Monday, March 31, 2014

Sarah Lawless and other writers of Bioregional Animism

Years ago when I first started writing about Bioregional Animism it was the product of listening to the land from beneath my feet, I learned to allow the forest to directly tell me what I was to communicate, it was a synergy of thought with the land that was teaching me I was one with. The end result was a way that was inclusive yet specific that could apply to many peoples with many differing relational systems to integrate with the land they lived within. But it was specific, what it was not was the combination of two words put together from a sort of intellectual perspective. It was not therefore just placing bioregional (life place) before animism. The term was coined by my two headed conversation with the genius loci, the spirit of place.

Over time in teaching others about bioregional animism the words bioregional and animism had to be defined, and intellectualized so it could be understood by others. these where terms many had not heard before, and many attempts where made through years of discussions on the tribes forum for bioregional animism, so that people could understand it was not just these two words put together intellectually or philosophically. Sadly many of these conversations are lost in the long ghost towns of internet domains no longer frequented.

So if bioregional animism is not just these two words placed together what is it? I recently read on Sarah Lawless's blog what bioregional animism is...
  "So far bioregional animism may seem more of a practical way of life than a spiritual one, but again we must remember the line between the sacred and the mundane is invisible. Bioregional animism is not a spiritual path, it is not a denomination or a tradition, it is the way you choose to live your life every day and the conscious choice to interact ethically with nature. It is a lifetime commitment requiring every day action and practice. You will never stop learning as there is so much knowledge to attain and to put into practical use. I see this as a beautiful thing – striving for perfection and complete knowledge all the while knowing you can never achieve it." Sarah Lawless

While this is beautifully put and wonderful in its own right it is not really fully representative of what the land communicated to me those many years ago and was told to share with others. "Bioregional animism is not a spiritual path," she asserts, well that is not actually true... there where discussions long ago on our forum about Graham Harveys points about new animism not having to specifically be focused around the notion of spirit, but this has never been how it was communicated to me by the land. My first awareness of bioregional animism was that of finding at dawn after ceremony one day that the boundaries felt between self, spirit and place had completely dissolved, I could see the Genius loci as a great field of spirit, like the air had become water, it infused all things including me and was aware and alive and intelligent, it was the life force and it moved me. I was hungry and it responded by moving me and joining me with a bird, showing me that if i allowed my body to be more resonant and in synergy with this movement I would be in enough shape to actually catch the bird to eat, that the bird itself like the land was I and I was the  bird and land. i allowed myself to get more used to this feeling and opened my self more to it allowing my own sense of individual awareness to literally be that which it was, this place I stood upon. When I did so, I understood that this larger sense of self guided thought and traditions and practices and where indeed the source of many, that it could use my voice and be the source of language, and that there was a deep drive for this awareness to be taught to others. So I started to ask how, and the land started moving and shaping my thoughts, shaping ideas, helping put concepts together that could be communicated to others through this communion with place,guiding them to this spiritual path. Because it is a spiritual path, bioregional animism is not just the two words put together, but my attempt to articulate my experience and what I have learned so that others could follow that path in their own way.

There are a lot of other people writing about bioregional animism now, for a while when I was greatly inspired to write it reached a lot of people. The goal was to help people move away from newage "shamanism" and back to the source of establishing intimate spirit based relationships with the land itself as the source of our knowledge as well as identity. Many people who write about this still related to it, it was something that was already happening in their life, it was their path already and a new way of talking about it occurred through our conversations, I met others like Cliff, who standing in a field with him we just opened and felt the land move us together, he already knew the work at the pith of its marrow, That experience with him standing there identifying each other as aspects, faces of the place we were standing, that feeling, that way of knowing who and what you are in RELATIONSHIP with place, was bioregional animism. Which is a spiritual path, the one I was told to share with other people.

I love reading about how other people have been guided by this, I love reading other people who know this spirit side of what Ive for years attempted (sometimes poorly) to communicate to others. There are books I hear from other Cascadians being written working with the ideas, and many blogs, even workshops being taught on bioregional animist herbalism and workshops being held in outdoor spiritual campout workshops on the subject of bioregional animism... many of these Ive never met, or talked to, and I don't know if they truly understand the spiritual path Ive tried to teach that is bioregional animism, that even our own spirit is the spirit of place or if they are just combining bioregional and animism together turning it into a catch phrase to promote their own work and ideas.

What I do know is that I have no wish for Bioregional Animism to be misrepresented, as just the two words. I do not want to see it taught as anything other than a way to cultivate the experience of being the Land Dancing as Beautiful Painted Arrow said. All I have read of others on the subject of bioregional animism that has come after I first started talking about it publicly has been wonderful, its good stuff, inspiring, but sadly its not always been the forest or playa or mountain using their words, moving their thoughts and so they misrepresent bioregional animism as not being a spiritual path but just a philosophical way of life. Perhaps I am wrong and I am not reading things right, perhaps I will only know if I stand in a forest at dawn with them and feel them as a part of the place and we speak to one another with that once voice the voice of place.

But to you as readers, and possible writers on the subject of bioregional animism... If who you are reading and if what you are writing on this subject is not coming from that place, that sacred place where the world itself moves your head and opens your mouth allowing the wind to fill your lungs, and guide your thought, and heart with its vitality, and spirit, then its a misrepresentation. You are not writing or reading about bioregional animism... you are reading or writing about something else. Which is wonderful! We need the diversity! And I thank you for the work that you do, and ask that you clarify that it is different in some way than the work I have brought from the forest and many long hard nights of ceremony. The differences are important...and are to be honored.

Bless and be blessed.