Many years ago I attended a music festival in California with my younger sister, spending four days of reverie amidst the oaks and lodgepole pines on the edge of Yosemite National Park.
At a time in my life when I was far less than confident in my basic sense of self, this was an exciting yet entirely daunting adventure, dropped, as I was, into a world that I was completely unfamiliar with. This was her world, and it was a fairytale land of undomesticated dancers and nude life lovers, tattooed and insouciant humans as I had never really experienced before, and I was scared shitless.
It seems so funny to admit that to myself now, years later, remembering the nervousness and misgivings with which I boarded the hitched campervan that would carry us there: would people hate me? was I too fat and ugly to be included in this pack? was I cool enough, wild enough, interesting enough to hold my own when it was so obvious that everything about me was so very, very dull?
Bookish and fairly reclusive at that point in my life, I was totally content to spend my days writing and reading in a hidden glade in Golden Gate park. I still struggled with disordered eating and poor body image, and indeed with just poor self image in total. I felt undeserving of love and attention, and so immersed myself fully in practice and study, the places where there was some sense of confidence (so long as I didn't have to speak in class about it). My mind was safe, but my body and intuition and feelings and creativity inspired great distrust in me, making it seem far more sane and safe to relegate them to the 'deal with later' pile of my life, and just keep surfing for new things to understand on Amazon.
But I wanted wildness. I wanted to be free, and although I read every book about it I knew, ultimately, that my own liberation would have to come through action and fearlessness; through the simple but painful practice of putting myself in a situation that made me horribly uncomfortable.
And, good god, it made me uncomfortable.
From that place of great discomfort at this festival, I said weird things, did weird things, moved like someone had shoved a pole up my ass, dropped everything I touched, and basically manifested every possible expression of social awkwardness that a person could summon in that amount of time. I wanted to vomit I was so nervous nearly every minute of it, and when I would come across someone I knew and who I felt sure around (there were three such people there) I would tear up from the joy of being able to breathe again, falling back onto the ground beside them with vibrations of nervous agony pulsing through me, a little like being electrocuted for days at a time.
But I made it, and by the end of the third day I actually started to relax a little bit. By the fourth day I could speak full sentences, and by the time I had to leave that afternoon it was almost like I started to allow myself to exist there.
Social awkwardness is one thing, but it was not just a little bit of nervousness that brought on this experience for me. It was the intense domestication I had long existed within that was the source of this pain. The domestication of comparing myself to everyone else around me, of competing with others and beating myself up for perceived failings (that I mostly could not control) in my physical appearance, clothing choice, style of dancing or talent with banter, and of assuming that my basic nature--my intuitions, my body, my innate creativity, my basic goodness--were not enough.
This is the domestication of the modern female. And while we all have gone through it on varying levels, I've always done things thoroughly, so I took it on hard:
I injected things into my face and consulted with plastic surgeons to see what magic they could perform on me to make me more 'acceptable'. For years I spent all my money on clothes and makeup and shoes, shoes that might allow me to step into the position of what seemed to be a 'confident female', but I ended up mostly with no money for rent and a sore back.
I abused my body with excessive dieting and exercise (and bingeing and drinking) so that it might eventually give in and remake itself into something that would be considered more worthy of attention and affection. And I hid every part of me that was really me: my creative self. My intuitive self. The very core of my being where I was just as goofy, irreverent and entertaining as I was when I was young, but now saw those things as unacceptable and ridiculous.
We all do this, to varying degrees, and it is this loss of self expression and confidence to be that is the source of such immense pain for us all. All the comparison and competition succeeds in doing only one thing: suppressing our true nature so completely that we remove any possibility of a life lived with great alertness, vitality, joy and freedom, all in the desire to 'fit in'.
But it is not enough to nod our heads and agree, we have to actively choose to be wild, and to connect back to the center of our being. This isn't easy nor fast, and requires both deep psychological work (for most people) as well as training in mindfulness, various methods of soul/self retrieval, and other modalities that call our wholeness back to us.
But we can still start today.
It doesn't have to be a large expression of wildness, but perhaps just some small act of personal defiance through which you announce your desire to step out of the cage that society has placed around you. Perhaps you wear something a little weird, or dance for a few moments in your living room alone, or send a prayer of gratitude to nature for more than just what it 'does', but for continually welcoming you day after day, embracing you with offerings of food, shelter, medicine, and wisdom. Wildness comes back to us in large leaps sometimes, breaking away from what we have come to accept as normal, but it's also entirely possible in small steps towards that goal; little expressions of the desire to reunite our beings with the place from which we all originally came. Call it the Tao or God or Spirit or Oneness, but it is all the same: the place where we belong, just as we are.