Wilderness, or the “wild”, indicates the realm of our experience outside the confines of conscious human manipulation and control. We find ourselves inspired by the beauty of nature because it invokes in us the mystery and wonder of unfabricated, uncontrived, spontaneous abundance – the harmony that coalesces from our experiential world when free of the limitations of self-conscious conceptual thought.
In actuality, the entirety of our experience is constantly arising from the unfabricated source of awareness -which we might call wild nature – but when channeled through the narrow confines of conceptual thinking – generally burdened with the imagined separate self and entangled in striving and lack – the full beauty of our awareness appears veiled. Similarly, when surrounded by an environment of human construction – houses, buildings, cars, and other technology that are the physical result of our striving for control, exploitation, and “progress” – our appreciation of beauty tends to be veiled or muted, as compared to a natural landscape free of the evidence of human scheming. In an environment of wild nature, our surroundings reflect and remind us more of our own uncontrived source – our simple, unintentional and self-illuminating awareness – and we can more easily access the freedom and joy of this essence without the burden of the narrow, conflicted and stressful drama of self-ideation.
For this reason, spiritual practitioners throughout history have sought out retreats in wild nature to deepen their practice and realization. In Sanskrit, the word for wilderness is “aranya”, and those in the Indian cultural sphere
who focused on meditative practice and non-dual realization (as opposed to socially-constructed roles for religious functionaries) were sometimes called “aranyakas” – of, or from, the wilderness. In our community, we are inspired by the example of the aranyaka, and we generally conduct our practices and gatherings outdoors in as natural setting as possible, whether we find ourselves in the country or city. And we also organize wilderness retreats and adventures whenever we can. Below are some photos from such excursions of past years: