1. existing in a natural state, as animals or plants; not domesticated or cultivated; wild.
2. having reverted to the wild state, as from domestication.
3. of or characteristic of wild animals.
I have gotten comfortable crying in public. Oh I had had my moments before, like most people. I’ve been bent over in my car or a bathroom stall in the past, but this past year it spilled out in much more obvious ways, and I took it as a very good sign…
Once, it was a girlfriend and I both crying, tears streaming down our faces for over an hour at the bar in a local brewery. We were sort of holding down the corner to ourselves, yet right out in the open. Anyone could see that we were crying, and when someone we knew passed by and said hello we’d wave back, wet faced, and go back to talking as if all of it was the most natural thing in the world. Because here is the thing, it is. Crying together, crying out in the open, is tribal…it’s animal. There’s nothing wrong with crying alone either, but not having to hide your crying and tears can make them even more healing. And I am all about the healing…and I am all about the animal.
Because, you see, I haven’t forgotten that I am one. And while I have been teaching about the power of instinct, embodiment, and what I call “the animal body” for twelve years, I have had to get even better at being my animal body than ever because it is what makes me well...because being aligned with and good to your animal body is wellness, and suppressing it is illness.
I am not saying every illness points only to the suppression of the animal body, and that unleashing it means instant healing. I just know it is the greatest ally, in addition to love itself, that I have had on my own journey out of debilitation and pain. I don’t need to lay at the feet of deities to feel spiritually connected, but instead at the feet of my own magical, brilliant body. I only need to quake, and cry, and get hungry, and moan, and ache, and reach, and fall, and fly, and meet my trembling body beat for beat. And when I do that, when I trust it through everything and let it take its own time, I become more fully luminous again, one golden thread at a time.
And so I didn’t just acknowledge my animal body, as I it has been my joy to teach so many others how to do. I didn’t just visit my animal body or inhabit it as a passing practice. I went feral.
Because honestly it felt like I could either go feral or die. So I went feral…as fully as I possibly could. And it was messy, and it was incandescent, and it was perfection. I let my body take me, first further into hell than I had ever been, and then all the way through. I clawed my way out of hell by surrendering to it completely. I didn’t seek only grace, and yet it ultimately enveloped me…I found it in sweat, and in hunger, and in pain, and in relief. I found it in hopelessness, and despair, underneath the rocks there. And when I was beyond looking, it found me.
When we are little we know how to be animals. We cry when we need to. And then one time someone tells us to stop crying. To stop laughing. To stop being silly. To sit still. To hold back the feelings and the needs. To raise your hand to ask to pee. We may have been humiliated if we failed to follow the rules, or threatened, or hit. We got in line. We took whatever concessions we could. We found other things to like, like sweet foods or habits that helped us keep the animal down or reach for a glimmer of pleasure. We drowned our animal in shoulds, and shut down the pulse that we came into the world with. What else could we do but slowly stop breathing as deeply, bit by bit, until we could hold it all in? We had tasted the punishment for those that break the rules, but some of us also tasted the freedom.
We found out we could feel our animal when we danced, when we had sex, when we roamed the streets with the other feral ones. Or the ones who simply cannot hide their feral wounds because they have experienced more pain than others, and that don’t know their way back to the healed animal either. In either case they become your kindred. They can’t stay totally buttoned up because they needed their animal to help them survive, and you could see it in the flash of their eyes. You held them like a little bird as long as you could, before they ran on.
I remember how traveling used to be one of my most beautiful ways to be my animal self. Sure, I’d often start out awkward…out of sorts and lagging, sort of dragging myself along sometimes. But if I kept moving long enough something fundamental would shift and I would become one pure pulse of movement. I was fluid instinct. I remember once, after a long greyhound bus trip I stopped in San Francisco to do something for a friend who needed a reminder of something good, and I slipped onto and off buses and streets of the city like a cat. There was no lost moment. I didn’t even have to read the bus schedules somehow. I just knew which ones to get on and where to transfer. Now, with the blessed gift of a hundred-thousand hells, I am gaining that flowing, glowing, knowing in every moment in ways I never did before. In ways that make gliding on and off of city buses look small and awkward in comparison.
