Yueya

An Awakening through Living in the Wilderness

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In my experience, living for extended periods of time in an environment where nature in still strong is hugely beneficial for physical, emotional and spiritual health. For those of us fortunate to live in countries where wilderness still exists I highly recommend it.  Connection with nature is at the heart of Daoism.

 

Here’s a lucid account of an awakening experience brought about simply by living in the wilderness from someone who had no spiritual intent and no knowledge of energy cultivation praxis....

 

“One good sunny day we decided to walk to a big waterfall a long way up the valley. We followed a trail through the forest and came across a huge landslide. We sat down and lit a fire with the abundance of firewood. While Peter was toasting his bread on a stick, I told him that I had felt a huge build-up of energy in the last few days. So much so, I said, that I felt like jumping up and down like a Masai warrior from Kenya. Peter laughed and gestured to show that I should certainly take no notice of him and feel free to jump about if I felt like it. 

 

“We continued our way up the valley. Slowly we walked out of the forest and into a giant basin, where the steep mountains were virtually cliffs, and little streams and waterfalls cascaded down the rock walls. Eventually we came to a point where a river had carved a smooth channel through the massive rock. The power and beauty was astounding. Peter climbed the rocks, while I stood still.

 

“I was looking at the turquoise colours in the silky water. I was not doing anything special, but suddenly it felt as if a lightning bolt entered my head, as if the right part of my brain suddenly opened, and with it came an extraordinary clarity. I sat down in wonder, and saw that the whole of reality was in fact moving like a kaleidoscope. I saw that everything, including my own mind, was constantly transforming; I was not really fixed in one place. I saw that this changing reality was an eternal movement in a timeless world. 

 

“Eventually I climbed up to where Peter sat. He looked at me and understood at once that something had happened, for he had experienced similar things himself in the past. We sat down, and we were so in sync that with only a few words he intuitively understood what I was trying to say. While looking at the world, my mind seemed so clear. It was as if I had been driving a car with the handbrake on and suddenly it had been released. 

 

“We spoke about humanity, and good and evil. We discussed how children are taught right from wrong, and how these words affect our way of seeing the world. While talking to Peter, I saw myself thinking according to these culturally conditioned values. I could see how I interpreted, judged and analysed my own thoughts, thereby restricting my own mind. I realised that these social rules were made in the past, and had nothing to do with the ever-changing present. 

 

“We climbed to the roaring waterfall round the corner. A white river was thundering down to earth, and an eternal, drifting spray covered the fall like a jacket. The wind shaped the mist into different patterns. The spectacular 100-metre cascade had carved a shaft through the solid cliff, before it rushed over smooth slides down the mountain. The power of the waterfall engulfed me. I felt part of its pulsating movements, which glided through the hard rocks to find the lowest levels of the land and reach the sea. 

 

“After that remarkable day I didn’t suddenly walk around with a smile all the time. I didn’t feel an eternal bliss. Quite the contrary, in fact: it felt as if someone had removed my rose-tinted glasses. The world had become crystal clear, and I was forced to look at everything—the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly—in a direct and unconditioned way. It was immensely sobering, but also profoundly connecting.

 

“In the following weeks, we went for long walks. We came across flowers that I had seen a hundred times, but it felt as if I saw them for the first time. I spotted a big plant with yellow flowers and when I touched its soft green leaves I felt, intuitively, that these could have a medicinal property for the lungs. When I saw another plant, which Peter recognised as ragwort, I felt that it should not be eaten, but could perhaps have a use for skin treatments. We walked from plant to plant, and each one told us something of interest. I realised that in the past people would have had a sense for the medicinal values of plants, and that this insight was now rendered obsolete by modern science and technology. 

 

“Not only was I fascinated by the world of plants; birds and insects also captivated me. When we saw a giant dragonfly on the ground, I lay down next to it. It looked like an alien, with its long black-and-yellow tail. Its enormous eyes on its swivelling head looked at me, and I wondered what it saw. When we returned to the forest, I was in awe of the big, tall plants that we call trees. They suddenly felt like friendly giants. I sat on the roots of an old tree and felt my own heartbeat resonating with its pulse. I was connected. The whole world was magical, and everything in it had such a beautiful design. My mind was empty; the world was complete, full. There was nothing to miss or desire.

 

“The nights were equally as intriguing as the days. When I dreamed, I knew I was in a dream and I could look around without waking up. It was interesting to observe how real the dream world seemed. I touched people’s faces to test if I could feel their skin. I could jump high or fly at will. I listened to orchestras and was at the same time astounded that my brain could make up and play all the instruments. If I didn’t like the course of my dream, I was able to change it.

