The Way of the Wild Heart

The Way of the Wild Heart speaks to me of the need for a conscious rewilding of the human spirit and intentional cultivation of what I have long referred to as our wild hearts. This wild heart resides within each and every one of us. It is critical in today’s world that we learn to connect with it, for it resonates with the wild heart of the earth and all that is alive upon her.

For the past thirty or so years I have associated myself and my herbal practice with the Wise Woman Tradition. In fact, I took the three primary principles of the Wise Woman Tradition, as I understood them, to be the guiding principles of my life:

The reliance on common, abundant, nourishing, local herbs and foods in season.
The development and cultivation of an open, wild and compassionate heart.
The use of simple ceremony to inform our sense of the sacredness of every day life.

The more I focused on bringing these simple principles into my life, grounding them into my activities, attitudes and perceptions, the more fully realized my life seemed to become. However, as often happens, ideas and values, our sense of ethics, even principles to live by, shift and change, metamorphose into something new and evolve into something more meaningful as life goes on. If we cling to the old, and refuse to answer the call of our own growth, we risk becoming stifled and cease to move forward.

As my life and my practice of Community Herbalism has matured and ripened over these past thirty years or more, I find that the cloak of the Wise Woman Tradition no longer quite fits me in the same comfortable fashion as it once did, although I still find its guidelines essential and significant. Because of this, I feel the need to name and define a new approach or tradition, one that has evolved out of my daily practice, and has been forming within me for many years. It is a way that speaks most clearly to who I have become, and resonates more soundly with where I want to be and how I would like to lead. I call this tradition emerging from my depths The Way of the Wild Heart.

This wild heart is now and has always been singing, calling, ringing and resonating within you and me. It can not keep silent. And it can no longer be ignored.

This wild heart within us is an outstanding and fundamentally necessary, yet much overlooked, component of our natural intelligence. It yearns for connection and is ever ready to empathize, sympathize, to truly know, understand and love. Without intentional activation of this wild heart we are cast adrift on the seas of life, with no real connection to the earth. No sense of mother or wonder. No true sense of home.

We humans were designed as a part of nature; we fit perfectly into the natural rhythms of life. Our hearts, brains and nervous systems are highly evolved and interconnected systems. So are these systems within the plants. The communication between humans and plants, and all other life forms on earth, is not only possible, it is common and constant. We just have not been taught to pay attention. Opening our wild hearts requires learning to pay attention.

Our perceptions about the earth and ourselves are always changing. Perceptions are fluid, resilient, non static, supple and elastic. These are remarkable times we are living in now. Witness the constantly shifting edges, boundaries loosening, merging with one another. We are dancing together on the ever changing rim of life. We are the outer membrane of the earth.

And as biologists now tell us, the intelligent heart of each individual cell is its membrane, that outer surface which comes into contact with all other surfaces in its area, the part of the cell that gets to socialize you might say, rub up against its neighbors, soak up the latest news, communicate freely and be a full participant in the feedback loop. It is not the hidden and protected center, the nucleus/brain of the cell, as we were all taught in school.

The thinking heart and intelligence of each plant is in its root tip, the part that grows, that searches out mineral richness, the part that interacts with the soil and its microbial life, and the part that decides where to go.

We humans have always been taught to think with our heads, to use our heads. We like to get the heads up, be ahead of the game, we dive head first into things, and generally lead with our heads. It may be though, that thinking with our heads is only a small, and rather imperfect part of what we are actually capable of. Science is now discovering that we have a completely different powerhouse/processor/information center, one that is potentially even more illuminating and significant than the mind and the function of which we are just beginning to conceptualize.

It turns out that when measured electromagnetically, it is our heart that gives off a stronger, more dynamic and more complex signal than the brain by a factor of roughly 5,000. The heart’s signal is so vastly dominant that its rhythmic field envelops every cell of the body and also extends out in all directions into the space around us. Our hearts have been found to contain the same neural cells as our brains. It is our hearts that possess emotional intelligence, that both think and feel. This thinking/feeling heart can actually be the core of all our perceptions. If we allow it to be.

In order to skillfully address the profound challenges that are emerging throughout the world, fresh skills and expanded vision are increasingly crucial. Shifting the source of our primary perceptions can empower us to bring our full, open, loving and compassionate hearts and spirits, that which has been informed by our deep and timeless connectedness to the earth, front and center and into our everyday lives.

I’d like to propose that we begin to seriously and with full attention, as though our very lives and the future life of our planet depended on it, begin to bring our focus to connecting with, nurturing, developing, listening to and responding to the world from our wild hearts. I want us to empathize, to care deeply, no matter what the price or the pain, and promote the opening of this wild heart consciousness within. Doing so will help us to develop our higher senses and faculties and lead to the realization of our truest human/divine nature. At this critical point in time, the world requires and deserves nothing less of us than this.

Following this Way of the Wild Heart will deeply enhance our experience within our families, communities and the world at large. It will bring the fruit of new inspiration, strength and courage to the immensely important work of defending our wild places, our beloved planet and all the local and diverse inhabitants with whom we share our home. I am thinking now not only of the plants, animals and places, the so called biosphere that we love but also peoples, cultures and traditions, or the ethnosphere. For indigenous lands, peoples, languages and cultures are every bit as threatened in today’s world, and as valuable and indispensable, as the many plants, animals and places we now list and defend as endangered.

So today, with you as my witness, I declare a new herbal tradition for our present era, one I hope you will join together with me to help spread, nurture and promote: The Way of the Wild Heart. May it serve us, our earth and all future generations well.

About gailfaithedwards

Gail Faith Edwards is an internationally recognized Community Herbalist with over thirty years experience. She is the author of a number of books about herbs and has taught in India, Italy, Poland and Russia, at the Yale School of Nursing, the University of Maine and the College of the Atlantic, among others. She is the founder of Blessed Maine Herb Farm and Director of the Blessed Maine Herb Farm School of Herbal Medicine. She is the mother of four grown children and the grandmother of four grandsons. Gail leads sacred journeys and ancestral pilgrimages to Southern Italia twice a year.
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