In her book, "Shapeshifting Into Higher Consciousness," author Llyn Roberts talks about the Shuar, a little-known tribe deep in the Amazon. She describes how the men walk without looking at their feet, yet they progress silently almost as part of the earth itself. Now, the Amazon is a dense rainforest. It's so dense that when Teddy Roosevelt was making an exploratory float on the River of Doubt that runs through it, the party faced starvation. The men were unable to walk with enough silence to hunt. In a land as abundant with game as the Amazon Rainforest, simply passing through the undergrowth was a noisy endeavor and the game all fled.
But it isn't that way for the Shuar.
Her point is that the Shuar hunters walk in inherent relation to the Earth. They "feel" where to place their feet. The implication is that the body knows how to act in relation to the Earth, always. Why then, did Roosevelt's party have such problems on their 9-month long, hellish adventure (from which Roosevelt never fully recovered)? The implication is that his party, regardless of their legendary hunting prowess in other parts of the world, did not have a relationship with the Earth - certainly not in the Amazon.
How is it for us? Do we have a relationship with the Earth? Can we see the small signs She provides and interpret them correctly? Do we "hear" our bodies' subtle voices telling us where to "place our feet" - both physically and metaphorically? And if we hear them, do we trust them?
It's no revelation that the culture in which most of us live almost requires insulation from the physical world in order to survive. For example, I need the internet to work efficiently. But here on Eagle Mountain where I live, the internet signal is found about 1/3 mile from my camp. Once there, I'm outdoors. I place my computer on one chair, and sit on another. I work from there, under the sky. This is no problem, in and of itself. But on days when it's 97 degrees, or the flies are out, or the ants, there is simply no way to be work efficiently. I can't be as effective if I'm swatting at "face flies" every few seconds as I'm sweating onto my keyboard. I simply can't put in the hours needed to get certain jobs done under those conditions. I need an office - preferably with AC. A car to use to get there that drives on roads laid over silenced earth. I need a smartphone, and access to a printer. All these neat things insulate us just that much more from the subtle voices of the Earth; those that can be found in a slight breeze, a broken branch, fresh scat from a wild animal, a faint scent. Or face flies.
So, what can we do in a situation where so much "insulation" is required in order to pay rent, a mortgage, or a car payment? What do we do when we don't know how to relieve cold symptoms with indigenous plants, let alone address their underlying causes - stress, disconnection, and a poor diet? How can we be expected to have a relationship with the Earth, when our physical realities have become so disconnected from Her?
The answer is simple, but not very satisfying. In short, it takes conscious effort.
At the minimum, to overcome the level of disconnection to which we're exposed we must have a consciousness practice. That takes two forms. First, we need to identify and minimize those things that distract us. That can mean fewer minutes on the smartphone. Less television time. A better diet, so we have increased powers of concentration. Decreasing distraction is critical to our powers of discernment.
Concurrently, we need to meditate, daily. Any meditation will help. Adding a spiritual practice can also be good, as long as it increases our ability to "feel." Because, make no mistake, numbing our inner voice and our ability to feel the subtle messages the Earth and our bodies constantly send is mandatory to fully engage the electronic world that we've created. It actually requires insanity. If you doubt this, take a look at our impact - collective humanity's monstrous footprint - on the planet. We're all a part of it, and it's killing us. Worst yet, we do it without consideration. In other words, we do it unconsciously.
A few minutes in the morning to start our days in conscious ways can pay big dividends. I've found it very helpful to end the day in a similar fashion with a gratitude practice. Fools Crow, the legendary medicine man of the Lakota (1890-1989), also found it necessary to address his Helpers at midday as well. Whatever we need to do, whatever efforts we need to make to both remember our connection as well as embody it, will pay dividends in terms of our personal ability and the collective reality.
Here at Mountain Rising, we seek to embody the practice of returning to the Earth. For me, it's an unfolding way of being. As I mentioned before, in order to engage I need things like the internet and a place to work just like pretty much everyone else. Yet, I find that the moments I have taken out here in ceremony and in my daily practices are beginning to pay dividends. My talents are certainly increasing. I can feel things I was unable to interpret before. I've a ways to go, but I want nothing more than to "walk like a Shuar." And then show others how to do it, too.
As more of us (re)learn our Connection to All That Is, to all we see, to all we experience from the Natural World; as we (re)learn how to hear those voices, I foresee a great healing for not only the Earth Goddess Gaia, but for humanity and the rest of our animal brothers and sisters. I see the waters being made well again, and soil becoming viable and joyous as it was 500 years ago here on this continent. The sky will cease His anger, and the Seasons return in more traditional ways.
May we all take a moment to look within ourselves and see what is most obviously preventing us from doing this, and cease that thing, just for today. At the same time, may we implement consistent, positive actions in order to increase our awareness.
This is our work: the work of relearning how to walk like a Shuar.
(art by Rafael Menesclou)