 

“This state of mind—this extraordinary sensitivity and connectedness—only lasted for a few weeks. After a month, I felt mostly ‘normal’ again, although some aspects of my understanding had changed forever. My dreams, especially, are still very enjoyable.”

 

 

(From Miriam Lancewood’s book, Woman in the Wilderness: A story of survival, love & self-discovery in New Zealand......Miriam is a Dutch woman living in the heart of the mountains with her New Zealand husband. She lives simply in a tent or hut, and survives by hunting wild animals and foraging edible plants, relying on only minimal supplies. For the last six years she has lived this way, through all seasons, often cold, hungry and isolated in the bush. She loves her life and feels free, connected to the land, and happy.)

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It is a lovely story and a powerful experience. You might want to Google the Book of Nature and particularly St Bernard of Clairvaux.

 

Well in reality it isn't possible to say one thing is right and another wrong because all things are the same thing. But for the purpose of the forum it wasn't awakening that she experienced. More an epiphany. She's kinda seen one side of the coin I guess.

 

But wow powerful.

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18 hours ago, Yueya said:

Here’s a lucid account of an awakening experience brought about simply by living in the wilderness from someone who had no spiritual intent and no knowledge of energy cultivation praxis....

 

very nice, but what is your experience? what have you seen,? not trying to push you into a corner,  but is this just a belief?  which is ok,   or have you had anything like this?  

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1 hour ago, Wayfarer said:

But for the purpose of the forum it wasn't awakening that she experienced. More an epiphany. She's kinda seen one side of the coin I guess.

 

Yes, she isn’t Awakened in the absolute sense the Buddha was. And she certainly doesn’t make any such claims. But to my use of the term, what she describes is an awakening experience. One of the reasons I posted her account was to illustrate how such experiences happen naturally, given the right combination of circumstances. 

 

When I said in my OP she had no spiritual intent that isn’t strictly accurate. She and her husband were drawn to live in the wilderness for many reasons, both expressible and inexpressible. One strand was spiritual but not in any rigorous sense. They had a general spiritual interest and even took a copy of the Daodejing with them. Early on Peter commented:  ‘This beauty and purity [of the wilderness] will transform the mind, don’t you think?’ His eyes were full of wonder. ‘All the great religions have one basic message. Christ, Buddha, Muhammad, Lao-tzu—they all speak about the transformation of the mind.’ I nodded, looking out at the powerful river, which had cut so effortlessly through the hard rocks. ‘Whatever it might mean, this pure and wild place should change our consciousness.’     

 

But they certainly weren’t focused on spiritual attainment. Mostly they were engaged with simply living in wilderness. And during those years they had several glimpses of mystical experience.  Here are another couple:

 

"We once climbed a big mountaintop. As soon as we emerged out of the gully, we were met with a strong westerly wind that swept mercilessly over bare rocks where only red lichen managed to grow. On the summit we gazed at a turquoise lake below us. The amazing opaque colour of the glacial water was absolutely breathtaking. A braided river with a hundred courses glittered in the afternoon sun, and in the far distance we could see farmland with its straight roads and square paddocks. We sat between the clouds and enjoyed the view, as we had done many times before. 

 

"Suddenly we both felt the presence of another dimension. We were struck with awe. On that high mountain, we were witnessing something immeasurable. It was as if we were sensing the unspeakable energy that underpins all of reality. In comparison to this immensity, thousands of years of human history and sophisticated achievements seemed quite insignificant. In this light, even the existence of mankind seemed irrelevant. This sense lasted only a short time—half an hour at the most. We saw it once and never again. We tried talking about it, but we couldn’t find the right words. Later, I wondered whether this was what Lao-tzu called the great Dao."

 

And on another occasion:


"One evening when we were sitting round the fire, Peter slowly stood up and ambled off barefoot through the thick sphagnum moss. There was something about his determined footsteps that made me follow him. He stepped elegantly over fallen branches, between clumps of tussock, and arrived at the clearing on the saddle. The sun had just set behind the distant blue-grey ridges. The trees, grass and moss were bathed in a reddish glow. 

 

"As I stood there barefoot in the soft moss, I looked into the valley below. As subtly and gently as a scented breeze, I became aware of a vast body of silence and eternity, a clear presence of something unknown—almost another dimension. It was such a presence that I was compelled to stop thinking and begin listening. I listened in complete quietness and with total attention. Effortlessly.

