I read over most of the posts on this site related to Buddhism, and I’d like to share my thoughts and experience on Rewilding this spiritual technique.
Reposted from my blog Consurrectionary, which means one involved with rising up together by way of reverence.
With this post, I intend to Rewild Buddhism, or to apply the paradigm of Rewilding to re-interpret the teachings and techniques found in the Buddhist practice of Vipassana Meditation to reveal how it can assist us as a technique for Rewilding.
From August 11th to August 22nd I attended a free 10-day silent meditation course at the Dhamma Dhara Vipassana Meditation Center in Shelbourne, Massachusetts. During the video discourse on the fifth day, I realized why I was there. Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was a Rewilder, and a hell of a Rewilder, too… a hater of Houses and the misery they bring. Let us examine.
I found the video discourse online, and a transcript of the section of particular interest to Rewilders follows below. In this excerpt the teacher, S. N. Goenka, speaks from the point of view of the Buddha, translating from religious texts the first words Gautama spoke after achieving enlightenment.
[b]In this flow of the world I have taken so many times birth.. birth after birth for so many lives, countless lives.[/b] [...] And every time I have taken birth I kept running incessantly. And some wise people in some lives told me that I can get out of this cycle of misery provided I can witness the Creator [...]. [b]Many a lives I kept searching for the Creator, [...] the Creator of This House. [...] In search of the Creator of the House, again and again I kept getting birthed full of misery. [...] Oh builder of the house, now I have seen you. You can't build any house for me anymore. [...] Now, I have destroyed everything. [...] I have destroyed all the building materials.[/b] You can't make a building for me. [...] My mind is now free of all sankhara [wandering thought-forms] [...] and the craving is rooted out.
(I do recommend watching this entire segment from 00:55:12 to 01:01:47 although it seems clear that the speaker, S. N. Goenka, isn’t aware of potential positive human experience living without houses for 99.9% of our species’ existence). http://www.megavideo.com/?d=X97BPJM3
Okay, so Gautama Buddha sounds like he hated domestication. Cool, so what’s all this, “I have destroyed all the building materials” stuff?
I don’t believe he’s talking about mud, stones, branches, straw, cob or even steel, else he’d literally destroy the whole planet. To me, Buddha’s describing the metaphysical building materials of misery that result in domestication, which he described as the habits of craving and aversion. In the Rewilding context, I feel we face these demons twice over. At different times, I feel both craving for and aversion to the same elements of vastly different lifestyles.
I crave for a wild life that seems lost and in need of recovery[sup]1[/sup], as well as the for the culture I’ve been raised in, with Western normalcy standards of comfort, security, and ease. Similarly so, I feel aversion to civilization and all signs of domesticated misery[sup]2[/sup], and yet I must admit an acculturated aversion to what Western Civilization defines as discomfort [sup]3[/sup], hard work, or bad-manners.
Luckily, Siddartha claims to have destroyed 'em all with Vipassana Meditation and sent 60 teachers around the world to ensure that this method would be around for when it was needed - today[sup]4[/sup]. These mind-body-spirit exercises re-sensitize the body to feel minute subtlety[sup]5[/sup] both on the skin and internally, while at the same time train the mind to objectively observe any sensation, regardless of whether the sensation may deviate extremely from our acculturated standards of normalcy[sup]6[/sup].
Additionally, as the theory goes, due to the body’s storing of metaphysical trauma as thought-forms/sensations, the re-sensitization process acts as a sort of therapy. Instead of talking out old complexes and traumas, and perhaps bungling them even more, as in typical Western psychotherapy and counseling, a Vipassana meditator simply continues to sensitize the body until the stored thought-form surfaces on it’s own or she becomes aware of such subtle storages. The Vipassani then heals herself of the trauma by simply feeling whatever sensation arises, aware of the associated emotions and memories that pop-up in the brain & heart, though placing full attention on the sensation wherever it appears on or within the body. By simply observing the rising and passing of the sensation and abstaining from thinking positively or negatively about said sensation, the trauma is supposedly healed forever.
Both of these factors are extremely important for Rewilders. The first, re-sensitization combined with equanimity of mind, grants a Rewilder much freedom. The obvious one is the freedom to enjoy long periods of subtle observation of both the internal and external natural world. A less obvious one is the ability to not only withstand extremes of temperature, wetness, and other climatic factors, but to actually enjoy the perception of these otherwise deviant, averse sensations. In this way, Vipassana opens the door to extreme rewilding, even living without a house, without any shelter whatsoever. Apparently even if one experiences the survival thresholds of extreme atmospheric conditions, a Vipassani can witness the situation as simply novel, pleasurable sensations even unto death. Yet another benefit of training for this equanimity is the lack of aversion towards civilization and the domesticated. This ability can prove vitally important to potential teachers and cultural co-creators who intend to share and expand their life’s work collaboratively with the next generation.
