Our inherent wisdom in scary situations

Adventure cat

When we moved to our tiny house about a month ago, our cat Merlina came with us. Our backyard is 15 hectares of semi-wilderness.

She has been in the countryside before and is always careful at first, but is more careful this time. Likely because there are smells and sounds of many wild animals here. These include Jaguarundis – cats related to cougars and cheetahs, porcupines, marsupials, and other species unfamiliar to her.

It makes sense to be cautious until she is more familiar with this place and its animals.

She spends a lot of time in the house sleeping, and also listening to and smelling what’s outside. When she goes out, she stays close to the house and expands out slowly in small widening circles. She also likes to go out with us since that makes her feel safer, and I like going out with her.

This is all very wise, and it’s a reminder of the wisdom we all have in us.

When in a new place, get to know the place. Take time. Don’t push yourself.

And when you go into scary places, or fear is triggered in you, take it easy. Here also, don’t push yourself. Go into it gently and for only short periods so it’s not overwhelming.

We humans, with our more complex mental constructions and tendency to make identities out of them, often do it differently. We may push aside the fear and pretend it’s not here. We may push ourselves into fear and feel overwhelmed and maybe even traumatized. Or we may get stuck in the safe zone without exploring and opening our world.

Animals remind us of our inherent wisdom, the wisdom that’s here when we are less distracted by our mental constructions.

This is very important in trauma work. If you are going to explore traumas, it makes sense to work with someone you trust, and someone who won’t push you. It makes sense to go slowly and gradually. It makes sense to go into it for short periods of time (seconds, minutes) and then retreat so you don’t get overwhelmed. It makes sense to work primarily with the body and not go into the stories around it so much. (At least, at first.)

Dream: My inner fire

A firefox (kitsune) from Japanese mythology, envisioned by me and Midjourney (AI-generated image). This one has cat-like features since that’s what Merlina transformed into in the dream.

I find myself in London and in the place my (waking life) partner and cat live. They have both transformed and live on their own. The cat is larger and fully orange, almost like a mythological fox-cat being. My parter has bright orange hair and is younger. My partner is angry at me. She has to do something, and I go for a walk. I realize I forgot to make a note of the address, and get somewhat lost in the streets of London. I receive help from a few men who feel like friends. I remember I have my phone and that my partner’s phone number and address may in the contacts.

This feels like an especially important dream.

Being lost and disoriented has been a theme in my dreams for a while now. It comes from the dark night I have been through and feeling shattered and disoriented as if hit by a bus. Further back, it has its roots in leaving my inner guidance on a major life decision (when I got married the first time). And it may go even further back, to my childhood and not feeling completely grounded in love and acceptance.

I was initially a bit confused about this dream, although found something through active imagination. (A technique from depth psychology where I go back into the visuals of the dream, interact with the different elements, and ask questions and listen for the answers.)

Using active imagination, Merlina (the cat) said she was my inner fire, my animal fire. Similarly, my partner said she was my feminine fire. And London, to me and in this context, represents creative passion and fire.

My fiery part is angry at me for having given up on it. I had a lot of passion and fire in my teens and twenties, and it served me and my life well. Then, when I got married for the first time, and abandoned my inner guidance on major life issues, I gradually started losing contact with that passion and fire. And it’s been difficult to refind and embrace it as fully as I know I can and to the extent that feels right to me.

Now, that I finally have my own house and land and an amazing project (rewilding 14 hectares), I feel I have the stability to refind my passion and fire.

I told my waking-life partner about the dream. And went back into the dream images to ask my partner why she is angry at me. She said it is because I have given up on the fire and abandoned it. I am identified with being lost. That identification keeps me separate from the fire and passion that’s here.

When I then asked my waking-life partner the same question, and she gave the same answer. She said the anger is because I am identified with the dark night and the characteristics of the dark night. (Which includes feeling lost.)

I now also realize that the mythological creature our cat transformed into is a firefox, Kitsune from Japanese mythology.

This theme of refining my connection with my inner fire feels like a major theme in my life, something I continue to explore, and something very much on the horizon.

My recent explorations into AI-imagery is a part of this, as is continuing work on the house and rewilding project. All of this has to do with my inner passion and fire.

And I want to keep exploring my identification with the “lost” identity. What does it tell me? How does it play out in my life? What are the reversals, and the truth in them? How would it be to be free of this particular identification?

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An additional theme for this website: Rewilding

The focus for the articles on this website has always centered on healing and awakening, with occasional articles on culture, society, sustainability, art, and other topics I find interesting.

From now on, I will also include more articles on rewilding and regeneration.

It’s not a new interest to me. I have been fascinated by and passionate about nature and sustainability since I was little, and that includes what’s covered by rewilding and regeneration.