Feral isn’t a quality that is prized in many spiritual traditions. If you go all the way back, however, it was the original spirituality. The body was supreme, the earth holy, the animal was deity. But nowadays even the open-minded prefer a serene-looking “mastery”, in perfect lotus position even perhaps. Not wild crying, not the foaming at the mouth of the ancient prophetesses, the sacred madness, the quaking orgasmic bliss. Not the ocean inside spilling out, but every drop contained. And while you can certainly find the animal in stillness, and there are kinds of madness and pain that draw you away from your animal self rather than toward it (at least temporarily), generally the glorified statue has to crumble and fall in order for flesh and blood to tremble and soar. And it’s time for flesh and blood to tremble and soar again.
But we need examples of the wild. The wild within and the wild around us. That is why nature heals us and most other environments (with some special exceptions) tend to trap or dissociate us. For many animals a cave is healing, and shelter is good. We just have to know the difference between a cave and a cage, and when one becomes another. And even a cage might be just the right place to hide for now. Becoming your animal self is not about shoulds, or making yourself wrong for where you are now, where you have been, or where you might be next month. It is about, gently and to the best of your ability, if and only when called, learning to follow what you really feel.
A couple of months ago I got that uncanny feeling of rememberance and it struck me that it was almost exactly eight years ago exactly that I first started to get really sick. There had been signs and episodes before…the hospitalization after my strange reaction to getting my tonsils removed as a child, the flagging energy when I was eighteen and the near-collapse when I was 20 after mercury exposure and my trip to India. The wild escalation of hyperthyroidism when I was 28 that I was able to reverse. But it wasn’t until just before I turned 30, when I went through an emotionally stressful time while living in a likely-moldy house, that I began to crumble at the edges. It took so many years after that for my effacement to fully take place. What started with the flicker of dust falling from stone walls took a long time to return fully to wild vines and old growth, and every falling wall hurt more than I can say. And, if you can imagine, I was already wild when all of this began. But, apparently, not wild enough yet.
Slowly, it was like someone pulled pegs out of all my structures, until I could hardly walk. Until things like putting one foot in front of the other and words did not match up with the messages I sent to my brain, until it felt like communication was nearly lost. I could have pressed my own plan, my own understandable agenda of wanting to get well at all costs and in the shortest and most direct line, but I quickly found out that wasn’t going to work. So, when communication was all but lost, I gave up and let her lead…I let my animal body take over, and take me under, and then set me free. And I let her take her time. That was the only way, for me.
I am not out of the woods yet, but I feel differently about being in them, and within them. I am slowly recovering lost abilities, and, miraculously and yet somehow expectedly, finding new ones. Ones I could never have found any other way but by living on the edge of death until it too was one of my homes. Eight years. Thousands of excruciating nights, thousands of debilitated mornings, thousands of showers I sobbed in. This kind of pain isn’t the only path back to the body, back to the wild, back to the animal. But it is one.
I did take the master class. Just not the one that looks polished. I went down the unmade path, rough and gritty, unleashed, and to others it perhaps looked sickly, ugly, un-evolved, scary and even disgusting. But I am not disgusted, because whatever my body wants to do is holy…and I can hear it. I am not just running for a living, and using superficial wants to cover up the howling ache. But this is not because I am better, this is because I am lucky. I brought the language of the animal into this world with me, and that is why I knew how to let it lead me. And that is why I teach.
Our instinct will save us. It is my goal to help the world return to instinct in order to heal itself. Your life can be healed by instinct. Your animal body can lead you home, here and now and not in some otherworldly heaven saved for later. This can be our heaven too.
When I am asked how I healed from Lyme disease and another dozen co-infections and co-conditions including healing my body from past traumas, I will say that among other things and most importantly, I went feral. I will say I followed my animal body. I let it show me everything it wanted me to see, even things that hurt more than anything else I’d known, and then I let it lead me home. I let it show me how to breathe again when I was pressed too hard against stone to move. I let it. I turned my head to the sound of the owl in the distance, the sound of the wind in the trees, the sound of the whales under the sea. The sound of rushing rivers of my blood under the the fragile, vibrant barrier of my skin. I didn’t hide. I kept what was private to me private, but I was unashamed and unafraid of tears and sweat, and letting what was real in me be seen. I came undone and said look, here it is, here is where I hurt. I am not made of stone. I am made of dirt and sky, of clouds and bone, of all the things that fly and all the things that run wild…of all that is feral, of all that is free.
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