By the time I turned 22 I was living a lifestyle that seemed completely unrealistic to everyone I knew. I had abandoned my suburban roots and struck out on my own. I was now living deep in the forest of southern Oregon. I had stripped my life down to the absolute minimum so I could start over from scratch. I was now living without electricity or a telephone, and my only source of running water was the mountain creek that flowed past my tent.
This was the beginning of a self-discovery quest that would forever change my perception of life. I had never felt confident in the relevancy of my education, or the answers supplied to my deepest questions. I was determined to tap into that vast source of wisdom that has always existed outside the proverbial box. I would become a graduate student in the school of life in hopes of discovering my unique place in this marvelous creation.
The sound of solitude
I realize that solitude makes some people uneasy. I am not one of those people. I knew that getting in touch with my very core would require being alone with myself, and frankly, I was happy to be away from the hum of humanity. As things turned out, I would spend the next three and a half years living alone in a world of huge trees, beautiful nature sounds, and a variety of furry creatures large and small.
I can still remember how the coyotes would run past my tent in the middle of the night. They would howl and carry on all around me. It was like something out of a nature film. I would lay there and think how rare that kind of experience was in this day and age. It was an opportunity I will always be incredibly grateful for.
The school of life is an eye opener
One of the first things I realized was how much we all take for granted. We grow up thinking that food comes from the refrigerator, water comes from the faucet, and electricity comes from those outlets on the wall. It’s really easy to take these conveniences for granted when we have always had them and have never had to think about what’s involved in providing them. This realization moved me to think deeply about other areas of life that had not received the appreciation they deserved. It was humbling.
To make sure I was receptive to this new learning experience, I consciously practiced letting go of all my preconceived ideas, concepts, and conclusions about life. I had stripped my material world to the bone, now it was time to do the same thing with my intellectual and emotional world. It was time to unlearn everything I thought I knew so that I could fully connect with the wisdom that was all around me. To the greatest degree possible, I wanted to start the learning process over. I wanted to completely immerse myself in this incredible living experience.
Two kinds of wisdom
Soon, it became very clear that there are two, distinct kinds of wisdom in this world. In the man made world we rely heavily on analytical wisdom. But in the natural world analytical wisdom is nonexistent. There is only genetic wisdom, what we like to call instinct. This is the wisdom that I believe resides within our genetic blueprint. Interestingly, in the absence of analytical wisdom there are no imbalances. Everything in the natural world is in perfect balance without having to think about it. There is nothing to figure out, there is only harmony.
Every creature of the forest knows its place in creation. They don’t go searching to find themselves. They don’t wonder how they fit into the world around them. They are not disappointed because they want to be something else. They are innately at peace with their place in creation, so they are free to live their lives fully immersed in the moment. For me, seeing this truth in action was life changing. The whole arrangement was perfect, and it was beautiful!
Our analytical mind, curse or blessing?
With the realization that balance and harmony thrive in the absence of analytical wisdom I was moved to examine the real value of analytical thinking. Was it a blessing or a curse? Did it serve us or enslave us? The answer I discovered was – it really depends on how we use it. Our unique ability to solve complex problems, to visualize, to formulate, and to contemplate deeply, comes from our analytical mind. In their proper place, these abilities add a whole new dimension to our genetic wisdom.
On the other hand, too much emphasis on the analytical side can cause us to completely lose touch with our intuitive side. Remember, that is the side that allows us to be in balance with the natural creation. Clearly, mankind as a species has come to be overly reliant on the thinking process. We have lost our balance and that has put us out of touch with our real source of meaning and purpose. By allowing our analytical minds to subdue our genetic wisdom, we have forfeited our sense of belonging. We have lost our place in the natural world.
Finding the wisdom link
These realizations were the beginning of my education in the school of life. As time passed I learned how to think in ways that complemented my intuitive, genetic wisdom. I became convinced that the wisdom from outside the man made, analytical box was exceedingly more relevant to a happy and satisfying life than anything taught through conventional channels.
It became my personal mission to understand the essence of a balanced, meaningful life. I discovered the existence of a neutral “common ground” that is supported by both genetic and analytical wisdom. It is a bridge of sorts that would provide me with a pathway leading to a new concept of balance and harmony. This “wisdom link” would allow me to use analytical problem solving skills in a way that fortified my intuitive, creative nature.
Bridging the gap
The creatures of the forest have something more than instinct. They also have skills. They actually find ways to work around challenging circumstances so they can continue to meet their most basic needs. What we call adaptation is actually the development of necessary life skills. And these skills never disrupt their sense of harmony with the creation.
As thinking beings, we also develop skills. Nature teaches us that, done properly, we can also develop certain life skills that will harmonize with and support our sense of balance in the natural world. I call these skills Advanced Life Skills and they are now the main focus of my work.
These skills are not the product of higher education or analytical thinking. They are the lessons I learned from an experience that forever altered my perception of this world and my place in it. They represent the essence of the wisdom I gained from an extended journey outside the box.
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