Across time and culture, we have always turned to the earth to support us through rites of passage and other times of radical transformation in our lives. From wilderness quests to clarifying walks in the woods, the living world is our ally and midwife in the process of our becoming.
There is abundant research evidence to show that humans just do better, on all counts, when we’re outside. Rob Greenaway, leader in the field of ecopsychology, is often quoted as saying that “civilization is only 4 days deep.” He found that people who spent more than 72 hours in the wild experienced “a greater sense of aliveness” and “feelings of expansion and reconnection.” He called this The Wilderness Effect.
What do I know to be true after leading women in the outdoors for over a decade?
We become more ourselves when we’re in connection with the earth.
Our vision sharpens,
our intuition heightens,
we become radically embodied, reconnecting with the vast wisdom below our shoulders
and we become re-attuned to the rhythms of the earth
– to the entire world that lives and breathes and supports us when we put down our phones, get really quiet, and listen.
Most of us don’t need a study to tell us what we know in our bones: we belong in relationship with the earth.
But rewilding ourselves during times of change is about so, so much more than reclaiming our connection with the more-than-human world.
If I know one thing to be true after supporting hundreds of women through some of life’s biggest transitions, it’s this:
Particularly in this time in history and particularly for women and those socialized as women, radical transformation and rites of passage of all kinds – from career changes to menopause – almost always also awaken the wild within us.
In her book, Grounded, ecotherapist Ruth Allen writes:
“Glimmers of wild might revealed when we do things that we didn’t think we could do, or when we behave in ways that we don’t expect of ourselves. They look like declarations of independence, intentions to be subversive, and resolutions to be different…It is the bit that resists boundaries, restrictions, and the word should. It is our changeability, our boldness and tenacity. Wildness is the part of us that dreams…it is our longing. To be wild is to live more authentically and less artificially.
The way I see it? Radical transformations are wild times filled with unpredictability. Often, in fact, they are precipitated by oh-so-human experiences like birth, menopause and death that remind us that we are merely well-dressed mammals. In our modern times, many radical transformations are catalyzed by the impacts of denying our animal nature: the exhaustion of living out-of-cycle and out-of-connection with the natural world, muscling through the call to slow down during the winters and dark moon times of our lives.
In these ways, times of transformation have a way of cracking open the rigid structures we govern ourselves by: our ideas of what it means to be successful, beautiful, and worthy. They shine a light on all the ways we’ve been conditioned and tamed by cultural norms and systemic oppression, and call us into deeper truth and authenticity.
Of course, Clarissa Pinkola Estes says it best, in describing what happens when the wild woman awakens within us:
“The wild woman clears off the desk, clears off the relationship, clears out one’s mind, turns to a new page, insists on a break, breaks the rules, stops the world. With [the wild woman] [our] creative lives blossom, [our] relationships gain meaning + depth + health, [our] cycles of sexuality, creativity, work and play are re-established. Now [our] end-of-day fatigue comes from satisfying work and endeavours, not from being shut up in too small a mindset, job or relationship. [We] know instinctively when things must die and when things must live. [We] know how to walk away, [we] know how to stay.”
Because of all this, rewilding and earth connection are woven throughout the work I do with women.
Earth connection is one of the Seven Core Competencies of Radical Transformation, a set of skills and capacities that we need to reclaim in order to access the full potential of rites of passage and transformation in our lives.
You can learn more about the Seven Core Competencies in the video below, or join Chrysalis this month for The Spiral Way, where we’ll dive deep into how you can cultivate a meaningful connection with the more-than-human-world and live according to the seasons of the earth and your life.
You can also join me for the 2022 reWILD Wilderness Quest. If you’re journeying through a transformative time in your life right now, this modern-day rite of passage through the backcountry wilds of Eastern Canada is for you. Put simply, it’s the kind of experience that you will carry with you for the rest of your life. You can find out more about + apply to reWILD here. Registration closes June 30th.