Wild Belonging: The Call to Return Home

Recently I have been thinking about Rewilding; the apparent buzz word for 2019, and Belonging. What do we mean when we talk about Rewilding and why is there seemingly such a longing for it across the board, from corporate executives to yoga hippies. I think it might have to do with our innate human need to feel belonging

In her research, Brene Brown found that connection, love and belonging are the three irreducible needs of humans. They define us. Yet in this modern world, it seems many of us are struggling to feel a sense of belonging- to any natural place, to a community of people, or to our true selves.

 The modern world is a globalised one and the modern condition is a transient one. Travel is a growing consumer trend, it’s cool to live and work overseas, and there might be genuinely great career and life opportunities. For others it’s economically impossible to stay in the small rural town where they were born, and moving off the land to the big city is the only option. Either way, one of the defining features of the modern world is our severance from the land, the rupturing of the age-old relationship between people and place. Prior to the last few hundred years of the Industrial Growth Society, people were custodians of the land. They knew it intimately, felt it like kin, it ran in their blood. The land was part of them. For most of us, this is no more, and our ancestral traditions connected to the land are disappearing too.

Disintegration of community comes hand in hand with disconnection from place. As people move around, they disconnect from each other. Technology helps, but doesn’t take the place of face to face, skin to skin human interaction. Even if you have stayed relatively geographically still, the pace of modern living, increasing work demands and online platforms for connection seem to pull us away from face to face time with our loved ones. Dinners with friends somehow need to be booked a month in advance in our busy schedules. Dating apps reduce relationships to another superficial form of consumption. Technologies that were developed to facilitate connection seem to only increase the ‘loneliness epidemic’.

In such a culture, losing traditional anchors of support in people and place, we also lose connection to ourselves. Educated to conform, we try to fit in with the expectations of peers, colleagues and the culture at large. We forget or disregard who we really are and try to become who we think we should be.  

But the catch with all of this is, we are left feeling rather empty… Among the other crises we face, we are a culture in spiritual crisis.

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I recently went to a talk by activist, teacher, author and farmer Stephen Jenkinson, which began with him eloquently defining the word belonging. I learnt that in the English language the prefix be is an intensifier. So, the word belonging means an intense longing. The verb to long is based on the Old English gelang, meaning ‘together with’.  So, revisiting the opening premise from Brene Brown for a moment; at the heart of the human condition there is an intense longing that has something to do with being ‘together with’.

I think this is where Rewilding comes in. Rewilding seems to imply a homecoming to our original wild selves and communities. It speaks of a wild belonging. It refers to both the wild outside of us in the landscape and the wild inside of us, our own raw, uncensored, uniqueness and inner nature. In our modern world we’ve become estranged from both. So, Rewilding work, however that might look for you, is about remembering the feeling of our belonging in and to the world. It is a returning home to our wild belonging; to the land, all it’s creatures, our communities and ourselves.

 In her book If Women Rose Rooted, Sharon Blackie says “Our Return then, requires a place in which we can be grounded, rooted; a place in which our particular gifts and wisdom can flourish; a place in which we can fully embrace the natural world around us, and our part in it. A place from which we can speak.”

 This is what I’m on a quest to both find in and for myself and offer for others; a place where we can feel safe to fully embrace ourselves and the natural world. A place where we can speak our truth and find our own wild song. A place where we can reconnect with our own inner wildness and the wildness outside of us. I’m on an ever-unfolding journey towards that place and constantly working on showing up there myself. I hope to meet you there, on that path.

Finding my own wild belonging by sleeping out on the land in natural shelters at  Nature Philosophy

Finding my own wild belonging by sleeping out on the land in natural shelters at Nature Philosophy