What This is About
Rewilding Minds is about letting wild nature teach us about the mental well being that is available to us when we get out of our own way. Observing how nature is orienting over and over towards life, can help us see that our minds do the same: mental wellness is our default. This tendency towards mental well being is both the product of millions of years of evolution and a great magical mystery. And because well being is a natural default, rewilding your mind is about doing less, and allowing more.
I have called my work Rewilding Minds to reclaim the word "wild" from its negative use, where it has been defined as something out of control, random, and dangerous in its unpredictability. In the wild, however, is genius: patterns, efficiency, communication, coexistence, and appropriate responsiveness to situations. Increasing our eco-literacy of nature--not more accumulation of facts and figures as has been our inclination, but of our feel of the broader dynamics of nature--can help us understand a natural mental wellness that is available to all of us. This is about recognizing how we naturally function rather than having to effort to change.
"Humans" and "Nature" are the Same...Except When We Think We're Not
Moods come and go. Thoughts that create a feeling of unpleasantness move on to thoughts that cause us to feel pleasant. And so on, back and forth. We think it’s about our circumstances. But it’s not. It's us being thinking beings. Instead of being aware that this is the natural movement of our minds, a particular thought can get us concerned. If it’s a troubling thought, we are frightened by it, and our next thought is to try to change the thought, or a circumstance we have linked to it. We incorrectly think there is an eventual arriving at a constant place of peace without frightening thoughts, and we effort towards it, trying one therapy technique or another, or acquiring material objects and experiences.
Here’s the good news. There is one awareness that can set us free: every thought produces a feeling. With this awareness of how our mind works, we naturally start to see through the fog of believing every thought we think, and can then allow millions of years of evolution and the great mysterious tendency towards mental wellness to guide us. Just like it is taking care of everything in the rest of nature. We will still get frightening thoughts. They will just more quickly lose their significance.
Fear does not throw the rest of nature down an endless path of trying to control through analyzing and pondering. Instead wild nature is the purest form of wellness: all beings are in a constant process of responding and adjusting in order to maximize the possibility of remaining alive. A plant outside your window is adjusting its chemical process to the amount and angle of sunlight. An insect on the ground is changing its direction of movement in response to numerous cues internally and externally. And yes, one animal is eating another, part of life giving to life. Like a boat tacking back and forth in the wind, approximating towards its destination, nature is in a constant ongoing process of movement towards homeostasis and equilibrium, and away from it. This is the process of orienting towards the best approximation of health, or life.
Why would it not be the case that our minds will function in the same way if we let them?
It's Not About The Bathtub
We all have experienced arriving at resolution about something when not intensely focused on a problem. It's been described as wisdom and insight. An example of this is the creative solution that pops into your head when you are relaxing in a bathtub. But it's not about being in the bathtub. It's about not trying hard, and a healthy, wild mind happens.
Rather than working to change our thoughts, letting our minds be wild is recognizing that we live in a flow of thoughts and corresponding feelings moment to moment. The awareness of this flow allows us to relax, and naturally spend more time in those thoughts that produce a deep, good feeling. This good feeling is our health and the place from which to act.
Along the way, "don't believe everything you think" is probably the best maxim.
When we are "stuck" in a repetitive line of thinking, or "working it," and experience the drop in our feeling that comes with this efforting, we can know that our attempt to control is actually moving us away from a resolution that will occur more naturally.
As dynamic organisms ourselves, with constantly changing internal and external experiences influencing us, what if we were to trust in a greater wisdom? This is trusting in a natural wisdom that has kept all species, as well as our own, alive. As Janine Benyus of the Biomimicry Institute states, it is perhaps time to "quiet our cleverness." In this case, learn from the change, adaptation and resiliency of the rest of nature and recognize that it applies to our minds.
Health returns: Flowering yucca in California burnscape.
You are a being of innate wisdom that naturally knows what is best. At the same time, you are a thinking being and whatever you think you will feel. Feelings are like a compass. Use the compass of your feelings to wake you up to whether you are caught up in thoughts or accessing your innate wisdom. Recognizing that this is how we function is all you need. You don't need to change yourself. All around us is the mystery of life reorienting back to health. Be willing to say "I don't know" and trust in your own mind's natural flow back to health.