Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Bill Plotkin’s latest… Wild Mind

Wild Mind by Bill PlotkinI have started reading Bill Plotkin’s latest book, Wild Mind (Get it HERE). So far, I love it! As some of you know, I have done a lot of work with Plotkin’s books, especially Nature and the Human Soul, from leading a 5 month community discussion, to a weekend workshop, to attending a conference, to (most significantly) using the material and tools with almost all my directees. I have found Plotkin’s work to be so usable as he brings in some very core elements of being in nature and coming into relationship with our souls.

Wild Mind moves beyond Plotkin’s core template of Eco- and Soulcentric Wheel of Human Development (which covers childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and elderhood), and moves towards a robust and nature-based view of the Self. In the book, he describes four separate facets of the Self, centered in each of the four directions. The Nurturing Generative Adult (North), the Innocent/Sage/Sacred Fool/Trickster (East), the Wild Indigenous One (South), and the Muse, Inner Beloved, Anima/Animus, Guide to the Soul (West). Each has their corresponding subpersonalities which come from our woundedness. Our Loyal Soldiers (North), Escapists and Addicts (East), Wounded Children (South), and our Shadows (West). HERE is a helpful diagram.

Plotkin feels that in order to heal our woundedness, it is essential for us to get to know and grow each aspect of the Self. In our wholeness, we embody each of the four facets at different times and we can learn to access them purposefully. In our woundedness, we tend to gravitate towards one of the subpersonalities and are often unaware that there is more to draw from or fall into.

I am only four chapters in at this point, but there is so much that is coming up for me… as is most often the case with Plotkin’s books. I look forward to writing more on the book from a more personal perspective.

I highly recommend checking out the webpage for the book, as there is a lot of helpful info like diagrams, workshops and tools for helping others.

Here is a trailer for the book, with Bill himself.


Scraping at the clay of your heart

John O’Donohue writes in Anam Cara, “It is destructive to interfere with the rhythm and wisdom of [the soil’s] darkness.” He writes of the importance of letting things that rise up in your soul sit for a while. If you were planting potatoes and someone told you that you needed to plant them deeper, it wouldn’t be so good to dig them up and replant them. Even worse if the next day someone else told you that you planted them too deep, so you dug them up again and planted them more shallowly. Nothing will grow if you keep scraping at your garden.

“People in our hungry modern world are always scraping at the clay of their hearts. They have a new thought, a new plan, a new syndrome, that now explains why they are the way they are.” O’Donohue mentions that trees grow both up into the light and down into the darkness. “Negative introspection damages the soul… You cannot dredge the depths of the of the soul with the meager light of self-analysis. The inner world never reveals itself cheaply. Perhaps analysis is the wrong way to approach our inner dark.”

We must be kind to ourselves. We must live the questions we have, as Reiner Maria Rilke writes, without seeking the answers too soon. (See the quote HERE) O’Donohue… “Life itself is the great sacrament through which we are wounded and healed. If we live everything, life will be faithful to us.”

I have had to learn this through so many years, thanks to good mentors, spiritual directors, and teachers and many humbling experiences. As I look back on my writing from even five or six years ago, I see how much I tried to think my way through things. Questions, problems, faults, woundings… I was always looking for some answer that would make it all ok so that I didn’t have to struggle with it anymore. The hardest thing to hear was, “Ok, I will sit with this for a while” and then not hear anything for days or weeks. Or, “Well, Nate, I want you to stop thinking about what you should or shouldn’t do and sit with what your heart wants to do…”

I appreciate hearing people remind me to be kind to myself, but how did I do that? Even now, when I know I need to be kind to myself, it isn’t easy. Hearing it over and over, though, helps it to stick. And so sometimes, in the midst of the questions and the struggles, the best thing is some Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, or a morning with some really good coffee and bacon… or sometimes it is just going for a walk. If I can go to bed and remind myself, Nate, the problem will look different in the morning. Maybe better, maybe worse… but different. Let it sit and see what happens. This is how we keep from scratching too much at the surface of our souls. We live. We let up. We do something kind for ourselves. And we let  our hearts and our lives grow deep into the darkness and grow up into the light.

Holy Ones Take Flight

A poem from 2007:

Birds afloat in air’s current,
sacred breath? No, not breath of God,
it seems, but God
the air enveloping the whole
globe of being.
It’s we who breathe, in, out, in, the sacred,
leaves astir, our wings
rising, ruffled – but only the saints
take flight. We cower
in cliff-crevice or edge out gingerly
on branches close to the nest. The wind
marks the passage of holy ones riding
that ocean of air. Slowly their wake
reaches us, rocks us.
But storm or still,
numb or poised in attention,
we inhale, exhale, inhale,
encompassed, encompassed.



Nature is the First Scripture

“Sacred writings are bound in two volumes – that of creation and that of the Holy Scriptures… Visible creatures are like a book in which we read the knowledge of God. One has every right to call God’s creatures God’s ‘works,’ for they express the divine mind just as effects manifest their cause. ‘The works of the Lord are the words of the Lord.’ (Eccles. 42.15).” ~Thomas Aquinas

In our men’s work we hear often from Fr. Richard Rohr, a quote from one of our early spiritual father’s that the Nature is the first Scripture and the Bible is the second. If we can’t be in right relation with the first, we will never be in right relation with the second. I tend to agree.

It seems that it is so easy to formulate our spirituality from the books we read, the people we listen to, and the doctrines we hold… but do we stop and pause long enough to hear of the mystery that comes to us from the natural world? This is the purest and most distinct-from-ego revelation of the divine that we can encounter. It seems to make sense to start there.

The disconnect of body, mind, and soul

Postmodernity has had a grievous effect on our awareness of our metaphysical nature. It has wounded our spiritual boundaries. The proliferation of constructed images and experiences has caused us to place all our belief in the copy, not the original; in the mask, not the essence. The postmodern soul has lost its awareness of its unique material reciprocity with the sacred Macrocosm. It is not as if we don’t understand that life is lived through our bodies. But similar to the individual wounded by psychological dysfunction, we may hold the spiritual belief that the material body has nothing of the metaphysical presence of the Divine in it. Like the individual who lives a heady, disembodied existence, the rest of us live lives that do not flow between body, mind, and soul.

Dualism has permeated our consciousness. In the West in particular, we have not only separated the physical body from the thinking mind, but we have also elevated rational intellect above intuitive knowledge that resides in part, in our bodily instincts. Yet we are a society obsessed with the body. Obesity and thinness both are the shadows of our dualistic separation and denigration of the body and it’s instinctual and intuitive life apart from the rational mind. With our modern sensibilities and scientific knowledge, we no longer know the miracle of the human body. When we suture the split between our bodies, our minds, and our souls, however, we will begin to remember both our unique human being-ness and our soul’s connectedness with the ultimate Essence.” Pierrete Stukes, Healing the Postmodern Soul