On this winter solstice (2022), we moved into our tiny house with a large backyard on Finca Milagros. This backyard is fifteen hectares in Cañon del Chicamocha. And I wish to devote a good part of my life to supporting this land to become a more thriving and diverse habitat for plants, insects, birds, and animals.

That will, by necessity, be reflected here since I tend to write about what I am interested in and what I am currently exploring and living.

The rewilding posts will be a kind of chronicle of what we are doing here, and they may be interesting to or useful for others.

And, yes, I know that rewilding is a problematic term. It cannot be done in a literal and complete way, and it’s not possible (or even desirable) to bring this ecosystem back to how it was in precolonial times or even before humans came here. When I use the term rewilding, it’s in a much more loose sense. For me, it’s about supporting the ecosystem to thrive, become more diverse, and become a good habitat for the insects, birds, and animals that are here. I wish to support it in becoming wilder.

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Finca Milagros: A dry river

A small river goes through Finca Milagros but it’s mostly dry.

This may be because neighbors higher up divert the water. If so, then returning the water to the river is a longer-term project that involves finding better water solutions for the neighbors. If we can help them find sufficient water from other sources, they won’t need to divert the river and it can again flow. That small river will again provide water for innumerable beings and the local ecosystems.

And yes, I am aware that there are more factors. There may be other reasons for the dry river than uphill neighbors. And if they play a role, then their decisions are not always rational. Sometimes culture, resentment, neighbor feuds, and so on play a role.

Still, it’s a good start to get to know the neighbors and those upstream, identify the problem, and see if we can find solutions that benefit everyone.

I’ll occasionally write short updates about the Finca Milagros rewilding project here, partly as documentation and partly because some of it may be helpful to others.

Rewilding and cultural differences

In our very early rewilding project, there has been one big challenge so far: We have very different ideas about how to do things than the locals.

CLEARING A PATH VS A WHOLE AREA

Last year, we asked workers to clear a walking path through an area of the land just big enough for one person to walk through.

Without our knowing, they spent two days clearing a whole hectare of everything except the largest trees. They cut down all of the valuable pioneer species that bring nutrients into the soil, improve the soil structure, provide shade, give protection for other species to come in, and prevented the grass from taking over. Most of these plants were thorny bushes and trees that can grow relatively large and are very beautiful. They cut down trees with 10-20 cm diameter just because they had thorns.

When we complained, the response was: “These are just weeds, it’s good to get rid of them, they have no value, and they’ll grow back”. In reality, what has happened is just what I expected. The area is now completely overgrown with invasive grass. It went from an area with lots of shade and no grass to being covered in tall invasive grass that it’s very difficult to get rid of.

Why did this happen? We were naive and thought that our instructions were clear and understood: Make a path through here that one person can walk through, nothing more. What they heard was: Clear the whole area. Why? Because that’s what people here do. They clear huge areas of land of everything but the largest trees. Why? Because that’s what has made sense of them traditionally since they use the land for grazing. They remove the thorny bushes and trees so cows and goats can more easily graze, and they plant invasive grass that takes over whole areas to provide food for their animals.

What is the lesson? Make sure the instructions are well understood. Show them physically what to do and how to do it. Be there while they do the work, unless you know from experience that they understand.

EDUCATION IN ECOLOGICAL THINKING

We will work with locals helping us with the rewilding project, and it’s essential to educate them.

For instance, what they think of as “weeds” are often pioneer plants. They come into an area after it has been degraded by grazing, food growing, or erosion. They put nutrients into the soil, improve the structure of the soil, create the condition for other plants to come into the area, and many of them here have thorns that also help protect the land. They are pioneers and protectors of the land. They have immense value from an ecological perspective, and in the context of supporting the land having a thriving and diverse ecosystem.

Also, if we need to create a path or open up a view, it’s often more than sufficient to do a little pruning. There is no need to go nuclear.

PLANTING TREES VS ECOSYSTEM APPROACH

I have also noticed a peculiar mindset among many here interested in helping the land.

Some seem to think it’s mainly about reforesting and planting trees, and that planting trees is sufficient.

For me, that doesn’t make sense for a couple of reasons.

Just planting trees can easily become a monoculture just like any other monoculture. It can create a kind of desert. It doesn’t necessarily create an ecosystem full of life.

A vibrant and healthy ecosystem needs diversity. It needs a variety of plants and animals of all kinds. It needs layers.

And each degraded land needs specific help. For instance, we have areas with erosion. Trees won’t help much there. It’s far more effective to plant smaller native plants that keep the soil in place. When the soil is stabilized, we can start thinking about the next step which could include trees. But to start with trees don’t necessarily make much sense.

A brief rewilding update

We had the first meeting today with one of the people (JL) who will help Finca Milagros rewild, and it makes me happy to finally take this step in helping the land return to a diverse and vibrant state. It feels good to talk with someone who is knowledgeable, pragmatic, and has both a vision and a grounded approach.

