Cultivate Intimacy With the Wild Within.
Many of us remain a mystery to ourselves.
Our inner landscapes can remain uncharted for decades until some great outer experience suddenly summons us to deeply question what it is that we really feel about it all. Personally, I reckon that becoming intimate with the wild world within us is the most important journey that we can possibly take.
I’m not talking intimacy as a sexual thing here. That’s a whole other article. I’m talking about touching and being touched by life. I’m taking about knowing and being known by life — that subtle sweet thing that animates us. I’m talking about coming into close contact with the somatic, subtle sense of our own body.
I’m talking about being with the tender beauty of being with our breath, our body and the place in which we sit/stand/dance/meditate/move, as we stay with it all for a series of unfolding moments. I’m talking about the sweet serenity that comes with being soaked in the sensate. Think of when you’ve danced hard, or jogged or made love, and how at home within yourself you generally feel afterwards.
There are so many landscapes within us that we can come into closer intimacy with. The terrains of the body’s inner experience. The fecund and flowering things within us, the tight buds that want to blossom. And the pockets of death and decay from the things we overlooked tending to, they will need their honoring too.
We may well need to consciously cultivate an intimacy practice with our own inner experience, invite ourselves in deeper. Take time to explore the wild places within us.
The tempo of our times is fast, and draws us up and out of ourselves. A million mundane things demand our daily attention with persistent push notifications, buzzes and billboards. It is no good imploring ourselves to hurry up and connect. To become intimate with our inner experience, we have to give ourselves time — thick, rich, velvety time.
We can start with shifting down a gear. When we slow down, we will get to see the subtleties of life. The way that the wind is blowing the trees outside, the flicker of the candle flame, the movement of breath in a sleeping cat’s body next to us. There is much beauty in being with these micro moments of life.
Life is really made up of a series of snapshot moments anyway. I believe that it serves us greatly to build our ability to be present for and with them.
When we practice staying with the somatic/felt senses, we build our own ability to be present with ourselves. We put aside distraction technology and talk and come in closer to the sense of life within us.
Sometimes for me, my awareness practices see like they are just another task to do. A way of maintaining wellness that has to be slotted into my schedule. A perfunctory pause. I know that it is way more delicious when it feels like a space to unfold into. A gift that is given. Some unharried moments when I can be and be in good relationship with myself.
We can then consciously invite ourselves into intimacy with our own experience. Cultivate curiosity. Lean in and learn about ourselves.
Intimacy and being known requires a deepening, a dropping in, a providing a sweet, safe space to see what unfolds. We give so much of our life energy to those around us and to all the tasks of our days that need doing. It can be deeply replenishing to bring all of their energy back into ourselves and let it sit and settle for a while.
Intimacy is a tender thing that we will need to give ourselves time to cultivate. Intimacy with our own experience will show us what is so. Why not write from the body? “I am your thighs, and I want to tell you…” or “I am your spine, and I’ve been wanting to say…”
Like any good wildlife observer, when we get to our sit spot, we simply take a seat, back off and make space and allow the curious creatures inside us to enter in. If we are always busy crashing and bashing, the wild things we hope to see may not come in close.
If we are so upfront, eager and up close anyway, then there is literally no room for things to come in closer, be that to another person or our own inner world.
By simply making space to be with our inner experience, we create space to know ourselves deeply. When we know ourselves, we are clear on our own motives, have space to be skillful, and can act wisely, as we are in touch with our own good guidance.
The nuances of noticing
Being intimate isn’t something that we can do with our mind. It’s a subtle thing, sensed in the body. We need to be located in the here and now, in touch with all of her senses, in order to be truly intimate with life. In intimacy with our experience, there is allowing of our somatic sensations — the beating heart, the buzzy belly, the muttering mind.
We are both supremely strong and simultaneously vulnerable, vital, porous things underneath all the protective layers that we have built up on top. When we stay with ourselves — simply the somatic sensations of the body — without believing the accompanying story, we make a space to be able to be with ourselves.
We can learn to listen in so much closer into the body over time, to focus on the felt sense. We can even explore how much can this physical form flex inside without me even moving a muscle? What happens to my heart if I breathe in deeper and slower? What is the internal weather system that is moving through me right now?
Birdwatchers hide to see their favorite creatures, we may need to find our own form of hiding too. We can try switching off our phone, blocking out alone time in our schedule, and giving ourselves a languid and lovely few hours to unfold deeper into our own feeling body.
So sit still in this hidden secret spot and see what shows up at your door.
Allow the animals to enter in
If we were to speak in metaphor, we could say that the psyche is full of curious creatures, they shapeshift and show us strange signs. As we sit still and hidden, these curious creatures may well show up from within us. We get to watch them as they enter in.
When these creatures of our consciousness show up, may we not judge them. May we simply observe them, staying still and seeing what happens if we offer them the spaciousness and graciousness to not shoot at them (with camera or gun) but instead to let them roam free and show us the habitual move that our mind makes.
May we trust that if something in our mind is growling, then it’s probably because it’s hurt or afraid underneath. May we compassionately see the thorns in these creatures’ paws that make them angry or angsty.
May we see the unseen creatures too that we can vaguely sense the outline of in our lives — the wise old owl within that has some oversight on the whole thing, or the shaking mouse who may think we’ve forgotten to see him and just wants to know that there is somewhere safe to go where he won’t be stood on or chased by the cat.
In allowing all the animals within us to approach us, we actually come into closer contact with our humanness, in all of its feeling-full experiences.
Socialize with the unseen
There are times in our lives when we will crave company and it will simply not be easily available to us, be that because of COVID-19 or crazy schedules.
There is something important in the aliveness of nature. In the fact that it has a physical life force that flows through it. We can see how plants are — blooming or drooping, growing through cracks in the sidewalk or rising above the city.
It can be immensely reassuring to hang out in nature. To know that the world around us is a living breathing thing. To feel our reciprocal relationship with the trees as they take inner carbon and breathe out oxygen as we contribute with the opposite process. Nature provides a sense of living otherness, an intelligent animate world around us that can do a great deal to lessen our aloneness.
“I never really understood the word ‘loneliness’. As far as I was concerned, I was in an orgy with the sky and the ocean, and with nature.” ~ Bjork
We can literally speak to the sky, or to the fire. To call out to the winds, or to lay our weight down on earth and ask that she deeply holds us. The Buddha reached down to touch the ground to call on it as a witness to his moment of awakening.
It is radical in this day and age to be resourced. To not be bonkers busy and depleted.
It is almost countercultural to feel well and happy here.
May we be radical Rebelles and feel part of it all: Connected, curious, and choosing to continue to cultivate intimacy with our inner world.
Tess Howell is the founder of Wild Moves, which uses ‘silent disco’ headsets to facilitate conscious dance classes outdoors in areas of wild beauty. She uses dancing outdoors as a map to support people in exploring the billion miles of unexplored wildness that lies within them. She is an accredited 5 Rhythms Teacher, a Spirit Rock trained Dharma and Yoga facilitator, an artist and art therapist, writer and an accomplished contemporary dance producer. As a writer, Tess is a truth-teller and a weaver of wild words. She has been published by Women Who Roar, Elephant Journal and EarthPathways. She leads a series of gently guided meditations for embodiment and authenticity on the Insight Timer App. She divides her time between Brighton UK and Northern California. Tess relishes and cherishes space, sky, sea and stillness. She finds refuge in dance, the dharma, bunnies, badass basslines and beautiful boots.