Monday, March 26, 2007

The Heavier Side of Survival and Awareness

We all have reasons that bring us to the study of survival, tracking, and awareness. Some folks are drawn to the tactical aspect of each area of study. Some love the outdoors and use the skills to further immerse themselves in to the temples of creation. Other folks see these skills as a means of becoming connected, self confident, or more independent. The reasons, and combinations of reasons are infinite. The results, however, tend to follow a trend. This trend begins with an increase in over all awareness of ones surroundings. Suddenly, there is no such thing as a "vacant lot". Birds that once went unnoticed convey valuable survival and awareness information through their song, location, or their behaviors. We look at plants with an eye toward food, medicine, fire making, or cordage. The pattern of tree branches aides us in direction finding and where to find an optimum location of dry shelter locations, or fire making materials, or water sources. The landscape becomes an extension of self. For the novice who initially finds themselves "plugging in" to the natural world, regardless of initial intent, any disturbance wrought upon the landscape by those less aware tends to have a traumatic effect. The student of survival, trying to test out their debris shelter for the first time, finds themselves annoyed, even threatened by the par tiers who pull up in their off road vehicles to drink and listen to loud music...even if they used to do the same thing. A practitioner of edible and medicinal plant study might get upset when they find that the field they forage in has recently been sprayed by pesticides. Beyond this, there is the grief one experiences when loved ones can not connect the way you do when you are out side. After spending years observing the subtle changes in the seasons, the patterns of growth, and the movement of wild life, it would take hours for you to explain what you see and notice in an instant to someone who has not patterned on the natural environment and how energy flows through that environment.

Awareness leads to empathy, and empathy often leads to grief. Like any period of growth, a certain degree of discomfort, even pain, is to be expected. What should not be expected is a prolonged wallowing in this "tracker grief". Some have likened this bout with alienation or hyper sensitivity as a wall. This is a good description in that it feels like you are smacking in to a disorienting wall of pain. But it is more accurately a semi-permeable veil or mist. It is something we can get lost in but, with the right supports, we not only find ourselves on the other side, we find ourselves stronger and wiser for the wear.

This is important. We all know that a positive mental attitude is the number one determining factor in a survival situation. Growing through the primary wall of grief and learning to embrace reoccurring trauma and pain as teachers and opportunities helps strengthen that primary directive. A degree of peace and strength is achieved when we are confronted with the choice as to whether we are to be victims of circumstance, or heroes of our own journey .

The trick then, is to not shut off your empathy, as that is the key to razor sharp awareness, but to not "own" the destruction, alienation, or grief as your own. Simply acknowledge the situation and ask yourself where the lessons and opportunities reside in the event or situation. I use the word "simply" sarcastically. It takes the initial overwhelming experience and artful mentoring by a supportive community to be able to handle reoccurring bouts of grief around the same incident, or new events. This is done through recognizing grief through symptoms, linking what is perceived to the actual event that caused the grief, and finding an appropriate venue to release the grief or turn it's energy in to something therapeutic or productive.

For this, we look to native cultural tools and modern scientific research. They are startlingly supportive of each other with regards to stress, distress, and recovery. Ceremony, quest experiences, and the heroes journey are a small part of the repertoire of recovery techniques. The nuts and bolts of these skills are too extensive to be covered in this one entry, and are best handled through our more esoteric courses. It should be noted that the broader perspective regarding this "cycle" is that it is a cycle of profound learning rather than a crippling one time experience if viewed through the kaleidoscope of a healthy culture. For more information, instructional videos, details about our staff, school, or courses, please visit