Recently, my dear friend and colleague Dr. David Simon passed on to me David Cumes's Inner Passages, Outer Journeys. As the author describes his book it "adds another level of healing wisdom to the merging paradigm of health, reminding us that the environment is our extended body. When given the opportunity, Nature is the ultimate healer, returning, us to wholeness." Listening to David Cumes speak will surely inspire you to experience "wilderness" along your Path to transformation.
What does wilderness have to offer us?
Wilderness offers us a multidimensional recipe for self-exploration and self-restoration. There are so many things happening when you are in the wilderness--on a conscious level and on a subconscious level. You are trying to balance so many polarities within yourself--hunger and fullness, hot and cold, wet and dry--and as a result you have an experience that goes way beyond what any other spiritual practice can offer. Meditation has its limitations, as does yoga, tai'chi, and so forth. In wilderness, though, you can have all the polarities. Plus you can experience aromatherapy from the natural smells and you can hear the mantra of the bush--the sounds that meditates us while we're there.
How does the outer journey become an inner passage?
Intention is the key. Because we're so habituated and conditioned, most of us stick to the outer journey because that's where we are familiar. Consequently, when we get into the wilderness, we try to set goals and time constraints and we try to conquer Nature by doing things like running rivers and bagging peaks. Our conditioning tells us we need to look good and achieve something. But if we shift our intention, if we stop and say, "We're having this experience for self-restoration, for Spirit, rather than for, material reasons," then we start to achieve differently and the experience, becomes an inner meditation, not an outer striving.
What do you mean when you talk about "wilderness rapture"?
I was looking for a term that would capture what happens in wilderness. Often when people enter the wilderness in the right way with the right intention, they get into a state of total harmony; a sense of wonder, awe, and inner peace comes over them. "Wilderness rapture" is meant to embrace all of these experiences.
You describe the wilderness experience as having similar stages to the archetypal hero's journey. Can you explain what you mean by that?
The hero's journey puts us into contact with an experience that is going to challenge us in some very fundamental way. This is not to say that when we go out into the wilderness we will experience a really terrifying ordeal in which we will be in some physical danger, but when we embark on such a journey there is that potential. We have the sense that we are entering into this magical space where there are possibilities for disaster.
What do you recommend for the average person who hasn't the resources or the courage to go deep into the wilderness but who wants to simulate an outer journey to gain an inner passage?
First try going into the garden. Remember that if you are absolutely intent on getting the best garden in the neighborhood., you're not going to get the inner experience. But if you can find contentment in just digging in the mud or running barefoot in the grass, or enjoying the garden simply for no reason at all other than for its own sake, that will be a healing experience. Then go on local hikes in parks or trails. Once you've increased your confidence level, gather a group of people together--one of whom might have some backpacking experience--and perhaps go on a weekend jaunt in the mountains nearby. It's not that difficult, really. It's just a question of taking a leap of faith and adopting an attitude, an intention, or a receptivity. If you're windsurfing or mountain climbing, or gardening, it's the same thing. You can make it into a goal-oriented, ego-driven experience, in which case you won't get a deeper benefit from it, or you can do it in a Zen-like way to create an inner, healing experience.
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