Here are some thoughts and plans so far:

We need to educate and closely follow up anyone doing work on the land. These are local people with a very different mindset from an ecological one. For instance, they see any thorny plants as a weed to remove, while they in reality are essential for helping the land recover. These pioneers provide the conditions for other plants to grow and thrive.

It’s much better to do some minimal pruning than to remove plants completely. Pruning can support the plants, in some cases.

We can use plants to clear up the water in a large pond on the land. For instance, these can be on a raft and can be removed when they have done their work. (These are non-native non-invasive plants.)

We need to prevent further erosion in some areas of land severely impacted by grazing. We can do this with rocks and plants.

A natural and healthy ecosystem is diverse. It is layered with large and smaller trees, bushes, and even smaller plants. These layers help keep the water in the local ecosystem. (If all trees are the same height, which they often are if planted, the water evaporates more quickly.)

Focusing only on tree planting, which many do here, is not enough and can be a bit misguided. A planted forest can be a monoculture just like any other monoculture. It’s important to focus on the diversity of the whole ecosystem which includes many other types plants, each serving important functions.

There are several engaged species here (we saw a red-light bird after a few minutes by the pond), so one priority is to protect their habitat and create more of the habitat they need.

We have a dry river going through the land. Neighbors higher up are likely taking the water. We need to identify the problem, and possible get to know the neighbors and see if we can find a solution that works for everyone. This is a longer term project.

I knew or suspected what’s listed above since I have been passionate about sustainability and ecology for decades. And it is a blessing to meet and be guided by someone far more knowledgeable than me, and someone who knows this particular ecosystem and has experience with rewilding and regeneration here.

The land is 15 hectares. One or two hectares are closer to the road and perfect for building and food production, and the rest will be wild and mostly left to itself with a few smaller interventions here and there. And we will move slowly and get to know the land, connect with more people in the area working on similar projects, and learn as we go.

Our first project was a tiny house where we will live while we get to know the land better. It’s good to go slowly, be informed, allow possibilities and visions to mature, and think through things thoroughly before doing anything more that impacts the land.

I wish to create wildlife gardens around this and future buildings. Gardens with native plants feeding and attractibg local wildlife, and especially insects and birds.

Priorities & our ecological crisis

We all have priorities, whether we are aware of them or not.

And our life and actions show us our priorities, whether they match what we think they are or not.

OUR COLLECTIVE BEHAVIOR IN THE FACE OF OUR CURRENT ECOLOGICAL CRISIS

At a collective level, it’s clear that our priority is business as usual. We collectively behave as if nothing unusual is happening. We collectively behave as if we are not in the middle of a human-created ecological crisis of enormous consequences. We collectively behave as if the messages from scientists have little to no weight or importance.

Why is that? It may be for many reasons. Most people prioritize day-to-day activities and tasks. Most have a political identity and are reluctant to switch their vote to politicians that take ecological crisis more seriously. We see that others don’t prioritize it, so we assume the situation is not very serious and follow their example. Politicians typically operate within a timeframe of just a few years, not decades and centuries. Many people don’t take things very seriously unless they feel it in their own lives. Some may think we still have enough time, that we are adaptable and will manage. Some also go into denial, dismiss the collective warnings from scientists, and rationalize their dismissal.

WHAT MOTIVATES US TO CHANGE OUR PRIORITIES?

At both individual and collective levels, we continually clarify our priorities, reprioritize, and reorganize our life to align with these new priorities. It happens all the time and mostly in small and almost unnoticeable ways.

Major reprioritizing usually happens first when we viscerally get it as absolutely necessary. It may happen when faced with a serious crisis. When life shows us our situation has dramatically changed, or that we need to face a reality we previously ignored or downplayed.

It happens when life shakes us out of our habitual patterns and priorities.

A MORE REALISTIC SET OF COLLECTIVE PRIORITIES

If we would take our ecological situation seriously, how would that change our priorities? What would a more realistic set of collective priorities look like?

Here is just one example, as it comes to me:

Take a long view on our situation and in politics. Plan for decades and centuries ahead. Make policies where we take into account the interests of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and their children.

Include the interests of all beings when we make decisions. Our fate is intimately connected, so this is in our own interest. Implement policies that take the interest of all life into account.

Future generations and non-human life are voiceless, so we need to speak for them. Not only for their sake, but for our own. Their fate is intertwined with our own.

If these giving voice to the voiceless was our real priority, it would in itself change a lot and put us on our path to a more sustainable civilization. Taking the big picture in terms of time and ecosystems does a lot. It would ripple into all areas of society, including the economy, philosophy, education, production, transportation, and everything else.

