We modern, industrialized humans live a tamed existence that is overly mechanized, gadgetized, sterilized, and—for the most part—segregated from the natural world. We are hungry for rich engagement with life that is ancient to our mind, heart, body, and spirit. We feel restless in our heads, hearts, and bones for reunion with our selves and with nature, as well as for freedom from the madness of the over-complicated civilized world. Let’s willingly let ourselves out of our cages. Let’s rewild. “Rewilding” means simply returning to a state of wildness.
One definition of “rewilding” is re-skilling with the technologies of our pre-civilized ancestors, who lived resilient, eco-literate lives, co-existing within the landscape. But rewilding is not as simple as walking barefoot, making fire, eating a tamed-down Paleo diet, wearing hand-tanned animal skins, or pooping in compost buckets (though it can include those). It must include unlearning the cultural and societal conditioning of industrial civilization, which has ultimately sought to control wild nature instead of living in concert with it.
To belong once again with wild nature is to question the artificial and managed world we are blindly dependent upon, consisting of automated buttons, touch screens, personal identification numbers, and decimal points. It means finding refuge from the fossil-fueled, built environment of light and noise pollution, chemical toxicity, and electromagnetic buzzing. Here we find sanctuary and relief from the insanity of our technology- addicted minds to return gracefully to the soul’s vocabulary. Our mammalian bodies remember the wild landscape as our primal home. We crave to walk barefoot, climb trees and mountains, gather food, dig in the soil, create beautiful functional objects with our hands, and have non-verbal interactions with other life. We long to relearn the body of the landscape. In the process, we may get lost—or find ourselves—within it.
Start with These Steps:
Step One: Undistract. The first step in rewilding yourself is to recognize the flood of distractions that the modern world has created via the systems, institutions, corporations, and industries that want your money or that benefit from you being controlled, disempowered or distracted. Distractions such as the Internet, the media, shopping, entertainment, social obligations, and various forms of work keep us over-busy, in a cycle of stress and unconscious addictive patterning, away from what really matters. Step Two: Unplug. While this is understandably challenging, it is possible! Historically, it has only been a blink of an eye since we had personal computers and cell phones (and the fossil fuels to manufacture them). We won’t have an abundance of fossil-fuel resources for much longer, so why be slaves to them and the machines that run our lives? Reroute your attentions away from
Step Two: Unplug. While this is understandably challenging, it is possible! Historically, it has only been a blink of an eye since we had personal computers and cell phones (and the fossil fuels to manufacture them). We won’t have an abundance of fossil-fuel resources for much longer, so why be slaves to them and the machines that run our lives? Reroute your attentions away from meaningless electronic busyness and choose to step outside for your stimulation, information-gathering, and connection.
Step Three: Make Contact. Every day make some contact with the natural world with any of your five senses. Start by simply sitting or lying directly on the ground. What attracts your attention? What brings you awe? What sensations bring you pleasure? Follow your instincts and fascinations. Simply touch, smell, listen, observe, even taste something new every day. There are textures that are pleasurable to touch, colors and patterns restorative to the eyes, fragrances intoxicating to the nose, edibles delicious to taste, sounds harmonious to our ears. Engage your intuitive senses as well. These daily practices help develop new patterns, neural pathways, and relationships.
The Medicine of the Forest
Spending time in forests can help us restore our physical health and our nervous systems. Ongoing research in the field of forest medicine has proven that leisurely walks specifically in forest ecosystems can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and cortisol (stress hormone) levels while improving mood. In addition, the natural aromatherapy given off by certain trees can boost our immune system and cancer-fighting cells. Research also shows that the greater the biodiversity, the greater the health benefits. In Japan, the therapeutic modality known as “forest therapy,” “forest bathing,” or shinrin yoku is a pleasurable, multi-sensory walk. The walk may be taken by oneself or led by a medically trained forest therapist. This practice is gaining international recognition and popularity, as it develops to embrace ecotherapy. While it was not originally associated with rewilding, forest therapy acts as a gateway to rekindling the vital parts of ourselves that have become numbed or abandoned in the modern world.
Have you ever let yourself be held in the arms of a tree? Engaging with trees is one of our most powerful and accessible paths to rewilding. Trees are accessible wild beings. Trees can offer aesthetic and sensory pleasure, wisdom, energy, and even intimacy and companionship, to help you ‘get resourced’ when you need it. Forest Ecotherapy, a “branch” of forest therapy, focuses on psychological and energetic healing, as well as traditional ecological knowledge, creating deeper, embodied connections with forests and trees. Getting to know landscapes and their inhabitants intimately, with respect and appreciation, is an important aspect of rewilding. The next time you are in a forest, observe and listen with presence. Who lives here? What conversations are happening? What symphonies are being sung? What stories are being told? Be part of that story.
Your Wildness Within
Rewilding can aid us in restoring our physical health, our sanity, and reconnects us to our deeper ecological selves. Wake up from the trance state; choose to turn the power switches to Off. Step out of the house, the office, the car, and your shoes. Be open to new kinds of relationships. Be open to rediscovering your wildness within.
Julianne Skai Arbor is the author of TreeGirl: Intimate Encounters with Wild Nature (Tree- Girl Studios, 2016). She is a forest ecotherapist, naturalist, certified arborist, educator and nature photographer.