Beside a churning blue ocean, I sit upon an old wooden bench, the carved bones of some ancient tree, with my bare feet lightly touching the sandy earth. A turquoise dome of heaven arches widely above as I listen to the low rumble of waves, a sonorous chant that rises and falls in volume as the water surges in and retreats again, a thunderous echo of the breath in my own chest.
Ever shifting, the sea this afternoon is a living, liquid tapestry of turquoise, green and steel blue. My eye traces frothy ribbons on the surface, interwoven with dark threads of bull kelp and the occasional bobbing pneumatocyst, the air-filled bladders that suspend brown seaweed and which, from a distance, can look deceptively like sea otter or seal heads—or Selkies, perhaps, those mythical creatures who live as seals but shed their skin to become human on land. Usually there is an otter or two just offshore, floating on its back as it rides the ocean swells, but I see no marine mammals today. No Selkies, either.
Inhaling the briny air, I zip my blue windbreaker jacket up to my chin, trying to ward off cool hands that push and pummel, and press the wide-brimmed suede hat just a bit more snugly onto my head. The day is warm enough for early April, but I’m wishing I had brought a linen scarf to wrap around my neck to protect it.
I turn my gaze from the foaming waves and with a sweeping glance look toward the hills. The earth around me is blanketed mostly by tufted grasses and fleshy “iceplant” (Carpobrotus edulis), a non-native, succulent perennial with flower buttons of gentle pink or pale lemon. This verdant quilt is further accented by bright blooms of the yellow wood sorrel still holding rein over the spring landscape, the flowers dancing and waving in the marine breeze, along with a few orange California poppies, the hardiest of which bloom nearly year round here.
A stone’s throw distant from my perch, a small cottontail nibbles at the tender fresh greenery, his whiskers twitching and ears alert for danger, attuned to my slightest movement or predators circling high overhead. Twenty yards beyond, a shiny black cormorant perches on a large grey boulder in the rolling surf, sunning itself in the morning air, occasionally stretching his wings but not taking flight.
The low tide has exposed a tangled wealth of seaweeds and Pacific blue mussels, and I am mildly tempted to scramble down the slope and go foraging amid the tide pools as I am want to do, picking strands of sea lettuce, alaria and purple laver, or the slender stalks of eel (surf) grass, draped like a mermaid’s long, vivid green hair over the rocks. All of these are edible raw, and nibbling their slightly rubbery texture that tastes of salt and Poseidon’s realms, I know they are high in protein and rich in minerals (reportedly, all 56 elements essential for human health, including important trace minerals, are found in sea vegetables).
Instead, I simply sit, content to watch and listen to the waves even as the wind continues to buffet me. Foraging can wait. Mostly I am here to escape my little house, to extract my soul from the gridline of streets, fences, and power lines that sometimes seem to bind me like a net. My noisy neighbor, a mentally unhinged woman who alternately builds or deconstructs an ongoing project in her front junk yard, has been outside constantly in the past days, her scratchy voice and endless racket an intrusive presence in my otherwise quiet hours.
The past two years have witnessed me sinking roots more deeply into the life of a writer and reluctant mystic, into a general quietude that nourishes and upholds my life (though still longing for a sense of meaningful human community). Yet like an unexpected silver fog rolling in, or an unkindness of ebony ravens settling loudly in the great tree outside, days suddenly come upon me when I feel imprisoned by the mundane routine I’ve fashioned, when the domestic has held sway for too long and creativity feels elusive. Almost predictably the scale tips, and I must get out and feed my wild soul, realizing that even my own language has become tamed and docile.
As if I am literally starving or parched with thirst (and equally irritable as such states render us), my spirit needs the nourishment of wildness in Nature, a tangible sense of the larger story and mythos unfolding, something more than merely the gentle flowers in the garden, the grandmother Monterey Cypress, or familiar earth beneath bare soles—much as I strive daily to appreciate and acknowledge these with gratitude. I itch to wander into the proverbial dark wood, to smell and sense the deep mystery of it, to find my interior weather patterns again rather than the comfort of the hearthfire. I need to rediscover the animal of myself—feel teeth lengthening, fingers extending into shiny talons or thick claws, my skin turning to mottled fur or covered in glossy feathers—delighting in a renewed suppleness in the spine and a feral, feline energy in my unhurried gait.
So I’ll grab a favorite hat and coat, perhaps the small rucksack into which I stash a few essentials including my old fountain pen and small notebook, a pouch of sacred tobacco and white sage, and then I’m out the door, looking for the horizon—or at the very least, a wild vista where the breath unfastens and soul takes flight once more when the wind whispers my secret name.
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How intimately I know this dichotomy between domestic and wild. How long it has been the balancing act in my own soul, and how many words have I penned about it—the better part of a book, actually, with another on the way.
