you and me

The Labyrinth: A Series of Art. {Part Five: Wild Wood}

{Photo credit: Kristi Stout}

Now that the core of the labyrinth has been established in parts 1-4, we will begin to venture into the Wild lands that make up its many circuits.

The next four installments will be exploring places in these terrains — the first place we come to is the Wild Wood.

Wild. Such a power word as of late. The Wild is where we came from and it is where we will return. The Wild is also what we are. It is that thing inside that is our actual nature, not our conditioned or tame one. It is not good, it is not bad — it just is.

I’ve observed that it is only humanity that has labeled things good or bad, but in actuality, what is inside us is an energy only, which powers a body interacting with the world, and it’s this power that is what I like to call the Wild essence. The Wild in general.

The Wild Wood is an incredible place. There is so much going on in the woods. All manners of life, death, destruction, creation, fighting to survive, pushing towards the light, seeding, teaming, germinating, pollinating, operating in accordance with Nature. It can be a battleground, it can be a fertile ground, it can be a peaceful ground, it can be a common ground.

It can be soft and encompassing, or it can be treacherous and scary. It is a place that tests everything you are made of and leaves nothing out, and what it spits out after is pure essence. I think a lot of us feel this energy or essence when we enter the woods, even if it’s subconsciously deep inside of us. We still feel it, a connection. A freedom?

To help illustrate, I want to share a personal story of one of my own experiences with the Wild Wood. I went backpacking in the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest with a friend once. We got a late start and hiked into the night trying to reach a lake. At one point, we suspected that we may have missed the trail-head marker for the fork in the trail that would take us to the lake.

Being the more experienced hiker, my friend determined to venture ahead a bit, to see if we were still on the right trail or if we needed to turn around and backtrack. I was content to wait on the path, and knew if he wasn’t back in 30 minutes, I should make my way back to civilization and call for help. We’d been hiking for about two hours.

Regardless, I was left in darkness. Yes, I had a headlamp. But being alone in the middle of the woods in the pitch of night was not easy on my psyche. The mind plays such terrible tricks, it does, as it starts to spew ideas like bad spores making fungi in the mind (no offense to chanterelles or morels), sealing our false beliefs.

It was cold, and oh-so-very dark. I could hear things in the woods. Crackling, scampering, echos of encroaching shadows. In an attempt to see more clearly, so as to eradicate the harsh and false shadows, I turned off my headlamp. My friend was gone. I couldn’t hear any part of him, not even the muffled thud of his boots or the swishing of his cargo pants in the night. But I did hear the night.

Sitting there in darkness and the loudness of the silence, the forms of the trees started taking shape around me as did the flora and the night. My five senses seemed to heighten. I could feel the cold earth beneath me as I sat down to let the shadows encroach. It smelled moist and mulchy. I heard a distant dripping.

My mind started playing tricks. At first the trees seemed like monsters coming to get me. The cold air biting at my feet and face, trying to rip through my fleece like vicious piranhas. I could feel the fear rising inside me like a swelling tide. A snap in the bushes nearby. My anxiety became alert, I was ready to fight or flee.

Consciously, I knew my mind was playing tricks, and I forced myself to take a deep breath, willing myself through the tide of my fears.

As I moved through the ocean of fear with my breath, the tide moved out, and I stared at the cedars surrounding me as if to challenge them.

But, suddenly, a transformation happened in front of my very eyes. The ominous forms suddenly became sentinels sent to protect me.Standing guard against the snapping, twisting shadows of my own psyche. Like Nature was standing there challenging not me, but my mind.

As my eyes adjusted further, I could see things moving around me and also around the bases of the trees surrounding me. Like little, scurrying critters.

I flicked my light on for a moment, and it was mice that kept darting across the path of my light. I flicked it off, allowing myself to sit with the sentinels and the creatures and cold and the dirt, suddenly becoming one with it. Surrendering to it. Seeing it all, not as a threat, but instead working with me, comforting me. I no longer felt alone.

I felt like the trees and mice and shrubs were listening to me. Befriending me there in the darkness. Welcoming me into their Wild home, which was teeming with life and energy, even in darkness.

I felt alive. In tune with something, my senses for one, but also in sync with a larger thing that I have no word for. So I call it Wild Wood.

{Photo credit: Kristi Stout}

For as much beauty as the woods bring, they also bring a kind of violence and competition for survival of the fittest, putting us in tune with not only our will to survive, which is more a primal instinct, but also something that is beyond this world — our larger, higher sense of awareness that is one with the cosmos and in alignment with the natural order of things far removed from the limitations human tyranny has placed upon the natural methods of being.

Nature, though it holds both predator and prey, is not good or bad. It’s just predator and prey. They are what they are, but both are necessary for the establishment of the ecosystem to operate in balance and strength, as one unit. They all serve the One Bigger Thing. They all operate in accordance with the One Bigger Thing. Nature is not evil. It is only nature.

