Last week, I (Ryan) continued to put Katie on the spot during our drive to the coast and asked, “If you had to summarize in a few words why wilderness rite-of-passage is important right now, what would you say?”
Katie: I think that rite-of-passage is important right now because the world needs more initiated adults, people who know themselves, who live with purpose and courage to make the world better, share their gifts, and to lead and mentor others from a heart-centered place. (See previous post, “What is an Initiated Adult?”
Ryan: We have some rituals that in a way serve as transition markers. How are wilderness rites-of-passage different than, let’s say, commencement ceremonies?
Katie: Well, part of it is you’re following an individual calling, a seed of longing inside. Whereas a commencement ceremony may sometimes have a feeling of being perfunctory. It’s a rite of passage in the sense that many people go through it, and yes, it can be consciously chosen, like many things in our culture can be—but the key is the consciousness we bring to it, the intention from within. We encounter ourselves on a deep level. Another aspect is you are being held in a circle where your heart-story is being deeply listened to and mirrored back to you, which can be very powerful.
Ryan: Why go to the mountains or the high desert?
Katie: One reason is the wildness, the natural world is always being fully itself—the trees, the plants, the animals, the weather—and that’s what we need: to be more fully ourselves. And when we come into relationship with wild nature, there’s a mirror there, an I-Thou relationship, that I think is harder to find in the urban human-made environments. It provides an opportunity to meet an Otherness, and by doing so, parts of ourselves that maybe had been dormant can come online.
On our one day off during our 10-day Wilderness First Responder course last week, Katie and I drove to the coast to walk along the rugged beach of Bodega Bay. We got talking about our wilderness rite-of-passage program in June and the lack of initiation rites in our culture. I kinda put her on the spot by asking how she would describe an initiated adult to someone who’s never heard that phrase.
Here was her answer, and I think it is brilliant, and as good a definition as any I’ve heard:
Being an initiated adult has two pieces—One is knowing who you are, trusting your internal compass. Second, it is finding the willingness, courage, and strength to become an offering for the world in pain, an agent of change for good.
Yesterday I was called to do a spontaneous letting go ritual on the land with a friend.
It came to me suddenly at dawn when I was taking some questions out for a walk and I found myself drawn to a particular eucalyptus tree.
It reminded me of an experience a had last year w/ another eucalyptus. It was on the first weekend of our ecotherapy certification with Ariana Candell of the Earthbody Institute (where Katie & I met and started dreaming Wild Nature Heart), and we were doing a somatic exercise (what we consider associated with the south shield of the 4 shields, or nature-based map of the human psyche).
At that time, I had particular hang-ups around body and movement; it was one reason I chose to study with her. I had particular stories and beliefs around, such as “I’m not a mover or a dancer” or “my body is ____” “my sexuality is ____”.
As a result, I was having difficulty dropping into the experience—then I saw all these strips of eucalyptus bark at my feet, then looked up & saw them falling off the trunk, while the upper branches danced in the wind and the new flowers were emerging.
I was just moved viscerally and it was one of my first real conscious experiences of nature as mirror, nature and psyche as co-partners in expression.
Everything alive sheds the old to make room for growth and the new.
I knew I had to strip away beliefs and attitudes that I’d carried for too long and were no longer serving. It resulted in me being much more comfortable in my body, and in the poem Peel Away the Bark Of Yesterday.
But back to the present: I knew I wanted to do an intentional ceremony and my friend was up for it, so we created a circle with bark and limbs, then wrote out limiting beliefs on madrone leaves, read them one by one aloud to each other, crumbled them, and then threw them behind us.
This time the limiting ideas I stripped away had to with my relationship to money, family, & love.
We both felt energized by the experience by making room for expansion. This is a type of activity we use in Wild Nature Heart programs. But you can do them yourself—I highly recommend these sort of spontaneous self-ceremonies done with intention. Listen to your intuition, get out of your own way, and honor your soul by trusting it knows what it needs.
Belonging. Shedding and Letting go. Exploring roots. Community. Gratitude. Coming home to ourselves. Lightness. Pollination. Transition. Poison into medicine. Flow.
These are just some of the themes that emerged in yesterday’s nourishing, grounding, and connecting Deep Belonging to the World gathering in the redwoods. Through sense walking, council circle, & nature art, we re-connecting with the wisdom of our bodies, each other, and wild nature.
Here’s a haiku that Diane, a participant wrote after the Sense Walk:
With ear to the tree
my fingers scratching lightly
making tree music
Big Thanks to all the participants and to my co-guide for the day, Wellness Coach and nature artist, Christine Broz (@savornourishwellness).
This is a shimmering Wild Nature Heart. We met yesterday on a walk at the holy feet of Mount Tuyshtak (So-called Diablo in the language of colonizers). But the Ohlone Chochenyo called it Tuyshtak, meaning at the dawn of time.
This wild nature heart is for Paradise burning. This is for the I-can’t-take-these-damn-shootings-and-lies-and-upheaval-and-callousness anymore. This is for the river of humanity walking towards a better life and their wounded feet, their sore hearts, their wild thriving hearts.
This is for the wounds of a culture that breeds wounded people who morph into distorted Selves who find the only way out is through violence, towards others and themselves.
This is for our deep grief—you know the one, the one we don’t talk about, that tidal wave just behind our smiles, threatening to overtake our shores, for knowing we can’t live like this anymore, yet not seeing the future shore where we live in abundance, reciprocity, vibrancy, care, wholeness—but that we feel.
Yes, we feel it in our ancient bones, our reddest blood, our wettest well, our deepest breath, our original pulsating love at the dawn of time.
This is for taking our first breath after coma.
This is for the crack that lets the light in, for trusting our wild heart bigness, for saying YES, we will feel the grief, we will mourn, because our wild nature hearts are in love with the world, and they are big enough to hold it all.