As a healer who has spent the past decade working with and writing about the soul, I have become increasingly aware of the need for a certain amount of natural wildness in our overly domesticated lives, not only to help us wake from the numbing technotrance but as an antidote for the toxic matrix in which most of us reside. Dirty air, rapidly increasing electromagnetic pollution, chlorinated water (that now also contains traces of pharmaceutical drugs dumped and flushed away), foods tainted with pesticides (or, worse, genetically modified), the challenges to our health continue to mount. And while foods that are “organically grown” have been shown to contain higher nutrients than conventional ones, they have significantly less nutrients than their wilder cousins because humans have selectively bred them for sweetness and desirable characteristics rather than bitterness.
Wildness feeds something essential.
Today, I simply had to get out, to escape the confines of my own quiet life; I am compelled to feel rough earth beneath my feet and nibble some unruly, uncultivated weeds. Though I could have roamed an oak-clad hillside in the valley, or driven south into the delirious beauty of Big Sur (still relatively uncrowded at this time of year), I didn’t want to spend time in an automobile. This tranquil cove, tucked away from the tourists of Carmel, is only minutes from my cottage and offers convenient expansion from my familiar containment when I feel the wild summons.
Watching sapphire waves while riding the tides of my breath, here I am reminded that everything is connected, that all are part of the whole. Visually and physically, I see and sense the larger story in a way that simply isn’t possible within the shelter of familiar walls, roof, and windows. I needed to touch and breathe that world beyond this one, what others have called the mundus imaginalis: the realm of archetypes, magic, and cosmic blueprints.
In modern society, we are no longer embedded in a meaningful or sacred world. Community is fragmented at best, and our connections with nature and soul are largely broken—despite that we are always steeped in a suprasomatic sentience that permeates every cell of our being. How vital to our health and well-being that, even with small gestures or stitches, we find ways to resew the connection with something larger—especially the archetypes of soul, along with the living forces of goodness and vitality that weave the world together.
Embracing the Mystery, I call it, and tending the wild soul.
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As I sit beside the restless waves, lost in my thoughts, contemplating the blue line of the horizon and its hidden depths, I become increasingly aware not only of gentle tingling streaming up my legs from the earth through bare soles, but the living, green field of fleshy iceplant that surrounds me. I can feel it, like a soft, nearly audible hum in my own body.
These past months, I’ve spent more and more time in a state of heightened awareness, hovering at the threshold between worlds, touching “the Dreamtime of the plants.” I am very conscious of my body’s bioelectrical field and its interaction and resonance with the various energetic fields that surround, particularly those of plants and trees—a living web of energy and intelligence. At moments, the lightness and expansion I feel is almost dizzying, as if my body is constructed simply of air and filaments of light. When I venture into locations generally considered as wild or even semi-wild, this sensation increases tenfold, tipping me into a highly altered and receptive state not unlike being “high.”
Most days for me, the veil between realms is gossamer thin. “Shaman-mode,” I’ve come to call this expanded state of awareness, for lack of a better descriptor. And while it has enveloped me for much of the past year, such heightened sensitivity also makes inhabiting the modern world more than a bit challenging—not the least of which because the noise, energy and chaos is simply overwhelming.
Despite gifts of clairaudience and clairsentience (intuitive abilities that I believe we all latently possess but tend to discredit rather than trust), a profound connection to the ‘more-than-human world’, and a cultivated quietude and mindfulness in my daily life that facilitates receptivity, a few other key elements have conspired with these factors to facilitate this ongoing shift of awareness.
I am convinced that this shaman-mode has to do, in no small part, with my brain and gut connection: the fact that I have essentially rewired and detoxified my brain, shifting it from a limbic “fight or flight” activation into a mode where the neocortex is dominant—a decidedly calm and nearly blissful state. And the heightened brain plasticity and re-circuiting has been almost entirely due to supporting the microbiome, those beneficial microbes (probiotics) in our intestinal tract, the seemingly foreign cells that outnumber our human cells by ten to one. Primarily I’ve accomplished this by eating a largely green diet, predominant in cruciferous vegetables and, most notably, dandelions—which in addition to their myriad healing benefits are extraordinarily high in inulin fibers (prebiotics) that feed the gut microbes. (The story of how I first stumbled across the healing power of these so-called “weeds” was related in a Soul Artist Journal post, “A Bunch of Dandelions: An Autumn Cleanse for Health” in 2015.)
Eliminating wheat, gluten, sugar, meat, coffee, and alcohol has also played a significant role in rebuilding the microbiome balance (along with shifting the blood’s chemistry to an alkaline pH), while also emphasizing antioxidants (green tea, blueberries, chaga, etc.), omega-3’s, phytonutrients, good fats (coconut oil, avocados), green smoothies, bee pollen, and additional probiotics in raw, fermented foods and my homemade kombucha (a fermented tea). Some occasionally foraged sea vegetables and wild weeds, too. I’ve further supported this dietary and brain evolution with occasional three-day fasts, which apart from detoxifying and spiritual benefits, effectively reset our mitochondria’s fuel supply from sugar (glucose) to stored fats in a process called ketosis.