For instance, it would likely lead to assigning advocates for those without a voice – future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems. To give them real power in political and business decisions. To make the rights of future generations, non-human beings, and ecosystems law.

It would transform our economic system to take ecological realities into account. Our current economic thinking is a fantasyland where nature is seen as only a resource for humans and a place to put waste, and it assumes an unlimited capacity for both. That fantasy is reflected in our current economic system. These new priorities, if taken seriously, would transform our thinking about the economy and our economic systems to be more grounded in reality, which is something we all would benefit from.

WHAT I AM DOING IN MY LIFE

What I am doing in my own life about this?

I look at my life to see my actual priorities. How do I spend my time? What does that say about my priorities? I take a sober look at this and try to be kind with myself. Being realistic about my real priorities, as reflected in my life and how I spend my time, is the first step and can in itself lead to changes and reprioritization.

I am also in a fortunate situation. I was able to buy a sizeable piece of land in the Andes mountains, and. we are now exploring how to use a small part of it for buildings and food production, and support the rest to rewild and return to a more vibrant and diverse state benefitting innumerable beings.

We are also exploring ways to be a little more self-reliant with the essentials. We are looking into solar energy. We are taking steps to collect and store rainwater and use this for our own use and food production. We may gradually expand food production over time. (In a social crisis, which will likely come as a consequence of the ecological crisis, being more self-reliant will alleviate the burden on the local government and it may also be that they won’t be able to reliably provide basic services to everyone.)

Our local community is our greatest resource, so we are also connecting and creating ties with neighbors. And especially those who are like-minded and those who grow food and know how to make and fix things. Self-reliance and resilience mainly happen at a local and regional community level.

We are preparing for a future where our ecological crisis, and all the social consequences of it, is far more acute and severe. And we are learning and plan on sharing what we learn with anyone interested.

We are also considering creating a small eco-community on the land. We’ll see. We need to get to know the land better first.

Not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to take these kinds of steps, so we are also keeping in mind supporting those less fortunate, in whatever small ways we can.

And this is not because we are very noble. We are very flawed human beings.

This is because we are aware that this is in our own self-interest. It’s in our self-interest to live in a more sustainable way and create ties with our neighbors. It’s in our own interest to support those less fortunate, in the small ways we can, since we all live in the same society.

And in terms of ecology, we all – all beings – share the same collective fate. We are all impacted by the thriving or deterioration of our local, regional, and global ecosystems.

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A shift to the Andes mountains

When I was four or five (?) years old, I had a strong dream. I was in the jungle with a black jaguar (black panther). We lived together, did everything together, communicated closely, and the black jaguar was my best friend, mentor, and guide.

In a Vortex Healing class some years ago, we did one session for shifting where we internally live in the sister realm – in the realm of nature. We were told that we all live in a particular location, and it may not be optimal for our health and life, so this session was a transmission to shift to a more optimal location and environment. In this session, I experienced a shift from the damp jungle and the jaguar to the drier and higher Andes mountains and the condors. I experienced – and still experience – a deep connection with the condor. (The hairs all over my body stand on end when I am reminded of them.)

At the time, I had no idea that this would not only mean an inner shift but also an outer one.

A couple of years after this, I met the woman who is now my wife. She is from Latin America, and we bought land in the Andes mountains – up the wall of one of the largest canyons in the world. This is the land I was shifted into in that VH class session, and it’s the land of the condors.

I experience a strong draw to bring the condors back to this land. Everything in me resonates with it.

As it turns out, my wife has close friends in Argentina working on bringing the condors back and protecting them, and we are invited to visit.

And who knows what will unfold. I would love if it includes playing a small part in bringing the condors back here. It would be the greatest honor for me.

Image: A condor created by me and Midjourney

The school from my dream decades back

This is a long story I’ll try to make short.

During the initial awakening period in my teens, I had some strong dreams that seemed to show me scenes from my future.

OREGON

In one dream, I saw myself in the Pacific Northwest in the US, in nature and a community of people with a shared interest in healing and sustainability. When I woke up, I looked at the map and saw it was in western Oregon. At the time, I lived in Norway and had no interest in going to the US. I strongly disliked the US for political reasons and saw no reason to go there. The thought of living there seemed even further removed.

Forward six or seven years, and I am studying psychology at the University of Oslo. A friend of mine had discovered a scholarship we both qualified for that would allow us to study psychology in some countries abroad, and he happened to have connections in Salt Lake City. We had very little time to explore possibilities, and I saw that University of Utah had courses in environmental psychology, health psychology, and a systems orientations to psychology, which were all topics I were interested in.

We went there, I found Kanzeon Zen Center and moved in there, and later got married.

And even some years later, more than fifteen years after the Oregon dream, I found myself in Oregon in just the situation described in the dream. I didn’t plan to move there for its own sake. We moved there because the university there had the best program for the topic I wanted to study.

