Since returning from a trip to Maui, my mind has been on the idea of wild. This is a result of the confluence of many things. A friend, student and colleague gave me a book entitled, “Women Who Run With the Wolves,” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D, all about the wild woman archetype in various traditional stories and in psychology. She gave this to me knowing that I: 1. have a special thing for wolves, 2. love psychology mixed with shamanism and ethnography, and 3. have been called a wild woman in my own right. I was reading it in Maui while experiencing all sorts of other “wild” things – like giant whales breaching out the water near our boat and huge sea turtles swimming alongside our stand-up paddle boards on a morning lesson. Being in the presence of the whales, in particular, triggered in me some depth of Self that I can’t even put into words – some reflection of wild mammal meeting wild mammal in an intuitive understanding like no other.
When I arrived home, the wild thoughts continued. It’s turned to Spring here in Chicago recently, and with that there have been tulips blooming and trees bursting into flowers. All around, if you pay attention and look closely, there is evidence of wild natural energy on the move coming forth. There are bulbs shooting their growths up through the earth, leaves going from tight bundles into spread open boughs overnight, and green manifesting all around. What makes these acts wild is the fact that they happen of their own accord – the tulip isn’t saying, “Well, you know, I guess I should start pushing upwards” but rather is driven by its very nature of being tulip to grow up out of the bulb through the soil.
Then this week in class, a new student I don’t know well, came up to me at the end of practice, gave me a fist bump, and said, “You are one wild yoga teacher….and I thank you for that. It makes all the difference.” I think the wild this student referred to was my passionate cuing, challenging inversions in the sequence broken down so everyone could try their craziness, and a commitment to the intent of the practice to radiate energy through every corner of the body. For me, these components are the refined practices of me being a teacher authentically presenting a sequence in a way that fascinates me – and therefore hopefully also fascinates my students. Wild was a new way to describe it.
I’ve spent the greater part of the past decade or so teaching, and the past 15 years practicing Forrest Yoga, dedicating myself to the practice of refining a connection to my authentic Self. And then bringing that authentic Self to not only my daily life, but to my teaching. I have used the words quiet, subdued, alternating with crazy and upbeat, emotional, sensitive, and empathic to describe myself, but it wasn’t until this week that I could actually feel the “wild” in me that others have seen.
When patterns repeat, pay attention. The pattern of this archetype of “wild” repeating in my vacation experiences, reading, observations of nature, and teaching has made me pause and consider the importance of being wild in our own way regularly. Sometimes, our culture or our schedule keeps us so tightly wound to being a certain way, that we forget or lose the time to be who we really are. And just like the bulb bursting through the soil, or the leaves unfurling, or the giant whale breaching out of the ocean – there is some Wild Thing in each of us – some nature that is beyond thinking and in the realm of our being.
In an endeavor to help you connect to your own energy of Wild Thing, here are some ways I’ve found to play with this primal energy. I just now have the word “wild” to help define it!
1. Make noise! Instead of being quiet, belt out a song, howl, screech, trill your tongue, play with your voice in the multitude of different ways it can make sound. Ana Forrest often has us howl or make coyote sounds to break the ice and connect to our more authentic primal selves when we hit physical blockages in practice. Check out this little wolf learning to howl! Practice along.
2. Get into nature – and keep your eyes open. Even in the city, wild energy is happening all around you. Watch things grow, bloom, die, disperse, and revive. Pay attention to the wind, sky, clouds, and cycles of sun and moon. Let these cycles of life show you a deep river of wild in glimpses all around you. This river can be both orderly and chaotic, grotesque and beautiful, striking and startling.
3. Spend time with four legged creatures. Whether you have animals at home, or friends do, or you volunteer at a shelter, being around animals reminds us of the carefree side of our Wild Thing nature. I look at my dog when she runs up and down the hallway with pure delight, and it reminds me to sun salutation up and down my mat with pure delight as an expression of my wildness. Look into my dog’s eyes and see what peace can also await in connection to the river of wild energy feeding you.
4. For 10 minutes a day, let down your filter. Say what’s on your mind, really, even if it’s only to an empty room or a voice memo on your phone. Write in a journal about things your intuition speaks to you, or about dreams you have had. Part of developing authenticity of Self and exploring your wild side is knowing what is you when all else falls away and what is a role you are playing in your life. We all have both!
Looking back on my life, I don’t remember the teachers who were perfect or extraordinarily smart in some way. I remember my teachers who were a bit crazy and wild – the ones who were themselves in the classroom, and, as a result, inspired me to be myself. My math teacher who wore a cowboy hat and boots (in suburban Chicago!) and told me, “Who cares if you are the only girl in this math class!” My chemistry teacher who let us play with unbelievable experiments that no other teacher would have allowed, and laughed when we melted a hole in the lab table with high molar sulfuric acid and asked what the chemical reaction of that was. My debate coach who played in mock debates with us defending any position – no matter how crazy (think: what are the implications of submarines bumping into each other on a world political scale) – to teach us about the value of seeing all sides even when we don’t agree or can’t fathom something. My yoga teacher who howls, dances, drums, and dresses in bright patterns. These people have tapped into their Wild Thing – and because of it they were/are passionate, talented, effective, and deeply inspiring human beings. By connecting to your own wild vein, you can not only deepen your knowing of the river feeding your Self, but also get inspired by the primal gift of your own life. My student’s comment this week made me hopeful that in my escapades into authenticity, I too have begun to tap into my wildness in an inspiring way that will bring my life energy into the lives of others in a crazy, weird, challenging, impactful, and memorable way.