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Spiritual Aspects of Wilderness Survival
In my last 2 articles on Wilderness Survival I have discussed a few basic physical skills. It is now time to discuss briefly the spiritual aspects of wilderness survival. One’s spiritual connection to Earth and all the entities of Earth is the most valuable survival skill of all. Those who develop a deep and intimate relationship with nature find this connection to be a life changing experience.
The wild places contain all truth, knowledge and wisdom. Each of us came from the natural world. Each of us still possesses our connection with nature on some deep level because we are not separate from the rest of creation, we are a part of the whole and we are interdependent. In our modern world we have been removed and isolated from the natural world and have become dependent on modern technology. We have pretty much lost our ability to communicate with and understand our Earth Mother and the natural world. In order to flourish in a survival situation one must again get in touch with our spiritual connection to all of creation. Only then will you gain access to the truth, knowledge and wisdom the wild places contain.
My dad was a farmer. As a child I spent many days following my dad around and learning from him. He taught me how to help things grow strong and healthy and he had a deep love for the soil, the Earth. I’m not sure he thought of this in terms of a spiritual connection as he never used those words, but now as an adult I realize how profound his connection to the Earth was. When he set about to grow something it flourished. He treated the plants and trees with reverence, respect and love, always knew what they needed and they responded with an abundant crop.
When Dad had a sick plant or tree he would spend time with it. He would touch it, caress it, speak to it and look it over closely. He would go to that plant numerous times daily, he said to just check on it. After some time he would seem to know what to do, would do it, and the plant would recover and flourish.
Dad also loved wood. He would never throw away or waste a piece of wood. He kept piles of wood around his tool shed, leftover wood that he would collect from neighbor’s projects and other places where it was going to be wasted. Once I asked him why he kept all those scraps of wood and odd boards around. He said that he might need it sometime. In looking back, I realize that this was connected to his love for trees. A tree had given its life and he wasn’t willing to see any of it wasted. He would eventually need wood for something and just what he needed could be found in his wood piles.
There were times that I would want to create my own project. I would gather some materials but not have a clue how to begin or complete the project. I would go and ask my dad. His answer was always the same. He would tell me to go and sit down with my materials, handle them, look them over good and think of the project I wanted to complete, and the answer would come to me. He said that if you look at a thing long enough it will come to you how it needs done. He was right, before long I would start getting mental images of how the project should proceed. I could then complete my project without any problems being guided every step of the way by the project itself.
Dad has passed on to the spirit world now and I am forever grateful for all that he passed on to me. What he actually taught me was that everything on Earth is a living being to be cherished, loved, respected and helped along sometimes. He taught me respect for what is taken from nature, not to waste anything. He taught me to sit with and meditate upon things of nature to get answers. He taught me the “Caretaker” attitude, the attitude of taking from and giving to Earth and nature in such a way that we leave things better and healthier than we found them.
To flourish in a wilderness survival situation one must have the caretaker attitude and have the ability to communicate with the entities of Earth. To begin developing a spiritual connection with nature you have to go out into nature. Sit upon the Earth, feel the energy, smell the fragrance, listen to the symphony of sounds around you, see the subtle details, touch Earth with reverence and respect. Become aware that all around you lives.
Choose a plant that attracts you, one that you do not know. Sit with that plant, touch it, smell it, observe the tiny details of the stem, the veins in the leaves, sense the energy of it. Begin to ask is it edible? Is it medicinal? Is it good for cordage or other utilitarian purpose? Clear your mind of all intellectual thoughts and just let pictures, images and answers come naturally. Then check the answers you get with a field guide. You may be amazed by what you find! As you continue to practice this, your connection to Earth and nature will grow exponentially. You will learn the language and how to communicate with nature which will make your survival experience easy. You will learn to ask nature questions such as which way is the nearest good water source? Where is the nearest food source? Where is the nearest item I need for a tool? And your answers will come.
CAUTION: Never eat any plant until you have made certain that you have correctly identified it with a good and reputable field guide! Do not trust or use any field guide or plant guide that suggests when you are not sure of a plant to eat a small amount and see how you feel in a little while. This suggestion could cost you your life! Always verify with a field/plant guide before consuming anything. Make sure you know how to prepare wild foods as some need special preparation before you consume them. Also I strongly recommend that prior to sitting with a plant that you educate yourself on any poisonous plants in your area such as poison oak, poison ivy, etc.
This is just a small step in beginning to reconnect with Earth and the natural world and barely scratches the surface of the topic. As you progress you will learn more. As Dad always said, if you sit with it long enough it will come to you what needs done.
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