproar of school classrooms, the mugginess of summer evenings, a relationship with the world where there is me and then there is my environment, surrounding me but never really constituting me."

My disappointment in my experience seemed mirrored by my discovery about the author of the book, James Endredy.  In his introduction, Endredy describes that he is a first generation Hungarian-American who spent much of his youth on wilderness adventures.  He is a photographer by trade and, in search of answers to spiritual questions, studied with Victor Sanchez, a "modern-day Toltec," who was conducting workshops on the "Art of Living Purposefully."  Sanchez wrote the preface to this book, Earthwalks, in which he praises Endredy for making these Walks available to the world through his books as needed "medicine."

I became curious about the potential for cultural appropriation of this work and visited the site, which has excellent information on plastic shamans and exploitation of Native practices.  Endredy is not listed on their forum, but Victor Sanchez is named as a fraud, as is Castaneda, whom Sanchez mentioned in his preface.  Though Endredy often describes the Earthwalk practices as being derived from his own nature immersion experiences, he does refer to his Toltec teachings as one of the inspirations for his work.

I really like this video with Charlene Sul of the Ohlone people who shares her insight into "ways that non-Native people can get involved in indigenous ways." 

With the troubled history of this land and the prevalent disrespectful use of Native ways, I feel ambivalent about whether I can continue to follow Endredy's exercises with integrity.  I would still like to take a peek at the Ecoshamanism book, but I now also fear that Endredy's exercises may be promoting a misguided and distorted fantasy about nature that is unrealizable.

I have long suspected that, until I am utterly dependent on a particular landbase for my shelter, food, and livelihood, I will always be a tourist in wild places, like an anthropologist who gets a thrill from traveling to foreign lands to live with the "natives."  The more I chase down my belonging on this planet, the more it will elude me.  I feel disillusioned with the project of this blog, but I don't see this as an end, but an opportunity to go further.  I am hoping to discover a practice that somehow integrates the principles of rewilding in a way that is honest about my current role on the biosphere.  What will help me move toward embodied membership in the world, not as a recreational escape, but as an authentically lived experience?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

The forest woke up when I did...

Last week, I did the first three practices from Earthwalks: the Fox Stance, the Walk of Attention, and the Walk of Balance.  In these exercises, I was to position my body in such a way that each foot was placed with alert attention, including pauses at random moments between steps to check my balance.  I was to place my hands and arms in a configuration of my own choice, but it was imperative that my arms did not merely hang at my side.  I was to place each foot on the ground while my weight remained on my back foot, which greatly reduced the sound of my footfalls making my walk incredibly silent.

The descriptions of the exercises included a great deal about the intention of walking in nature with an intention to "connect" not "conquer" as is often the theme in recreational outdoor activities.
"By placing attention on these aspects of Nature that are foreign to our usual experience in modern day industrial culture, we create a rift in the continuity of psychic numbness that inhibits people from reacting to our current path of destruction of Earth" (p.xvi).

As someone who has spent a great deal of time in wild places engaged in personal practice, the exercises seemed excessively simplistic yet they held some mysterious appeal as if it was a new form of simplicity. Sure enough, when I finally began to practice the Walk, after I had walked some ways into the trail I selected, I was astounded at how quickly and dramatically the world "woke up."  Suddenly, the trees were visibly swaying in the wind and the pine branches were swishing high above my head.  A small fly hovered along the trail.  There were even sounds of crickets and frogs that had been completely absent before I started my Walk of Attention.  The trail began to look like a shared home of a family of creatures, not a faded background to paint myself upon.

Another reason why the experience seemed unique to me was the practice of walking.  Rather than sitting and gazing at nature as an observer, by walking, I felt I was participating in an organic and wild way, as if the soles of my feet were as sensitive as the soft, dry pads of a fox paw.  I realized that I had to walk very slowly in order to maintain the awareness and balance required, yet I suspected this was a factor of my inexperience.  I have known humans who can walk so silently and imperceptibly through dense woods, so I took my slow pace with humility as an opportunity to practice.  It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase, "walking lightly on the earth" or having "low impact" on the earth from a sustainablity perspective.  I could viscerally feel how I was retraining my body's habitual way of crashing noisily and unconsciously through the world. 

I was surprised how much muscular control it took for me to walk in this way for an extended period and I noticed that I was becoming fatigued even though it seemed like such an undemanding movement.  I could appreciate how poor engagement of muscles in habitual actions is yet another way our senses and our potentialities are deadened. 

After walking silently for about thirty minutes I heard a group of people coming down the trail, and it was somewhat alarming to see how disruptive their chatter, coughing, and rustling was to the atmosphere.  I found myself trying to get off the trail to allow them to pass long before they got to me, as if their sounds were so amplified that I imagined them to be much closer than they really were.  As I watched them get farther away after they passed, I felt my edges soften into the background, noticing how wildness exerts its own adhesive unity against that which tramples through it.

I found myself gazing into tree trunks and experimenting with seeing the shapes and colors as being filled with non-verbal meaning, like in dreams.  I was unable to discern if this was a form of dissociation from my experience or if it was leaning in.

When driving home, I passed two groups of deer.  The second group paused by the side of the road without running away, and I drove very slowly past them.  They stared at me with round, startled eyes, and I stared at them the same way.  I found it so funny the way our expressions seemed to mirror each other, both so full of alarm and curiosity, as if I couldn't tell who was the observer and who was the observed.

