Today we’re continuing our series on the Wild Mind by diving into a different facet: the South.
The South is about our wilderness, our emotions, our sensuality, and sense of belonging in the world – the natural world.
I love talking about the South because I feel like it has been a strength in my life, especially at times like when I was at UC Santa Cruz (a clothing-optional University at the time), living amongst the ancient redwoods, dancing wildly to drum circles on the beach, and riding my bike to sit under my favorite acacia tree and watch the sunset; or when I was a climbing guide and slept under the stars over 250 nights each year, and having playful meetups with lovers all over the world.
The energy of the South is returning to me as I intentionally create more time in the wilderness and to connect with my place in this world in this new iteration as mom and online biz gal.
You know, we seem to forget as humans that we are also animals. And we tend to default to human exceptionalism, an idea that we’re better than other species, or that we hold more value.
Even in Buddhism it’s said that because of the type of sentience we have and the capacities of our brain, that humans can achieve enlightenment more efficiently and make greater progress on the path, helping more beings along the way.
But the flip side is that we can also cause more harm than other species, right? And the disconnect from nature and the resulting harm gets even more out of control the more we forget that we are also animals – we have had, and continue to have, a symbiotic relationship with other beings, plants, and the Earth.
This is where the South comes in. The South (for those in the Northern hemisphere – if you’re in the Southern hemisphere, flip the North and South in this series) is the place with the most sun, the most warmth. Humans are outside more, exploring more, watching the sunsets and sunrises, connecting to the natural world. And with it, there’s a more playful, relaxed, warm energy in our hearts.
These qualities of the South are so important to Soul work because the type of adventures and explorations that we often encounter on the path and during altered state journeys often contain symbols, messages from our subconscious minds, aspects of our collective consciousness, and more. To navigate all this, we need to cultivate our instinct – our ability to trust and respond even without thinking. This is the domain of the South.
The South also allows us to tap into the deep knowing that we belong here, just as we are. It helps us mitigate fears that may arise about being untethered to any sense of home. It allows us to trust that what arises is for our greatest good, because it IS. We become intimate with our Inner Healing Wisdom.
Bill Plotkin calls the healthy facet of the South the “Wild Indigenous One.” It’s not an invitation to cultural appropriation, but rather a reminder that we all descend from a lineage of indigenous people, and that when we are in touch with that and how it is alive in us now, we are fully and passionately at home in our bodies and in the natural world…
How do we know we’re in the South? If you’ve ever connected with another species, like having a silent moment with a wild animal while hiking or running, or having your pet come lick your tears, knowing what you need, or appreciating the gentle cradling from a favorite tree as you sit in its branches – that’s the South.
If you’ve fully appreciated being born in a human body and all the sensual pleasures and experiences it allows – sunsets, wild uninhibited sex, hot chocolate, trail runs, massages. Yum!
Or enjoyed what it’s like to fully feel an emotion as it moves through your body, feeling alive and present in the world – even when the emotion is a challenging one…
Then you have felt and connected with your Wild Indigenous One.
I remember once, after a breakup, I was thinking about all the great times I had with this lover and the things we created together. As I reflected on how we were moving on and felt the sadness, I started to cry… but I was surprised when I noticed I was also in deep gratitude for the beauty of being alive, for ALL the complexity of emotions available to me.
How beautiful it was that I was alive and that I had the capacity to feel the entire range of emotions, from love and passion and bliss and pure joy to grief and loss. How this pain was 100% worth it.
You might start to realize that the South has been actively suppressed in most modern industrialized societies. This makes sense, because the South helps us tap into our unconditional worth and belonging, while capitalism and consumerist culture thrive on having us believe that those things come from the outside, from things we can buy and that we “need” to be whole…and consequently, also things that can be lost or taken away. This is why actively cultivating the qualities of the South is essential – now more than ever.
When we are in our South, we recognize the Buddhist concept of interconnectedness – that everything in the Universe and on this planet has come into being due to its relationship to – and dependence upon – everything else. We fell this more intuitively when we’re in nature.
We also open to full emotional expression. While the balanced South doesn’t see emotions as toxic and doesn’t suppress them, our South subpersonalities have a very different experience of our emotions.
When we react to events through the filter of our woundedness, our emotions often seem unpleasant, and we may then end up acting on our emotions in ways that harm ourselves or others; acting in toxic ways, even towards ourselves.
These subpersonalities are unbalanced or uncultivated parts of ourselves. They’re generally thought of as the Wounded Children, as they often have the common theme of fear of being abandoned again. When they are activated, it feels as if the world is going to end – even as adults. I think of a temper tantrum of a toddler that feels all is lost because of a lost toy, and throws themselves onto the floor thrashing about. This is what we do when our Wounded Child arises when we’re grown-ass adults – an adult version of this (and for some of us it might still look similar to this;).
There are several subpersonality types that exist in the South, and I go into them in a lot more depth in the full episode, but one I’d like to highlight here is The Rebel.