LATIN AMERICA

I had a similar dream during the same time in my teens.

In this dream, I saw myself in Northern South America, with a partner from there. I was at a small local school and had a role there. Not exactly as a teacher but as someone deeply involved and supporting the school and children. Here too, I saw the location on a map. When I woke up and looked in an atlas, it looked like Northern Brasil or somewhere in that general area.

Fast forward thirty years, and I meet a woman from Colombia. We get married, explore parts of Colombia, and buy land in the Andes Mountains. We accidentally meet a longtime friend of my wife who has a house in the same neighborhood in the countryside, and we end up living in that house for three months while they were away.

On the small road to that house, very close to our land, is a small school. And it’s the school from my dream. The hairs on my body stood up when I saw it, and do so again when I write this. It’s the same school.

The only difference is that in my dream, there were three buildings, and in reality – now – there is only one.

So we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll get involved with that school somehow. Maybe we’ll build two more buildings. It certainly needs help, and I cannot imagine anything better than helping children get a good education and more opportunities in life.

A brief update

I thought I would write a brief update.

Although I have put down a lot of ideas for articles, I have only written and published a few. That’s mainly because I have been busy with traveling, classes, moving, the new land and house, and resting and taking care of my health.

CLASSES

I finished a Vortex Healing class (Awakening to Divinity) a couple of weeks ago. Combined with receiving a couple of healing sessions, it seems to have shifted things in me.

I mainly notice that I experience sensing and channeling differently.

When I sense into someone’s system, I sense space with just a few bits of ethereal pieces floating around here and there. I suspect I need to get used to this new way of sensing, and my sensing will likely keep unfolding and revealing more things. (Previously, I could sense the physicality more and I would also get more images providing information.)

My sense of channeling has also changed. I used to sense the energy in my own system quite clearly, maybe because it would run up against things in my own system. Now, there is mainly a sense of space. Perhaps my system has more capacity now? And I am no longer experiencing the friction?

When I do distance healing, there is also much more of a direct and visceral sense of it happening from void and oneness. It’s happening within and as whatever I am doing healing for. It seems to be happening from the inside-out of what I intend healing for.

And that’s not really the right language. It’s all happening within and as the divine. It’s the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself as all of this and the way this process – and everything – is unfolding.

LAND

We are stewards of 15 hectares in the Andes mountains, and it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I feel a deep connection with it and I am very grateful to have it in my life. It’s a lifelong dream I wasn’t even that conscious of coming alive, at least for now.

We finalized the payment for the big piece two weeks ago and will finalize the payment for the small piece in a few days. And the first tiny house is almost finished.

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Why do we love our land? An evolutionary perspective on landscape

When it comes to understanding anything human, I often do a quick check-in with an evolutionary perspective. And the same obviously goes for understanding the behavior of any species.

My wife and I are stewards of beautiful land in the Andes mountains.

Why do we see it as so beautiful? Why do we feel so connected with it?

We fell in love with it within seconds of our first visit. And it feels as if the land chose us as much as we chose it.

OUR ANCESTRAL HOME

One answer, which came up in my environmental psychology classes at the University of Utah, is that humanity comes from the Great Rift Valley in Africa so we are naturally drawn to that type of landscape. It’s our ancestral home. We love open landscapes with trees and shade. It’s the environment we co-evolved with.

Our pre-human ancestors likely lived for innumerable generations in that landscape, and our first human-like ancestors lived there before they started migrating out to the rest of the world.

In this case, there is a clear similarity between this land and the landscape of the Great Rift Valley. (Not surprising since both are close to the equator and about the same elevation.)

Many if not most of the ancestors in me feel at home there.

BIOPHILIA

There is also a much deeper and general reason for our love – and sometimes fear – of nature.

We are nature. So we love, and sometimes fear, nature.

The universe is a seamless whole. It’s a holarchy, a whole with wholes within it.

It’s also an evolving system, expressed through and as – among everything else in the universe – our living and evolving planet and us as a species and individuals.

As Carl Sagan said, we are the universe bringing itself into consciousness. We are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe.

When we look into the universe, we are looking back at ourselves. When we experience nature, we are experiencing ourselves.

We co-evolved with all of it.

We find nature beautiful because we recognize ourselves in and as it, whether we are conscious of it or not.

THE LANDSCAPES WE ARE ATTRACTED TO

At a more conventional level, there are other reasons why we tend to find nature beautiful, and why we are especially drawn to certain landscapes.

Our ancestors lived with, from, and as nature, so it makes sense to be attracted to nature. It helped them survive. (Neutrality or aversion would not be so productive.)

It makes sense that we tend to be attracted to open landscapes. Having a view helped our ancestors to survive. They could see prey, friends, and enemies from far away and prepare accordingly.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to green landscapes. For our ancestors, it made sense to be drawn to green landscapes since it means vegetation, and vegetation means shade, protection, and food.

