December 26, 2013

I took this photo while out hiking in Arizona this summer. There are a few things this has me thinking about.

“We use the word ‘wilderness’ but perhaps we mean wildness. Isn’t that why I’ve come here, to seek the wildness in myself and, in so doing, come on the wildness everywhere, because after all, I’m part of nature too.”

Gretel Ehrlich, Sisters of the Earth

Inner Wilderness

Wilderness – it exists inside each of us and out in the world around us. My inner world has always been very sensitive, but also fiercely wanting to protect any beings that are harmed. I’m idealistic, sensitive, and optimistic. I’m now very grateful for being sensitive and know that my feelings are here to guide me. There was a time, though, when I thought my ideas were too much. Too wild, too outrageous. My desires felt too much for this world. To desire a world of peace and happiness, many pessimists say ‘don’t waste you’re time’ you’re silly to even think it’s possible. I tried to conform and keep quiet when I really wanted to express myself. Or, I felt my emotional reactions to the world around me were too much so I repressed them. I disliked when I’d hear people say I was ‘so sensitive.’ However, emotions and feelings are meant to be felt. Each of us has our own inner nature – our own wilderness.

Protecting Our Inner Wilderness.

The Forest Service’s sign in the photo above is incredibly effective. It names what is there – “wilderness”. And, then states how they want the public to treat the wilderness – with respect. “Wilderness – Respect It.” And, there’s a metaphor here. How do we define ourselves, do we clearly express who we are and what we want to others?

In order for me to learn how to protect my inner wilderness, I had to set boundaries internally. For example, as I mentioned above, I was overly concerned what others thought of me. This translated into self-critical internal dialogue. So, I had to set boundaries to re-focus on my internal sense of self. I set a boundary to keep my thoughts focused on the helpful and productive track. This means setting a boundary for critical thoughts and not allowing them to grab my attention. By simply noticing those thoughts, then letting go of them, and returning to more productive and constructive thoughts, I’ve created an internal boundary to create a more positive inner environment.

We also have to set external boundaries. In my example, I had to let go of attachment to everyone approving and liking me. If someone wants to spend time together, but we have important tasks to complete that we want to devote our time to, we have to decide which choice to make based on what we need. Sometimes, we tend to say yes to others before we say yes to ourselves and we end up overgiving and feeling depleted.

Are we using clearly marked signs so that others can interact with us in a productive way? We all need boundaries. Boundaries are necessary in all of our relationships so we can feel happy and comfortable. Each person’s boundaries are unique. Reflecting on your own boundaries can be helpful. What do you ‘say yes’ to in your life and what do you ‘say no’ to? What are the boundaries you hold for yourself?

Are you protecting your wilderness? Let others know what you need in order to flourish. If they don’t respect your requests you have to decide how to move forward. Giving your time and energy to others is a gift, it should be mutually beneficial and nourishing. If you feel depleted, it’s time to erect some boundaries so your wilderness can flourish.


Valuing Wilderness in Others

A huge part of enjoying wilderness outside of us is just listening. For example, silently listening to the wind in the trees and the sounds of birds while out hiking always fills me with joy. So, what is this lesson here for personal relationships – friends, family, significant others, colleagues, etc.

Are we allowing others the freedom to be who they are? I want people to feel free to be themselves around me. For me personally, I’m working on giving people the space to be who they are without me trying to control them. As someone who is always wanting to improve things, I have a tendency to give unsolicited advice to friends, family members, etc. I’ve learned that people feel more loved if I wait until those moments that they ask for my advice or help. This sounds simple and common sense. But, it makes a huge difference.

Wilderness – protect it in yourself and in others and your relationships will flourish. Mindfulness techniques like yoga and meditation teach us to look inward. Inside of ourselves, there is a reservoir of calm and love. Taking time to quiet down and connect helps to cultivate and protect our inner wilderness and maintain our wildness.