I did notice that I had occasional thoughts during my practice of how this would get translated, presented, or interpreted on this blog, which I found distracting and distancing from the experience.  I am glad that I recorded the experience some days afterwards, so as to loosen the attachment to the reconstruction of the event from the event itself.

I am so looking forward to my practice this week.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Chattahoochee Bend State Park

Since starting my search for wild spaces to practice re-wilding, I already notice that I am looking into wooded areas on the sides of roads, trying to scope out how deep the woods go.  I am looking at the world differently, as if I am looking for refuge, perhaps not unlike deer or other animals.  It's as if I am reverse-mapping my environment, in contrast with my usual way of seeing, with the man-made roads and destinations being the foreground and the undeveloped areas in the background.

I think I have found a park that will be perfect, though it's a 30 minute drive from my home, Chattahoochee Bend State Park.  Someone wrote a review of the Park that seemed pertinent:

"This is one of the State's latest parks.  It is still "in progress".  We walked the trail to the lookout tower.  Easy, flat trail running through a heavily wooded area.  There is not much to do for little kids.  I think the park is for nature enthusiasts at this point.  People who like very little modern amenities to come between themselves and nature.  They have plan to manicure and expand "man made" areas in the future.  If you have a list of State parks to visit and explore include this one for kayaking, staying in a yurt like cabin. Bring your own entertainment.  Absolutely no cell phone service either. Just nature."

Yet in spite of that enticing description, the area is still being disrupted by human activity: this was posted on the park website:

"TIMBER NOTICE: Through February, the River Trail from mile marker 4 northward as well as the North Backcountry Primitive Campsites, will be closed due to a timber harvest."

I got some history about the park on Wikipedia:  "The name Chattahoochee is thought to come from a Muskogean word meaning "rocks-marked" (or "painted"), from chato ("rock") plus huchi ("marked"). This possibly refers to the many colorful granite outcroppings along the northeast-to-southwest segment of the river. The vicinity of the Chattahoochee River was inhabited in prehistoric times by indigenous peoples since at least 1000 BC.  
Among the historical nations, the Chattahoochee served as a dividing line between the Muscogee (Creek) (to the east) and the Cherokee territories (to the west) in the Southeast. The United States accomplished the removal of Native Americans, to extinguish their claims and make way for European-American settlement, through a series of treaties, land lotteries, and forced removals lasting from 1820 through 1832. The Muscogee were first removed from the southeastern side of the river, and then the Cherokee from the northwest.
The Chattahoochee River is a tributary of the Apalachicola River, a relatively short river formed by the confluence of the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers and emptying from Florida into Apalachicola Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. The Chattahoochee River is about 430 miles (690 km) long.[3] The Chattahoochee, Flint, and Apalachicola rivers together make up the Apalachiacola–Chattahoochee–Flint River Basin (ACF River Basin). The Chattahoochee makes up the largest part of the ACF's drainage basin
Since the late twentieth century, the non-profit organization, Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper,advocates for the preservation of the environment and ecology of the northern part of the river, including the portion adjacent to Atlanta."

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Opening the cage door...

Hi everyone,

Welcome to my blog in which I will be exploring the idea of "rewilding" as a way to be in balance with my environment.  I'm looking forward to the process and feel it will be an opportunity to find balance between all the energy output for school and some needed internal replenishing by shifting into non-verbal or heart-centered awareness.  I will start with the following texts to get ideas of how to practice rewilding myself. 

Earthwalks for Body and Spirit: Exercises to Restore Our Sacred Bond with the Earth by James Endredy
Ecoshamanism: Sacred Practices of Unity, Power, and Earth Healing by James Endredy
Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth's Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness by Mary Reynolds Thompson
Wild Earth, Wild Soul: A Manual for an Ecstatic Culture by Bill Pfeiffer

Throughout this process, I hope to attend to cultural appropriation and orientalism in the tone or scope of these texts, which is related to a paper in critical environmentalism that I will be researching for another course this semester.  I am curious about whether unacknowledged harm could undermine the benefits of these practices by cultivating an oblivious, narcissistic, or greedy attitude toward other cultures and a self-promoting or self-congratulatory attitude toward one's own culture.  I am also wary about claims within ecopsychology, such as potentially giving a false impression of activism, establishing a condescending power-structure in the heroic or martyr rhetoric of "saving the world," or fostering a self-centered view in which personal stress management is more important or mysteriously connected to the well-being of others.  My goal is to take benefits and harms into account as much as possible through careful introspection and research.    

One major problem I have so far is trying to find a place in nature to practice.  I am hoping not to have to drive far, and in Georgia, I have been more fearful of the other hikers I meet when I'm deep in the woods by myself.  Yet nothing in my crowded, immediate vicinity seems adequate for even a bare minimum of nature immersion.  This dilemma seems very fitting to the overarching theme of unaltered wildness in industrial society - there isn't any!  So far I have started reading about a wide range of walking practices in Earthwalks and I appreciate the centrality of kinesthetic and sensory awareness.  I am looking into some options for a location this week and hope to start practicing very soon!

Until then, here is an inspirational video to get things rolling.  This is an impression of me hearing the call.