It makes sense we tend to be attracted to moderate climates, for obvious reasons.

It makes sense that we are attracted to running water since it means fresh water for drinking, bathing, and cooking food.

Many love sitting by a bonfire or a fireplace, or even just a candle. For our ancestors, these types of smaller and controlled fires meant food, warmth, protection, and community.

The ones who were drawn to these features of nature were more likely to survive and they passed these inclinations on to their descendants, including us.

And it makes equal sense we are afraid of or slightly repulsed by certain things in nature. Most of us have some fear of heights, and this fear has helped our ancestors avoid dangerous situations. We tend to have some fear of snakes and some insects for the same reason. We avoid places that smell musty, moldy, or rotten.

Our ancestors who experienced some fear or repulsion to these things were more likely to survive, have children, and pass these tendencies on to us.

CULTURE AND ANYTHING HUMAN

Human culture and anything human – all our experiences, thoughts, and feelings – are obviously part of the seamless whole of existence. It’s all the evolution of the universe and this living planet expressing itself in these ways, through and as us and our experiences.

We obviously find a lot in humans and culture beautiful. But not always. Why is that?

Again, an evolutionary perspective can give us answers. If we see an open and infested wound, it makes sense to experience some repulsion since it can help us not get infected. If we meet someone who is chronically caught up in anger, blame, or similar, feeling less attracted to it can help us to avoid problems. If we see a building or village in disrepair, it may be best to find another place to go. And so on. (This is obviously a very simplified outline.)

On a more immediate level, what we find beautiful and not has to do with how we relate to our thoughts about it. If we believe our thoughts about something or someone, it will often create attraction or aversion.

HOLDING IT LIGHTLY

As usual, it makes sense to hold all of this lightly.

An evolutionary perspective on psychology and behavior helps us arrive at educated guesses at most. It’s not something we can verify once and for all.

Personally, I often use it to find more understanding and empathy for myself and others. I find a plausible explanation in an evolutionary context, and that helps me see that our experiences and behavior are not as personal as they first may seem. It all comes from somewhere else.

Note: The photo above is from our land in the Chicamocha Canyon.

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A rewilding synchronicity

Last fall and winter, my wife and I were looking for a small piece of land to build a house on in the Andes mountains. After some dead ends, we were shown land that was way beyond what we were looking for in size, and immediately fell in love with it. And through a series of amazing events, we were able to become stewards of that land. We both felt the land chose us, as much as we chose it.

Although the land has forests and a diversity of ecosystems, most of it is impacted by centuries of grazing so we wish to help bring it back to a more vibrant state (rewilding) and be a haven for insects, birds, and other animals.

As part of this longer-term project, I contacted a local guy (originally from the US) who specializes in rewilding. We chatted on Whatsapp and agree to meet later. For me, this is an important and perhaps vital contact for our rewilding project.

Immediately after talking to him, I called up a friend in Oregon. And without me mentioning any of this, apart from being in the Andes mountains and buying land here, he started talking about a rewilding guy in the Andes mountains he has been following for a while. It turns out this guy was the one I had chatted with minutes before.

On the one hand, it’s not entirely unlikely. My friend in Oregon is interested in anything progressive, including rewilding it turns out. (I had mainly talked with him about spirituality and integral approaches before.) Unbeknownst to me, the local guy I had contacted does have an organization with an international reach. And my friend in Oregon did know that my wife and I had been looking for land in the Andes mountains.

On the other hand, it was quite an amazing synchronicity, especially in terms of geography and timing. What were the chances that the guy he knew about was the same local guy I had talked to? Latin America is a big place. What were the chances that my friend would bring it up minutes after I had chatted with the rewilding guy?

A synchronicity is defined as a meaningful coincidence. This was certainly, in my experience, an amazing coincidence. And it was certainly meaningful to me. I feel a deep call to support this land in rewilding itself, and this coincidence only reinforced that wish.

Condors and childhood fascinations

As a child, I was fascinated by nature and nature documentaries and dreamt of working with wild animals when I grew up.

My life took a different course, and instead I had some years as an artist, studied psychology for several years, and later worked with sustainability and then as a therapist.

Now, this childhood dream is again surfacing. Becoming a steward of the land in the Andes comes with the wish to help the land regenerate and rewild and become a refuge for a wide range of beings.

And with this comes another dream: bringing the condors back to this beautiful canyon in the Andes mountains.

Others have done it in other places. They have experience they can share with me. And the land seems good for this project. So why not?

It’s more than a dream. It feels like a calling. It’s something that came and stayed rather than being consciously created.

