9 of us walked single-file along the forest ridge, our instructor’s seemed to have something up their sleeves. Some kind of mystery was around the corner… A clear and cold night in early spring, the moonlight shone brightly, threading it’s silvery beams through the forests awakening canopy.

A very long string hung at chest height from tree to tree. Like a web, it hung over the landscapes swells and ditches. We were instructed to take off our shoes; the ground was cold but welcome after a long winter.

String Stalk

Wilderness Awareness begins with Awakening the senses.

We were brought to the starting point of an exercise called string stalk: string stalk is when one by one, you take hold of a long string that weaves around trees; you then follow it blindfolded until the end, moving past low hanging branches, hills, ditches, water, and rocks. Out of all these obstacles, I quickly learned that, actually, my jittery mind was the biggest trap. “Am I going too slow or fast? Is someone going to run into me? Will I step on something sharp?”. All are common thoughts. And, all of them can be weeded out, to make way for something more important.

At the end of the string, someone taps you on the shoulder. Taking off your blindfold, the world looks different. It’s more vivid…Try to remember the swirling colors of childhood for a second, the way space felt around you…reality felt more like that for a while after string stalk.

To be thrown off balance during the exercise, all you need to do is get in your head. It’s almost like you become one of those collapsing toys. It’s immediate. But what is there without thought? A lot of us probably don’t believe there is more. Or maybe we just don’t know how to slow down enough.

We were given some tools to help us sink into our experience by the staff; an example being, fox walking.

Fox walking is one of the 8 points of awareness that can help cultivate a deeper level of awareness. I use the word cultivate for a reason, because I sometimes feel tired after awareness exercises. This is like new muscle is being worked, or language learned. It takes time, and effort, but the results are a more expansive ability to move in the World.

Now, each time I do string stalk, it gets a little easier, a little less frustrating. I believe this is because these tools help us get out of our Beta brain waves and into the deeper ones that relax us and help us feel at ease.

Beta waves are the waves of the logical mind, of goals, destinations, and analyzing. It can be an anxious state (gotta get to that Doctor’s appointment, then drive Timmy home from soccer practice, and my parents are coming for dinner!) Go go go. It’s our lizard mind, us/them, good/bad, right/wrong. It’s not to say Beta is all bad, it’s just that it alone owns most of us, choking out other forms of awareness to the point of near atrophy! It’s as if we are reacting the same to a phone call from our boss as we would to being chased by a Saber Toothed Tiger! It’s simply unnecessary.

Beta consciousness is helpful for some things still, but it is not conducive to things like compassion, relationships, or getting over the same old patterns we just can’t seem to shift away from.

Fox walking and the other point of awareness create a sieve, a threshold, where only the intuitive self is allowed to cross. It is in this space that we are able to rest our weary minds, relax, and actually process what is going on in or lives at a deeper level.

The ability to see what we are thinking, as if from the outside, is a tool in my opinion that every human dearly needs.