In cultural mentoring–a method of design for enlivening healthy, sustainable culture wherever we are–we speak of “Inner Tracking”, the questions, explorations, and awareness someone might have when tracking animals in forest and field, or in your own neighborhood, but applied to your own inner landscape. Your own inner wilderness.
In Tracking in outer nature (you know, the everyday world) we look for signs of animals and then attempt to discover the story, to discern the story vividly enough that we can actually “see” the animal moving in the landscape and sense what it was doing, when it was doing it, and why. Animal signs can be the tracks themselves, with how they have “aged” (worn down, been smeared by rain, etc.) by time and weather. A sign can be the grasses munched off in a particular way. Or the scat at the base of a tree. It can be the walnut shell appearing on your foot path (when no walnut tree is even in your yard). It can be the certain agitated bok-bok-begack! of the chickens that lets you know that a cat has entered the backyard.
Tracking animals involves those detective questions: Who, What, When, Where, Why, How? It involves gathering information, feeling into the questions and possibilities and not committing to any potential conclusion. It involves looking from the narrow-before-you (tracks on the ground), to the wide-vision around you (what are the trees, shrubs here and how might they shelter or assist these animals? What is and was the weather and how did it and does it affect the story here?)
Tracking is about looking and feeling into story. Expanding your perception. Holding past experiences and what you think you know gently because invariably what you think is a raccoon print before you will reveal itself to belong to a cat if you follow and work it long enough. Initial impressions and appearances can be deceiving!
Sound familiar? I have no doubt that you are an Inner Tracker, exploring the realms of self and purpose–who you really are, and what you’d be most authentic in doing in this world. Divining where your passion and purpose meet with the outer landscapes needs and wishes–the passions and purpose of others in your shared wilderness–the challenge and opportunity, isn’t it?
Right now I’m deep in my own inner wilderness, mapping and tracking within it. I have been wandering about pursuing a particular story. The story is the not just the guiding vision in my life, but the outer expression as it meets up with yours. I’ve long held this notion that it was a shining gold lion, proud and magnificent, ready to tear me up if I didn’t step and act with care and perfection. Today the creature feels like a mischievous kitten scampering and leaping and playing under a watchful mama cat’s eye.
And my guide and mentor through this exotic savanna that turns out to be the patchy, weedy back lawn (beautifully weedy, with flax and sunflowers growing up from the chicken feed scattered everywhere)–my guide and mentor today is my younger child.
This young girl is magnificent in her vigorous energy right now–urging me to play tag with her in the backyard, or hide-and-seek, or follow-the-leader in games of intricate rules that I struggle to hold in my head. She has me play jump-rope with her in the living room, and she designs mazes for me on paper with beautiful rooms and landscapes and magic items strewn about. Her eyes sparkle with mischief, and she tests my awareness with games where she sets up her Polly Pockets and all sorts of miniature items, then shifts just one or two things. Which ones? How much did she move them?
Her energy is incredible. At 9:30PM she starts dancing and wants me to dance too. She plays an invisible violin, singing the melody, and has me sing a drum accompaniment (my music teacher self is so delighted …). I absolutely know that she is a key to my universe right now, and yet my mind yanks with old stuff–self-created commitments, a warped sense of duty to household rhythms and routines. What has happened to my endlessly creative self? My passionate 8-year-old inner child who could/be anything, anywhere, any time? Who had so much physical and sassy energy? Somehow endlessly creative has come to mean endlessly creating to-do’s for myself–even if they are creative projects. Gah!
Inner Tracking tells me to just hold these observations lightly–they likely do not mean what I think they do. The animal nature of myself that I track is all these revelations and none of them. What I can do–and be–is to feel into this animal self that is me, lean into the direction of purpose and play, allow myself the grace of tasks and the fire hidden in the moment, and anything else that unfolds as I move through the landscape of my day.
And remember the animals. That they conserve energy — resting between times of hunting or foraging. They may pursue something to great lengths when especially hungry, but will usually strive for something simple, easy for them–while also being watchful, scanning the landscape, listening for bird alarms or strange noises, something off. In the natural world animals, plants, and beyond are their own selves, moving according to their nature and style, and responding to outer pressures and events according to their nature. We do this too. And as animals change their behavior when it becomes clear (usually through outer pressure) that it no longer serves them to be how and where they are, so too is it with us humans.
How are you alert in your own life? How do you move back and forth between moving through the tasks before you and scanning for new ways of being, new information coming in from elsewhere (the outer world, Spirit, ….)? How can you–and me!–just relax into what’s before us (if our lives aren’t in danger–and if it feels you are in danger, are you really?).
Words from my child: “Mommy! If you didn’t make your posts so long they wouldn’t be so boring!” (she jabs at the computer screen). She wants me off the computer so she can go joust. I’ll let you imagine what that means!
In the meantime, I hold her words lightly, and head on out. I’m off to adventure in the landscape of my day. How about you?
On the prowl for mischief and magic!