[Note: for a more detailed yet easy exploration of the gut-brain connection, read Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect your Brain for Life, by David Perimutter, bestselling author of Grain Brain.]
In tandem with my “healer’s diet,” I’ve done multiple sessions with a crazy shaman/medical Qigong master to help clear out my energetic field; ridding it of the old thought forms, trapped emotions, and limiting beliefs that keep most of us shackled until we find a way to free ourselves of past karma. Simultaneously, I have rebuilt the integrity of my bioelectrical field—which had become extremely compromised—through the use of flower essences and pure essential oils, breathwork, “earthing” (thirty minutes of barefoot time on the earth), and a daily Qigong practice to build chi/prana (“life-force”).
Beyond the physical body, what are feeding our minds and spirit? I’ve long abstained from television, radio, newspapers and mainstream media, and other than briefly logging on to Facebook to share my posts once they are written, I have only a minimal connection with “feeds” on social media. Breaking the modern trance has myriad healing benefits, I assure you, but it holds value simply for distancing oneself from the vitriol and angst that seems overflowing in these challenging times. And when we’re entranced (as most of us are), it is very difficult to sense the Larger Story that is actually unfolding, or how it colludes with Nature in an attempt to awaken us.
Last, but not least in the factors contributing to this shaman-mode, my deepening apprenticeship with sacred plant medicines and Master Plants has launched me into realms of healing, awareness, and initiation hitherto inconceivable.
From my vantage point now, I can see how all these elements have combined to create a perfect storm of transformation and initiation, a mythic “Underworld journey” in its own right. In a process of about eight months, I went from crisis mode of being direly ill—disabled, chronic fatigue, electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), an energy field full of holes and my body’s electrical system short-circuiting—to radiant, supreme health with glowing skin and a radical expansion of awareness; it’s the sort of wellness I’ve not experienced since more than a decade ago, when I adhered to a 100% raw and living foods diet for nearly two years (which was its own profoundly healing adventure).
The more I study diet and the latest findings on brain functioning, it is clear that our very biochemistry has changed to our detriment—largely due to the industrialized, modern diet and its acidifying, inflammatory effects. Nearly everyone is stuck in the wiring of the early, reptilian brain and its “fight or flight” mode, a condition fueled and made worse by our high-stress lifestyle and addiction to stimulants like caffeine and refined sugar (as well as, arguably, refined carbohydrates).
My own experience in the past year, moving ever more fully into sustained, expanded states of reality, underscores what I have increasingly come to understand: for real spiritual or soulful transformation, we must attend to our health, and such wellness, in turn, begins on the energetic, microbial, and cellular level. The old adage is true: we are what we eat. And as a healer I would add that if we truly wish to thrive, we must also repair and sustain the integrity of the human electrical field—no small feat given electromagnetic pollution, our insulated, disconnection from earth, and even our general diet.
Healing is inseparable from our deepest soul work.
“Full-spectrum healing” is how I think of this expanded approach that weds body and soul. And if I needed confirmation on my view, two weeks ago I read One Spirit Medicine: Ancient Ways to Ultimate Wellness, by Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D., in which he outlines a dietary program to facilitate higher, spiritual awareness—including the natural production of DMT (dimethyltriptamine), the so-called “spirit molecule” by the pineal gland—through rebuilding the gut-brain connection. It is a diet plan essentially identical to the one that I was intuitively guided to follow these past months. Skimming through the book’s pages, I found myself nodding in agreement, slightly stunned at the similarities and explanations, thinking, yes, that’s exactly what happens as we shift the microbiome and attend to healing the energy field.
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Seated on the familiar wooden bench and blessing the bones of that felled tree, I clearly sense and feel the collective, living field of the iceplants and their flowers around me. Indeed it is triggering one of my own shifts wherein the sensory gating channels open even wider than they normally are, and shaman-mode is coming on strongly. Awareness expands again like a gentle shockwave moving through space; my energy field feels about ten feet wide, at which point it dissipates in the sea of energy around me, indistinguishable from every other thing.
I feel slightly dizzy or lightheaded—light-bodied, perhaps—nearly diaphanous, which is now a familiar state. Letting my gaze rest softly upon the nearby blooms, some pale yellow satin and others pink, I reach out for a moment to touch them with my heart’s field, acknowledging their shimmering radiance.
And then, suddenly, I hear it: they are singing. A high, wordless frequency that is literally a joyful hymn to Creation, the resonance of which instantly unleashes a sparkling cascade of joy and silent wonder throughout my being.
