I love being out in nature; I have since I was a young child. As an urban, then suburban youth, I was never able to fully understand why I just felt better in the forest. When I entered the forest, I felt like I was stepping into another dimension, to another place and time where anything was as plausible and possible as the next. The forest was a place where fantasy and reality merged and gave me a level of fulfillment and excitement that I couldn’t find anywhere else. As I grew into a young man, my love for wild things and places diminished a bit, replace by athletic and youthful romantic pursuits. The world was my oyster during that time. I was young enough to have few responsibilities yet old enough to take on the world on my own. I had great success in high school and college athletics, had no issues finding connections with members of the opposite sex and was living my best life daily.
My senior year of college started off just like the rest, full of the joys I’d grown accustomed to. However, in the spring of my senior year, just as track and field season was ramping up, all of that changed. One day, out of nowhere, I lost sensation and strength in my lower right leg. I would be out for at least a month, because of a herniated disk, in a year when I was the favorite to win the NCAA national title in my event. I was devastated, my whole world suddenly imploded. My identity, my self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-image were wrapped up in and dependent on me being a star athlete. I, being an outgoing person generally, found myself alone and likely in a borderline state of depression. I couldn’t understand how or why this had happened to me and had no guarantees that I would ever fully recover, physically or emotionally. I was then at my first, although light, rock bottom period of my life.
For some reason, at that point in my life, I was fascinated by non-traditional spiritual practices and alternative belief systems. Looking back now, I see the injury as a way for the universe to pull me out of a life of spiritual deficit and onto the path I needed to be on to fulfill my destiny, whatever that may be. My interest in those subjects did in fact bring me back to the forest, the place where I felt most at peace and most alive as a child.
When I re-entered the forest, I was doing so from a different perspective than I did as a youth. I went in carrying my current pain and the mundane perception of the world, common to most that are relatively divorced from the natural world. I went into the forest like a freshly hatched raven chick, a baby, new, afraid of what might be lurking around every tree. Yet, I was still able to taste the peace that I had as a child, just a little bit. The more time I spent hiking around in the forest, the more I realized how much I’d missed being out in nature as part of my life. I purchased and started shooting a new bow, intent to start hunting again as I did when I was younger. If you know me now, as a “wilderness survival expert”, then you’ll find it to be funny that on my first attempt to head out on a weeklong hunting trip, by myself, I turned around, scared, and returned home before reaching my destination. I was embarrassed by that moment in my life and was dedicated to overcoming my fears. I did so by taking baby steps and going further and further out, first with others and then by myself, until I felt, comfortable being alone in the wilderness. That process took a few years to get that level of comfort, and continuing to spend time in the woods, in more and more remote places, furthered my level of comfort. I had become a full-fledged city-dwelling, yet proficient hunter, a search and rescue K9 handler, and a competent hiker. Still, there seemed to be something missing. I didn’t know what that was until my second, light-duty, rock bottom period.
Around 2015, after a couple of failed major relationships, financial hardships, and the feeling that I just couldn’t catch a break, I felt lonely, alone, not worthy of love. I was pretty bitter about my plot in life and my prospects for living a happy life. At that point, I basically threw up my hands and said, “fuck the world, I’m done”. A side job opportunity came to me, to watch over a logging camp at night. So, I bought a small camper trailer, hauled it 10 miles deep into the Mt. Hood National Forest to watch over the logging equipment at night. I still had to get to work but I’d basically left most of the world behind otherwise. I went out at first to just escape a world I didn’t feel I belonged in. I wanted to distance myself from most meaningful connections with others and find my own peace. I’d believed my path was to be a solitary one, that there was no one that could understand me or love me for the person I was. I set out to become ok with that prospect, to become a whole person myself, not in need of my “other half”.
While out in the forest, I did find my peace, I had the time to truly observe the forest and myself, free of most of the distractions we have in the urban world. I met my animal spirit guide, the Raven. I began observing the natural world as my true home. When you are in your home, you notice the intricacies of things that are easily missed by casual passers-through. I saw the circle of life all around me. I saw how each part of that ecosystem existed in balance and harmony; each part supporting another so that all things, flora, and fauna, were necessary for the ecosystem to thrive. I began to have what I can only call mystical animal encounters. Sometimes a Raven is just a raven, sometimes a wolf is just a wolf, sometimes an owl is just an owl, but other times they are not. At this point in my life, I began to receive more messages from the natural world; guidance off the path I was on and onto a new spiritual path.
The thing about finding such a path to greater enlightenment is that once you see the crack of the door open, and choose to peak through it, instead of closing it right then and there, you cannot unsee what you’ve seen. You are forever changed in your perspectives and beliefs. This can be in a minor way, or it can be completely life-changing; for me, it was the latter. However, I was ready for such a transformation, my intuition had always told me that there was much more to this world than what we see on the surface. I consider myself to have an old soul, my old soul has always known that the common narrative of a mundane world ruled by inflexible universal laws didn’t make sense. The universe was too grand, there was too much that we do not know about the world and the entire cosmos for me to believe “this was it”. So, at that point, down the proverbial rabbit hole, I went into a world where anything and everything was just as plausible and possible as the next. That perspective would rewrite my experience of this world, making it a more wondrous and exciting place to be. I began having visions, manifesting most anything I’ve wanted in life, by sheer will and living the life of my dreams. The following is a partial summation of what I’ve learned thus far.