For a moment everything was whole, innocent and holy."

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34 minutes ago, Zen Pig said:

very nice, but what is your experience? what have you seen,? not trying to push you into a corner,  but is this just a belief?  which is ok,   or have you had anything like this?  

 

No I haven’t had an experience like the one described in the OP. But I have had strong experiences like the two Miriam describes above. I wrote a little of one a while back in my PPD here. To my observation these types of experiences aren’t uncommon, but the one Miriam describes in the OP is rare. If she were able to sustain it, I’d call her a sage. However, even if a person has an innate disposition for such a path, it seems to me it’s something that needs to be worked at over a lifetime. 

 

I’ll write some more on my own experience later.  My interest with this topic is with the varied nature of these experiences; some of which seem to come wholly from the outside, whereas others come from within.  

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Yes a great description and really how people should live, but an awakening can can occur in the midst of chaos of a big city; it is what lies in the heart that counts!:)

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These ought to be happening all the time for folks, i think they might be not as uncommon as some would have us think. I think Flowing Hands hit the bulls eye. An awakening is personal and speaks to the connection of that individual to everything. Sustaining it or not isn’t an achievement or loss, i do believe awakenings should keep happening and ebbing, mirroring the fluidity and ever changing you-know-what.

 

Such an experience is vital and pivotal, but i have a hard time connecting with it when it’s described in written words. Like the OP says, people recognize eachother if they’ve seen it. People who even dislike eachother will be able to connect and realize together to some extent when they recognize that thing in eachother.

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Whilst I appreciate the obvious heart-felt nature of the above replies, I’m surprised by their mildly oppositional content. There was no intention on my part to claim that everyone on a spiritual path needs to wander the wilderness. (Indeed, I included a note to this effect at the end of the PPD entry I referenced above.) However, such a way has a long history of effectiveness from the earliest recorded shamanism onwards. It’s especially prominent in Daoism and features in all the major religions. For me, wilderness based practice is something important that’s not much discussed here. And no one can know how it will affect them without actual experience over an extended period of time. Without such experience, comments are groundless opinions. 

 

However my original awakening experience, 35 years ago, was whilst living in the midst of a city. That experience changed me from being a total rational materialist who scoffed at any notion of the divine, to someone who knew that far greater intelligent forces than we humans exist. An awesome 'presence' opened a pathway into me through the top of my head and travelled down through my spine, filling me with life-affirming energy / awareness.   

 

Why that experience was visited on me I do not know. To me, it’s a mystery why some people have these experiences and others don’t.  My heart certainly wasn’t pure. I was a mess, on a downward spiral towards death, living what I’d call in retrospect a totally corrupt life (though at the time it was where I needed to be). 

 

That experience was very much a new beginning. But only a beginning. The initial experience only lasted a short time and the feeling faded completely over the course of the day. Although it left an indelible memory, underneath I was still the same messed-up person as before.  I’ve needed decades of real-life experience, many teachers and teachings, and further awakenings to help me work through much stuff, notably emotional imbalances. Indeed, I’m still working through them. But what I can say is that that initial experience almost certainly saved my life in that it gave me a belief; more than a belief, it gave me a knowing.

 

 

Edited by Yueya
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On 1/28/2019 at 6:31 PM, Yueya said:

Whilst I appreciate the obvious heart-felt nature of the above replies, I’m surprised by their mildly oppositional content. There was no intention on my part to claim that everyone on a spiritual path needs to wander the wilderness. (Indeed, I included a note to this effect at the end of the PPD entry I referenced above.) However, such a way has a long history of effectiveness from the earliest recorded shamanism onwards. It’s especially prominent in Daoism and features in all the major religions. For me, wilderness based practice is something important that’s not much discussed here. And no one can know how it will affect them without actual experience over an extended period of time. Without such experience, comments are groundless opinions.

 

I find that many of us have a tendency to engage in discourse by providing a challenge or opposing view, sometimes explicit and other times quite subtle - often unaware.

 

I resonate deeply with your posts on this topic. There is nowhere where we can connect more deeply to our subtle selves than when surrounded by ourself. The majority of folks I've spoken to who have had a deep awakening experience have done so either in nature or observing nature. My own first and most profound awakening experience was while riding in a car in the countryside, looking out over an open field as the sun set behind the rolling hills. 

 

Here is a beautiful story of retreat to the wild:

https://www.lionsroar.com/in-exclusive-first-interview-mingyur-rinpoche-reveals-what-happened-during-his-four-years-as-a-wandering-yogi/

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