Journey into in your own ‘wilderness’

Reis in eigen wilderness

“I never met a child who’s not interested in the Natural World.”  (David Attenborough)

Journey into in your own ‘wilderness’

By Boy van Droffelaar

A journey into the wilderness of pristine natural areas is also a journey into our own ‘wilderness’. We often postpone or don’t dare to take that journey of discovery to our deep self, we are actually afraid to be confronted with ourselves. Yet, we all carry that precious treasure deep within us, which was already there when we were born and from which we stood full of wonder in our first years of life. We are constantly looking for it.

All layers have come over it: norms, upbringing, culture, rules, and roles we play. We build experience and knowledge. That is certainly necessary. Yet, when things really matter, when a crisis arises in our lives or a top performance is called for, what is the source from which we draw inspiration and courage? Where do we get the power from? What is the anchor that gives us the peace and wisdom to do the right thing?

Everyone has faced hot fires at some point in his or her life. How we make choices and act at that moment determines the rest of our lives. At such a moment we fall back on ourselves, on who we really are: the child in us, unadorned, without status, without ego. In that painful situation, can we see the big picture? Perhaps, if we have found that anchorage within ourselves, if we know who we really are and what we stand for, then there is a guideline from that place. With confidence that it will work out. If we don’t know where to find that anchorage, we grope in the dark and hope for the best.

The journey in Nature where we leave everything behind (no tent, no watch, no telephone, only the bare essentials of clothing and food, and a mat and a sleeping bag) brings us to the child in us. Especially in Africa where we as humans all started about 100 thousand years ago. We then almost automatically abandon Western culture, our conventions, our tough career stories because of the overwhelming respect for Nature, which we cannot escape. There we experience the surrender to what is and what is to come. We observe with full attention and see the big picture and the coherence of everything that surrounds us. That brings us to our true Self. Then we (re)discover that innate anchorage. It feels like coming home.

The men and women who go on a wilderness trail realize that it is good to give their lives a ‘re-Vision’ turn, to recalibrate their mindset, or to think about life in peace. Who am I, and who could I be? What is my potential? What do I want to mean for my family, in my work, and for society. These are the central questions they often ask themselves when they stand guard there in the middle of the wilderness at night, all alone, while everyone is asleep, at a small campfire, and marvel like a child at the overwhelming starry sky with far away the howling of a hyena in the background.

When we are there with all our being then we don’t have to look for the answers, Nature hands us the answers and it is we ourselves who give them meaning. We are, as it were, reborn, we experience something of that precious treasure within ourselves again.

As Martin Buber, the great philosopher, once wrote: “Each of us carries within us something precious that cannot be found in any other. To find that is his way.” But… he did add: Finding the Self is not an end in itself, it is ultimately about being a better person for the other and the world.

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