As a “wilderness survival expert” most would expect me to be quite pragmatic and rely on myself, my skills, abilities, and strength of body and mind. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s my nature to watch, observe, and wait for my intuition to advise me on how to proceed with most things in my life. Yes, at times I must take a few steps in the general direction I feel I need to head, but I only do so to show my intentions to the universe, in action. Doing that simple act will help the next stepping stone on my path will appear. I look, I listen, I feel, I believe, I know from my many mystical life experiences that my answers will come, and the path will become clear; at that point, all I need to do is take that step in the path and repeat again; step, watch, look, listen learn and step again as each steppingstone appears. Thus far my path has led me to a deeper understanding of the forest, of the cyclical nature of everything, and the belief that we and all things are intimately connected. I no longer saw myself as “the human overlord, co-ruler of planet earth” my individual importance in the universe was really diminished to a level that is similar to how most people view dust. I am nothing of individual importance, yet just as everyone and everything else in this universe, I am just as important and necessary as every other thing as well. I see the universe as an infinite tapestry, in which everything is an individual thread. No one thread in the tapestry is more important than another. Regardless of color, texture, placement, or any other trait of that thread, each and everyone is needed for the tapestry to exist in all its splendor. We are all connected flora and fauna, man and animal alike, we are all in this together.
As I leaned into these beliefs more and more, the more the natural world has shown me. I asked at a very basic level, how is it that so many things that most perceive as being separate and unrelated, are connected. The answer I received came down to energy. When one thinks of energy, it’s not a far stretch to consider what may be one of the biggest sudden releases of energy that we know, a nuclear explosion. That release of energy is the result of splitting an atom… Everything we know in this world is ultimately constructed of atoms, including us as humans. Trillions of atoms hold the power of trillions of nuclear explosions. That is the stored potential energy within each of us; how could any of us consider ourselves to be powerless if not indoctrinated to believe so. In the Christian tradition, we are told that we were created in God’s image, why would we believe that only applies to our outer features and not the power we hold within us. It makes sense that Jesus, the earthly born son of God would know of the potential of humanity and be able to tap into that at a much higher and conscious level. I believe we all hold that potential as children of God as well. That however is only one perspective. In many theocratic traditions, it is common to believe we can transcend the normal limits of our bodies to achieve great things. I am now of that belief myself as well.
The thing about energy is that it is never created or destroyed, it has always been and always will be, it just changes form. We use the external energy we can most easily tap into and harness for an innumerable number of things from powering personal electronic devices to powering weapons of mass destruction. Knowing we all have so much stored potential energy within us, I don’t understand why most believe we cannot harness and use that energy to affect the world around us. The question then was how. The answer I found was always in front of me in my life, as I grew up in a Christian household, it was what most call prayer. Prayer when looked at in metaphysical or mystical terms can be synonymous with setting intentions for our energy, focusing it to achieve a specific purpose. The key then was to find a way to focus my mind and thoughts in a way that changed my life and allowed me to manifest the things in my life that I wanted. After a lifetime of social conditioning and being told that we are powerless pawns in the big scheme of things, that is truly a monumental task. The universe, however, found a way to show me that was the case, through my experiences in nature.
The first such experience came as I sat in a tree stand while archery deer hunting. I’d already met Raven and identified that Raven was my primary spiritual guide. However, on that day first Heron and then Owl came to sit with me on a close branch while I was in that tree. Sometimes those birds are just those birds, other times those birds’ appearance signifies a message from the universe. The message owl brings is to sit still, wait and watch closely as there is more going on that meets the eye. Well, as I was hunting, I assumed that message related to my hunt. So, I sat, I waited, I watched, I let smaller bucks pass my stand with no attempt to harvest them believing wholeheartedly that I was to wait for a monster buck to pass my way. That did in fact happen that day and I harvested my largest deer to date then. I’ve been visited by owl in a meaningful way, several times after that, and the results of doing as indicated have always produced a definite result.
My largest elk and deer harvests since then were at times when I was so wrapped up in my spiritual thoughts and in appreciating the natural world I was in that one could barely call what I was doing, hunting. In both cases, my heart was overflowing with love, my aura seemed to encompass the entire mountain I was on, and the desire to chase and harvest animals were close to the furthest thing on my mind. In both of those cases, those animals, the largest of their species that I’ve ever harvested, walked out and presented themselves to me. It’s my belief that they were guided in front of me, by the forces of nature, in gratitude for the depth of the energetic alignment I was showing by immersing myself into the experience. By fully appreciating the sublime beauty of the places I was in, my energy was complimenting them, adding to their energetic field. I’d been hunting hard, trying to make things happen on those hunts, for several days before remembering that it was important to show respect and appreciation for the land. When I did then, and many times since then, the land provided me with exactly what I needed, if not exactly what I wanted. In that situation, my prayer was to cultivate deep feelings of love, to look at everything with the intent to appreciate the intricate beauty of what I was observing. From waves of tall grasses blowing in the wind to the subtly swaying of the mighty evergreens, from a coyote digging for rodents in a field to a lioness cougar playing with her cubs, I’ve been blessed to witness things of unspeakable beauty in nature, appreciating those things deeply has been my prayer that manifested more beautiful things to appreciate as well as food to eat. So, what is the connection, between survival and our spirituality? For me, they are one and the same. I fully believe that if the land does not want someone somewhere, the land will hide its treasures. They can still be found, but it will be much harder to find them. For the ones that walk in alignment and in harmony with the natural world, the natural world will provide all that’s needed for survival. This in conjunction with basic survival skills, the learning of which tends to get one more in tune with the subtle nuances of nature, is a beautiful blend of the spiritual and practical worlds. This is the world I, myself live in as an aspiring Forest Sage, Spiritual hunter, Wilderness Survival Expert, and Spiritual adventurer.