If it is at all possible, I imagine it will require a lot of time and engagement: Learning about the process. Setting up a local non-profit organization. Finding local allies and people who can join the project. Working with the local government and organizations. Educating the locals and, when possible, getting them onboard to whatever extent they are interested. Finding local bird specialists who can consult. Getting required permits (?). Getting and releasing the condors. Follow-up. And perhaps repeating with a new batch. It may be a decades-long project for all I know.

I don’t know if this will happen. It may not be possible. It may be that the canyon doesn’t provide the right habitat, due to human activity. (Just one poisoned carcass could kill them all.) And the ones who care for the few condors available may have better habitats in mind. If this project is possible, a lot of things still will have to fall in place. And if it does fall into place, it will likely involve far more than I imagine.

Why do I write about this?

Because our childhood fascinations are important. They never go away. When we follow them, it can take any number of outward forms. And you never know when an opportunity comes up to engage in these fascinations and bring them to life in new projects.

For me, engaging in my childhood fascination in this way feels deeply meaningful and aligned with the depth of who I am.

In general, following my fascinations seem important. It’s what brought me on this journey of exploring who and what I am. It’s what brought me into art and then psychology. It’s what gave me the opportunity to work on sustainability with a group of amazing people. It’s what brought me to the zen center many years ago, and the community there. Following my fascinations brings aliveness, meaning, and a sense of deep alignment.

In this case, this dream connects me with my childhood fascination. It may be that this particular project doesn’t come to fruition, but the reconnection in me may lead to something else.

Note: During a kind of shamanic journey some years ago, in a Vortex Healing class, I saw myself in the Andes mountains with condors. They seemed to be my guides. It was an experience that resonated deeply with me. This was a while before I met my now-wife and had any plans of going to Latin America, let alone buying land in the Andes mountains.

Regeneration and culture

My wife and I became stewards of some beautiful land in the Andes mountains. It’s been heavily grazed in some areas, so we wish to help the land return to a flourishing and vibrant state. And that includes allowing a natural succession of native plants until – over some decades – the ecosystem reaches more maturity.

We hired some locals to clear existing paths through the land and gave them very clear instructions to only clear walking paths, wide enough for one person to pass. What they instead did was to clear one large area of all vegetation including smaller bushes and trees, leaving only the more mature trees. This is apparently what the locals do, and our instructions probably didn’t make much sense to them.

For us, it meant that the process of succession was set back one or two years (?) in that area. The vegetation they removed was the pioneer species that provide the shelter and environment for other plants to follow.

Although it was a slightly painful lesson, we also learned that we need to be present to oversee these kinds of projects. We need to find local people to work with who understand what we wish to do with the land, and also educate the ones we work with and make sure they understand. (This happened back in February or March this year.)

The photo is from the land, but another area than the one that was “cleaned”.

Rafael

We said goodbye to Rafael today. 

We met him in a mall in the countryside in the Andes. Someone had abandoned him and put a superman scarf on him, and we adopted him. He was old, sick, and almost blind and needed us, and I think we needed him. After treatment for cancer, he did much better. He had a lot of energy and vitality, although he also got tired after walks. And he got much more attached to us and we to him. 

Last night, his health took a dramatic turn, and we learned that his abdomen was full of cancer. 

We had three good months together. He experienced a lot of love and we experienced his love in return. And he likely had a good life before we met him, judging from his personality. 

And I also notice some of the questions and regrets that many experiences when someone close to us dies. Could we have done more for him? Maybe we could have made his last three months even better? (We would have done more of his favorite things if we had known we only would have three months with him.) And I also know we did what made sense and it was pretty good. We gave him cancer treatment. We spent a lot of time with him. We cuddled with him and gave him attention and love. We took him for walks. My partner sang for him. We gave him the best food, although we would have given him more of his favorite food if we had known.

It was heartbreaking and beautiful to spend the last minutes with him. I am deeply grateful for having known him. 

And it also brings up the question of what happens after death? Will something move on? Will what we are, at some level between the physical and absolute, meet what he is again? I don’t know and am at peace with not knowing. There is beauty there. 

And I also notice the beauty in grief. Grief is what happens when we love someone and they are lost to us. Grief is an expression of love. Grief and tears come and go and live their own life, just like any other experience. 

Update a few days later: As with any strong experience, a lot more has been going on.

I experienced a deepened empathy with all life. We are all going to die. We all essentially wish for the same – happiness, contentment, connection, love, safety, freedom from suffering.

It’s a reminder that we’ll all die. Death is necessary for new life. It creates the space and conditions for new life. The death of stars creates elements used in new solar systems and life. The death of a species allows space for other species. The death of an individual creates space for new individuals. Remembering this makes it a little easier to relate to the death of those close to us.

His death made me look at how we treated him when he was with us. Could I have done more? What would I have done differently if I had known we would have such a short time together? How does this apply to how I live my life and treat the ones in my life now? Knowing we all have a short time together, what do I wish to do differently?