The Rebel is generally “against it,” no matter what “it” is. They may have had opportunities to make more money but refuse to do so, because they don’t want to “give into the man.” Even if it’s not compromising deep values and even if they can’t pay their bills and end up with infinite money stress.
They often don’t trust anyone in “the establishment” (or in life), usually because of an abandonment they’ve experienced before.
Despite the tough outer shell, there’s this underlying belief that they aren’t worthy or qualified for the rewards of mainstream society in more traditional ways (like money and success). So they rebel against almost everything: religion, teachers, parents, anything from dominant culture.
This subpersonality is common in those of us from the poverty classes and oppressed people (myself included!), and for good reason, as these groups are traditionally marginalized in white-supremacist capitalist culture and feed this rebel tendency. However, this sub is also quite prevalent in other groups.
Of course, being a rebel isn’t all bad. It’s actually pretty awesome, right? We tend to have more freedom and know how to have a great time. A popular saying in Camp 4 between us dirtbags was from economist Thorstein Veblen: “At either end of the social spectrum there lies a leisure class.” But when this rebellion comes from a wounded place, we’re often causing ourselves – or others – unnecessary harm.
When I was living in my car as a climbing guide, I felt so much pride in needing so little to feel free and alive. To not “need” to work excessively. But I also had a better-than-thou attitude and had no qualms about ripping off those I considered to be privileged and “better off.” I remember once a Walmart cashier didn’t scan one of my larger items, and I didn’t mention anything. Stick it to the man! But still… stealing.
I checked these less healthy parts of me once I started to heal that wounded child in me. But I still like to get away with shit;)
Just as the North’s Loyal Soldiers can be called Protectors, the South’s Wounded Children can be called Orphans. Most of us weren’t literally orphaned, but all of us experienced, at some point of another, and kind of loneliness of our psyche, an abandonment in that sense – key moments in our life when we realized holy shit, no one is watching out for me right now and I have to fend for myself. Even if our family was fairly supportive, at some point we felt…alone.
The wounded emotional basis of the Southern subs arises because while we, as adults, may have learned to manage our emotions to some extent – repress them. Managed emotions aren’t fully processed emotions, and fully processing them is what we need in order to continue developing in a healthy way.
What’s happening here is really a disconnect from our authenticity in order to gain some degree of safety – physical or emotional. But when we do this, we forget who we really are, what we really want, and why we’re really here. We forget that we’re not here to DO more and more and more. We’re here to BE who we authentically are, because that is why we were born.
The discovery of who we authentically are and what we truly desire is the journey of the South, and one that’s very common on the Adventure Mastermind.
Because of this disconnect from our authenticity, the wounded South often shows up as emotional reactivity, impulsive behavior that takes us by surprise, feeling as if our emotions and reactions arose out of nowhere, out of our control.
How can we start to process our emotions and integrate them back into us? There are 4 essential steps:
// Understand and identify what emotion(s) our Wounded Child is feeling.
// What happened (or what do they think happened) that elicited the emotion?
// Understand that it makes perfect sense that they’d be feeling exactly those emotions under those circumstances. “Anyone in that same situation would have done the same thing.” This is truer than many of us would like to admit.
// Understand what this tells you about them (aka YOU).
After this, the most important piece is that we take action, because our challenging emotions arise when we aren’t having basic needs met. But the problem is when our South isn’t healthy, we believe others need to fit it and that we aren’t capable of doing it (or shouldn’t have to).
Therefore, taking action is key so that we bring this sovereignty back into ourselves. We can figure out how we can act on our emotions and the information they give us. Maybe we need to create better boundaries and stick to them. Perhaps we need to take more time for self-care – pr leave a toxic job or relationship. We can listen and do things differently…
What’s one thing you can do today to more fully cultivate and integrate your South? Something that will help it grow, like time in nature or dancing naked in your kitchen. Or perhaps something that will help you get to know your wounded child better, and learn to care for them? Pick one small thing to do today to get closer to the Wild One in you.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
// What the sensuous, embodied, and emotive energy of the South means to our Wild Mind and why it’s so important for Soul work
// How we can connect deeply with our Wild Indigenous One, despite society’s attempts to repress it
// What the South’s subpersonalities are, and 4 steps we can take to assimilate them in a healthy way
// Episode 128: Bearing Witness – Who Did You Tell?
// Episode 135: Reclaiming Parts of Ourselves
// Episode 142: Your Wild Mind – The North + Protectors
// Wild Mind, by Bill Plotkin
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the Rebel Buddhist Toolkit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll also get access to the Rebel Buddhist private group, and tune in every Wednesday as I go live with new inspiration and topics.
// Cultivating our connection to our true selves and finding wholeness within us and in nature is a key part of the Adventure Mastermind. If you want to dive into this work in this container, learn more and apply at AdventureMastermind.com. There’s ONE SPOT LEFT, and our next cohort starts at the end of February!
// Want something more self-paced with access to weekly group support? Check out Freedom School – the community for ALL things related to freedom, inside and out. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com. I can’t wait to see you there!