Perhaps you read my first attempt at wisdom from the wilderness but now, as the whole world is experiencing the COVID-19 virus, the wilderness metaphor seems to be getting more apt. And, different for each of us. Your “wilderness experience” of being sheltered at home may be a solo experience. Or, you may be in a small house with a big family, children home from school and adults home from their work place. Or, you may be one of the few actually going to work, and feeling the abnormality of your environment. You may be experiencing your wilderness in the midst of an urban setting, or like me, out in the country.
Wherever you are, I’m comparing it to the wilderness because nothing is the same, and we are stripped of our usual feelings of competence and agency. At least I am at moments!
And so for a moment, let me acknowledge how this may feel to you. There is a wide spectrum of responses out there. Like me, you may be privileged to live in a comfortable home with plenty of supplies and some resources for hard times. On the other hand, your job may have come to a standstill and you may have no margin. And let’s not forget those living on the street, those in poverty without the technology to read this. Those who are sick, or afraid they might be. Those who have lost someone. Those who have died.
Take a breath into your heart and feel your heart’s recognition of the life force entering it. Exhale, sending that life force through your own body and also out to all those you pictured. This is one practice we can do every day.
In my last blog I talked about the holiness of wilderness experiences and their potential for spiritual downloads and transformative experiences. Let’s assume that this wilderness contains that same potentiality, and get to that through the metaphor.
If you had been led out into an isolated place in nature for a vision quest, what would you do? I know first, I would tend to the place that would be my spot to sit, to sleep, to contemplate. I’d want that to be as safe as possible. I’d make a little nest for myself out of whatever I had and whatever was near. I’d sit in a place that felt sheltered and yet where I could spot any danger sneaking up on me. I’d put my senses on alert enough to use them to full advantage. I’d look for what seemed friendly about this environment and what could be threatening. I’d bet on the best experience, while preparing for the worst.
This is akin to Lesson #1 in my book, Flying Lessons. The lesson is “Know Where You’re Going to Land.” That doesn’t refer to knowing your destination, but to how you’re going to put the plane safely on the ground if the engine were to fail. (Now we’re entering metaphor #2!)
Our collective engine has just failed. We can’t count on flying the plane as usual, and don’t really know what our destination should be now. So best to find the flattest, longest, clearest spot within range and land the plane there.
In my book I talk about the evolution of our “safe landing place.” First it is the womb, then the parents, then friends, and then we usually move on to achievements, relationships, creating a home and maybe a family. Forming a life and an ego.
They say if we’re lucky, something happens by mid-life that shakes us to the core, giving us the spiritual opportunity to focus on inner life in addition to the outer, and to grow our souls. It looks like we have an opportunity in this situation to take on a refined, evolved version of our safe landing place.
So here is a condensed version of that process from chapter one.
We see now how the job, the achievements, the family structure and even our religious beliefs are severely strained or breakable in a crisis like this. The only safe landing place worthy of this situation must be one that can never be taken from us.
- So in your place on your vision quest, contemplate: What can never be taken from me? (perhaps as long as I’m still alive, or perhaps even if I were to die…)
Many of my clients and readers and friends have told me things come to mind like God, or love or truth or nature. What comes to your mind?
- If you don’t know, ask yourself, “What makes my heart sing with joy?” For instance, for me it’s Beauty, which I capitalize because some beauty is right outside my window and some is in my inner world, inside my deepest, truest self and inside my experiences of love.
- Whatever you think it might be, follow that trail. Head there. That’s where you’re going to land for now. If it’s nature, make sure to go for a walk every single day. Sit outside and just listen and watch. If it’s love for family, talk to them a lot.
- What routines do you have for care of your inner life? Prayer or meditation? Reading good poetry or literature? Listening to great music? Walking? Yoga? These are your “landing rituals.” Just as I had to learn a ritual for landing a plane in emergencies, you’ve learned some practices from emergencies you’ve been in. What works? Put that in your ritual.
For me, this is a time of trying to follow my own advice and put into practice my own safe landing procedures. For you, I wish safety, health and as much inner peace as you can muster. You are both a wilderness survivor and a pilot of life—two metaphors to contemplate!
I wish you love, health and courage in this very challenging time.
Your friend and co-wilderness adventurer,
P.S. (You can get the Kindle version of the book for $2.99 here.