I have experienced the presence of Rafael waxing and waning at different times, and this corresponds with what my partner has reported.

For the first five or six hours after he died, he seemed far away which was a bit surprising to me. Then, his presence was very strong and he seemed happy. I wondered if he had spent those hours with his initial family, which he may have lived with for eight or nine years so it makes sense if his bond with them was (and is?) stronger. 

Now, a few days after, it’s as if he is everywhere, which I know is a common experience when someone close to you dies. Why is this? One explanation is that he is with me in my own mind, so to me he seems to be everywhere – in the sky, the room, and so on. 

Finca Brisa

I thought I would include some posts about one of the current projects in my life.

My wife and I find ourselves as the stewards of several hectares in the Andes mountains. Although most of it is forested, the land has been impacted by centuries of small-scale farming and grazing. So in addition to building a small house there – using local materials and traditional building techniques – we want to help the land. We want to help bring it to a vibrant state which will be the home to innumerable living beings — microorganisms, plants, insects, birds, and four-legged creatures.

I’ll post a few updates here, using the “finca brisa” tag which is the preliminary name for the land. See also “rewilding” and “regeneration”.

These photos are from a meeting with some of our design and building team. This is the first meeting where we had plans for the house.

Happy because he doesn’t have thoughts saying blindness and cancer is wrong

This is Rafael. He is a sweet old dog we adopted last month.

A few weeks ago, he was abandoned in a shopping center in a nearby town, perhaps because he is old, mostly blind, and has cancer. We happened to be there, saw him at the information booth, and decided to adopt him if nobody came for him. The first few days after he came to us, he seemed sad and mostly rested.

And now, he is now doing much better. He has received successful treatments for cancer, he is happy to be with us and have a new home, and he has much more energy.

HAPPY BECAUSE HE DOESN’T HAVE THOUGHTS SAYING IT’S WRONG

One thing that’s very obvious is that even if he is mostly blind, he is still very happy and friendly. And he is very excited to go for walks, even if he bumps into things occasionally.

He is happy because he doesn’t know anything is wrong.

I shouldn’t be blind. I should see. I am worse off than others who can see.

He is incapable to have those thoughts. They don’t exist for him. So he is happy.

OUR OPTION: FIND WHAT’S HONESTLY MORE TRUE

We are capable to have those types of thoughts, and most of us do. So what can we do?

We cannot choose to not have them. But we can choose to investigate them thoroughly and sincerely and find what’s honestly more true for us. And here, there is a similar peace.

If we are incapable of having a stressful thought, it’s peace. If we are capable of having it, and do, and hold it as true, there is stress. And if we investigate and find what’s more true for us, there is again peace.

And for most of us, that investigation continues throughout our life. We have adopted a large number of stressful thoughts from our culture and society so new ones may crop up. And it does become easier over time. The weight of thoughts lightens, we become familiar with more categories and types of thoughts and recognize them when they come up, and we are more familiar with how to investigate the news ones that surface.

CLARITY OPENS FOR KIND ACTION

One of the stressful thoughts we may have adopted from society is:

If I am OK with what’s happening, I won’t do anything to change it.

If we pretend we are OK with what’s happening without actually being OK with it, then that may be the case. We may use ideologies and shoulds to pretend we are OK with something when we are not, and we may misguidedly go into inaction.

Clarity is different. In my experience, when I find more clarity, I am more at peace with what is, and I am more available for kind action. I am more receptive to what the situation calls for.

In this case, I am OK with Rafael having cancer and being blind. It’s how life plays itself out in that case. At the same time, I take him to treatment for cancer every week and follow the instructions from the veterinarian. And when that’s done, we’ll take him to an eye doctor to see what can be done for his eyes.

He is OK with being blind. We are OK with him being blind. And wouldn’t it be amazing if he could see again?

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Putting energy into something that’s temporary

I am about to embark on a relatively large and long-term rewilding project. And I notice one small voice in me saying: Why do it when it may all be temporary? As soon as you are no longer in charge of this land, someone else will take it over and that person may make it all into farmland or housing development.

Yes, that’s true. And yet, all is temporary. Everything I put energy into is temporary. This universe and everything it makes itself into – including all beings and all human culture and achievements – is temporary.

This is no different.

If I was not to put energy into something that’s temporary, I would end up putting energy into nothing at all.

I prefer to play the game. To put energy into something that’s temporary, including this regeneration and rewilding project.

It feels deeply right. The land is calling to me. I cannot find any good reason to not do it. So why not do it? Why not enjoy the project – with all the challenges and joys that come with it?

In this case, at the very least, it will benefit the many beings that live and will live on this land for the coming years. That, in itself, makes it more than worth it.