The second factor, healing from past traumas utilizing only sensation, allows a Rewilder to recover from the stress and insanity of civilization without the need for a trained counselor or even mentor or guide. In the worst case scenario, such counselors, mentors or guides may embody even worse complexes, egomania, and confusion over the reality of our current human evolutionary process, serving to only complicate one’s issues.
From my direct experience of intense healing during the 10-days and continuing, I vouch for this method[sup]7[/sup]; however, it’s not the only path, as some devout Vipassanis might tell you. Still, the teacher of this course, S. N. Goenka states in that same excerpt that “Any meditation which works with the body sensations and teaches us to remain equanimous with the body sensations is a meditation of liberation.”
I’m not sure then if Jon Young’s Wilderness Awareness teachings fall under this category because the sitter perceives the external natural living world. Still, as long as the imagination is not used, sensing the external world with equanimity may serve the same purposes. I can say that from my experience with Nature Awareness in the Regenerative Design and Nature Awareness program and with doing such awareness activities on my own, that I never felt such direct healing. With Vipassana, I found the nature within myself. I didn’t only think I was natural, but I actually felt my own natural rhythm in the sensations of my own breath and body, and tapped into a primal awareness of myself that was hitherto unknown to me.
Still… after the fifth day, my external Nature Awareness skills melded with my newly developed internal Vipassani Awareness, placing my felt-consciousness into a Uni-Verse-al context. What I mean is that both external and internal sensations aligned in cosmic synchronistic ways as if part of “One Song.” Furthermore, these alignments felt beneficial to my personal growth, for example the construction noises outside arose at precise moments to shoot down errant wandering thoughts that creeped into my meditation, which felt like my soul was watching the external world play the Area 51 arcade game with my thoughts as the terrorists and my bodily sensations as the kidnapped folks dressed in white, heh. Another example is that while resting in my cot, the wind blew the flap of the tent to caress my forehead whenever my mind got started up and stuck in an old rut of agitated thought. Yet another was the insect sounds outside penetrating deeply into my body and performing operations that both released and soothed traumatic sensations.
In my experience (see more in-depth post on a more extreme experience, Swaying Initiation), Vipassana Meditation put me into my natural “baseline” state of awareness, and allowed me to feel the pain and joy of my current condition in the trauma of post-domestication. The practice invited my spirit to witness my own pain and raise up my mind into that of a true mentor, a nurturing father to myself, gently supporting my body to cry it all out in sensations and return to an upright pleasure. In the process, I felt healing in my body and mind and after each sit I feel fresher and more alert, more present with brighter eyes and a lifted spirit. I believe that by adding this practice to my toolbag and expanding upon it intentionally with equanimous external awareness, it will help me to ultimately rewild completely - full liberation from civilization, domestication - a rewilding enlightenment.
[sup]1[/sup] - wise elders in my family, deeply connected rich relationships within a village or tribe in a holy place at the center of my universe, with a heritage of connection to plants and beings both material and immaterial.
[sup]2[/sup] - both within myself and in my friends, family, and environment, all that I can sense.
[sup]3[/sup] - which may not even exist in a Vipassani’s perception, or wild animal’s, for that matter
[sup]4[/sup] - supposedly 2500 years after his death, when Vipassana would spread around the world - basically, now.
[sup]5[/sup] - Buddha apparently sensitized his body so finely that he could tell the speed of the rising and passing of sub-atomic particles, which he dubbed Kalapas
[sup]6[/sup] - for example: intense pain, coldness, hotness, or naked public speaking
[sup]7[/sup] - I witnessed a first minor and then intense bubbling and tingling sensation upon my chest lasting almost 45 minutes, and the arising and passing of thoughts of loss and emotions of heavy despair (particularly a very trying time being in Brooklyn in New York City, amongst others concerning civ and lack of the wisdom of elders, etc.). Although the meditation ended before the sensation entirely passed, I literally felt as if a great weight had lifted off my chest, and experience relief, a deep joy and feeling of lightness. These healings continue each time I meditate, which makes sense considering the depth of my despair & depression.