But what is this obsession, really? What is behind our longing for the wild places?
Every one of us, regardless of physical abilities or preferred hobbies, finds some kind of solace in the outdoors. Whether an experienced mountaineer using complicated gear to summit a peak above the clouds, or a wheelchair-bound senior using a paved trail to see Niagra Falls or Old Faithful, we go.
We widen our eyes in wonder. We put a hand to our hearts, drop our jaws, and allow our breath to catch in a moment of bliss. We long to be awed. And while humans have built some impressive structures over the centuries, from the pyramids to the Taj Mahal, nothing comes close to the unbridled power and beauty of the natural world.
But why the drive to leave our cubicles and cul-de-sacs and see these wild places for ourselves? Why can’t we get the same fix from simply knowing they exist, or seeing pictures and movies about them? What is that nagging, gnawing drive to stand in the presence of something amazing?
I think we are driven to the wild places because we need to remember that we, too, are wild. Being in the presence of outer wildness reminds us of the wildness inside - of our wild, inner landscape, of our wild, wild center.
Humans are such a species-centric bunch that we often forget our place in this inter-connected universe. Like the other animals, we, too, have a primal drive to feed, house, and protect ourselves, and to reproduce and further our species. And there is so much more that we can learn from our brothers and sisters in the wild, outer world.
We remember our power in the presence of a waterfall, our rootedness in the presence of a tree, and our expansiveness in the presence of the ocean. We learn compassion from the elephant, boundaries from the skunk, decisiveness from the lightening, communication from the whale, cooperation from the ant, and letting go from the falling leaves.
It is this inner wildness that keeps us unsatisfied in too-tame environments for too long. Our wild center gets writchy and antsy; it wants to connect, to remember its part, to be re-inspired.
When I am in the wild, I feel free. No one is waiting for me to be anywhere or do anything by a certain time. Time, as we know it, doesn’t even exist. I sleep according to the circadian rhythms set by the sun. I eat when my body is hungry. I am not pulled by obligation, nor distracted by things like cars, computers, and buildings.
This is not to say I want to throw off the shackles of modern life and become a hermit. I understand why some make that choice, and I know it is not for me. No, the reason I go to the wild to remember my inner wildness is so I can take it back with me, back to my everyday life.
The more time I spend in the wild, the easier it is for me to say, “No thanks” to people, jobs, and opportunities that do not support and nourish my inner wildness. I have been there, pulled down by a life of guilt and obligation, and I have no desire to return. My time in the wild helps me give myself full permission to be as wild as I need to be every other day of life.
In fact, I have narrowed it down to eight things we can all do right here and now to respect and cultivate our wild center:
- Listen to Your Instincts
- Take Care of Your Basic Needs
- Take Only What You Need
- Do What You Enjoy
- Spend Time in Nature
- Be Messy
- Be Present
- Defend Your Territory
These are the behaviors that connect us to our wild brothers and sisters in the plant and animal world. These are the practices that call the seed of our inner wildness to spring to life and shout, “Here I am! I am alive and well! Do not forget about me.”
I delve deeper in to each of these in my free, 16 page e-book, INNER WILDNESS, Eight Ways to Tap in to Your Wild Roots, available for download on my website.
Join me. Now is the time to be our best, brightest, wildest selves.
Melanie Cobb is a writer, a Life Transformation Coach, and Professional Wild Woman. She lives in Santa Cruz, California, where she accidentally settled after quitting her school principal job in Maryland and spending a year living on the road and traveling around the entire United States. To download her free e-book, check out her blog, view her travel photos, or enlist her coaching services, find her at www.journeytowildness.com