What’s evil, if we must assign it a name, is only — and I stress, only — the mind playing tricks. Acting the role of tyrant, operating on a pretext of greed and selfishness. Nature does not operate on this pretext whatsoever. Only humans do.

A Christian prophecy talks of the day when the Lion will lie down with the Lamb. But, if we are to truly look at the concepts of a lion lying down with a lamb (predator and prey), it might look something like true nature operating in balance with the mind. Being able to consciously observe the tyrant within us, and calming it down to lie next to the natural order of our being-ness. As I did in the woods that night.

I am not here to say the mind is the enemy, not at all. I am here to say that the feral-ness of the mind just needs to be brought to light — as it’s been evolving through millennia, so too has it been wreaking havoc on us, like something feral.

And feral is not bad, it’s merely something trying to naturally operate in a tamed environment. It’s the tamed environment that is the problem, not the feral thing itself. With the mind (seen for what it is) in the proper environment, we can do wonders for the greater good!

Suffice it to say, my friend returned. We found the lake. We did not miss the fork at all.

But, something happened to me that night when I surrendered to the Wild Wood. I felt myself differently. I tuned into Nature. I started to discern what I have self-imposed upon myself (as a feral mind) versus the natural truth of things.

In other words, when we see the mind for what it is (a tool, and if unchecked, a tyrant) you weed out the false truths that you have conditioned yourself to believe in, which have in truth alienated you from the true truths, and you start to see natural truth, you start to become at home, and at ease in your environment, not dis-eased.

When you begin to see natural truth, it’s hard to consciously submit yourself back to the dis-eased society that has fortified so much false truth in our beliefs, which keep us stuck in dis-ease and hardships (as humans, this is our common struggle and also our common bond).

And sometimes it feels like we don’t have a choice in the matter but to go against our nature in order to survive here in a misplaced environment, which of course feels somehow evil — a strange amalgamation of expression and survival, but not in a natural way, rather a twisted one, falsely rooted.

I feel like the only real sin is to go against our true nature, and what I see in this world is not evil, but a gigantic false belief in something that has no true fertile ground, which has twisted our perceptions and enticed more of an expression of darkness over light, but I think perhaps it could change if light is shed upon it.

I’ve always felt there is no evil, only ignorance, which in truth is darkness. A veil drawn over authenticity.

Ignorance is a conditioned (feral) human mind issue only, not a nature-based issue whatsoever.

Think of it: Flora and fauna are not ignorant, they are living most authentically and operating in harmony with the Natural Law.

Does a wolf kill in cold blood? No, it kills to eat, and kills only what it can eat. Does a wolf-pack plot to take over territories from other wolves out of greed? No, a pack just moves where there is more food and a greater chance of survival… and sometimes that encroaches on the tame and cultivated lands of the human.

Does a wolf kill a human because it’s greedy and wants to steal sheep? No, a wolf merely works with obstacles placed in front of it in accordance with the laws of its nature. A wolf is not a foe. A wolf is killed by a human out of the cold-blooded and feral belief that the wolf is trying to steal. Wolves don’t steal, only humans do.

Humans are the only beings who operate in cold-blooded ignorance. But really, it’s just a (mind) issue and it needs to be readjusted.

This is the heart of the matter — the root. The health of the roots sets the homeostasis and vitality of the being (spiritually and physically), and when I say roots of the being, I mean your personal foundation. How solid is it? How has it shaped your life? How has it made your mind feral (out of place in its environment)? Made you seek other answers? Imprisoned you?

If you are questioning these things at all, you are on your way to the heart of the matter, to the Natural Truth. To breaking the chains that bind you and hold you to the confines of dis-ease.

The mind is not grounded, it is a tool only, but an important one, and our first line of defense. It’s capable of great and powerful things, but it’s not deeply rooted. It is, however, the root of the issue here. Push through the conditioned mind and you will find the heart, the deeper core — and this is where the Wild Wood comes into play.

The Wild Wood is pure Nature authentically, holistically expressing itself, and the mind is often getting in the way of our own pure authenticity, so be mindful of the Wild Wood. You were Wild once, let it re-take you.

{Photo credit: Kristi Stout}

This is an ongoing series by Kristi Stout.
Tune in weekly for the next chapter in ‘The Labyrinth’.

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Kristi Stout

Kristi Stout

Kristi L. Stout is an artist, mother, and lover. She considers herself a Renaissance woman, in service of Love in its many forms. It is her belief that inside each of us is our own sacred, Wild nature -- a hidden instinct that is not forgotten as much as it is dormant, like leafless trees in winter. It is the part of us that is connected to all things. A knowing without knowing. The part deep inside that understands darkness is necessary for the moon to simmer silver, and recognizes that even if you’re lost in the middle of nowhere you can always find a sacred somewhere -- like an internal compass pointing true north to your heart center. Her passion project, work in progress, is She Is Wild. You can find more of Kristi’s work here or connect with her on Facebook.