Friend, how does one describe what cannot be commonly heard, what might be technically described as an ultrasonic frequency, and the sublime beauty of something that perhaps we can only hear with the soul…?
The study of biophotons reveals that the core of everything, even our DNA, is light and sound. And because all things in material existence have a molecular structure that vibrates, a resonance can be measured and thus, in a sense, heard. Sound manifests when objects or energy waves contact each other; two pulsing vibrations encountering each other generate a particular frequency. When vibrations have a confluence that joins and rides the same wave, the sound is harmonious.
The emissions of biophotons in “coherence” (the ability to remain together and not break apart, and also the ability to affect that which it comes in contact with), as found in nature, causes a harmonic sound. Our own cells (as with everything else in the cosmos) are interacting through a variety of patterns and wavelengths, both in the electromagnetic and acoustic realms, forming a “quantum hologram” in our DNA. (The role of DNA is far more than merely protein synthesis and storing genetic information; it centers largely on bioacoustic and bioelectric signaling.)
New Age as it may sound, on a quantum mechanics level, we are indeed frequencies of light, sound and energy. The more sensitive we become, the wider our sensory gating channels open, then the greater our capacity for detecting these same forces in other fields that interact with us at every moment of our lives. And that is the true realm of a shaman, I say, one who further understands that these frequencies themselves have sentience and thus can be communicated and aligned with.
This is not being in trance, but waking from it.
A tear wells up in the corner of my eye. I haven’t heard this sonic jubilation in far too long, not since I lived in the south of Spain amid silvery-green olive groves within sight of the azure Mediterranean. And prior to that, in England, when I woke one morning just before dawn, and gazing blearily out the window of the upstairs bathroom, realized—heard—the tall, bare trees along the lane singing in the rose-colored light. It was the first time I ever truly experienced the Song of the World, a crystalline moment that later formed the opening of the first chapter of The Bones and Breath.
In the days before I departed Andalucía to return to dwell in America, I wrote:
It may well be that the only things worth knowing are those that emerge from expanded awareness and deep listening. Embodied sensation unlocks the mystic brain and realms of higher vision, creativity, and transpersonal states of awareness. Along with imagination, these primal, non-verbal languages of the body and Nature are what animate and enliven the soul; Gaia communicates and dreams through our senses and ‘windows of knowing.’ Are we listening?
Sometimes, when I’m outside in the painted hour of dawn or dusk, standing quietly with senses cast wide to this ancient, arid landscape, it seems that every part of Creation is singing. Except us. We’re zooming along in cars, watching television, arguing loudly, browsing the Internet, totally disconnected from Nature and busily destroying the world in a mad cacophony of noise.
It is only moments of stillness and openness in the soul that we can hear the Song of the World, and yet so few of us ever know either silence or peace. My wish for humanity is that we might all know peace. If we could cultivate it within, perhaps we could move closer to spreading it among neighbors and nations and the ‘more-than-human’ world.”
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Surely life is made of these unexpected, shining moments of grace, leading us along a mysterious path through the tangled wood.
I came to the seashore simply to escape the familiar confines of a small cottage and nourish my wild soul; to touch the mythos and reconnect with a larger story. While I didn’t transform into a jaguar or raven, instead I once again encountered the Soul of the World and heard it singing—found myself woven once more into the unseen fabric of life, pulled back into the embrace of a cosmic love affair.
The deep joy that echoed in my soul at hearing that wordless song, it lingered as warm sunshine in my heart for the remainder of the day, like the memory of a lover’s kiss. Even now, a week or so later, as I reflect back, a smile curls up at the corner of my mouth and a glow spreads through my being. As with the most beautiful and timely sort of affirmation, or the most powerful stories, what is reaffirmed is that despite the difficulties we face, the world is really made of goodness, intelligence and beauty.
And I must tell you that through all my improbable experiences, I’ve come to believe one thing: like individual cells, we are part of a benevolent Universe, and if we are in right alignment and relationship, it endlessly conspires on our behalf, supporting its own creativity and grandeur.
Sacred reciprocity. So often I write about it. Perhaps the way you can start deepening that reciprocal relationship is decide to nourish your wild soul, then go outside (ideally someplace at least semi-wild) and take off your shoes. Breathe in and out, paying attention to and giving thanks for the beauty that enfolds you. Close your eyes. Unlock the heart. Listen and feel. Maybe, just for a glimmering moment, allow yourself to become something other than your human self and slip beyond familiar borders.
Follow your own star or wild soul, my friend, and in doing so, may you be led to mysterious places where you remember that you, too, are part of the Song of the World.
And may my own words, whether tame or hauntingly wild, emerge from the heart and echo nothing but praise for the splendor of Creation.