Welcome back to our 4-part series on the Wild Mind! If you missed any of the 2 previous episodes, be sure to check them out!
This week is about the East facet of the mind, and while we’ll also dive into how we tend to buffer and escape from reality when this facet is coming from a wounded place, let’s start with the qualities of the East when we are more balanced in it.
The East contains elements of the Innocent and the Sage; our capacity to be simultaneously innocent and wise, plus the archetypes of the Sacred Fool and the Trickster, too.
Think of the 14th Dalai Lama or Archbishop Desmond Tutu – wise, yet also playful with such an innocent sense of humor; how it seems relatively easy for them to belt out a full belly laugh. How Pema CHodron can be so insightful and deliver deep wisdom, yet als have an audience cracking up.
This may seem paradoxical – and therefore hard to grasp and be comfortable with – but when we sit long enough with it, we discover that innocence and deep wisdom actually have a lot in common: purity, virtue, and an innocent sense of integrity.
The East is where the Sun rises after a long night. It’s often associated with beginnings, birth, transcendence, light, enlightenment.
We know we’re in the East if we see our capacity to laugh at how ridiculous we can be, and also laugh at how way too serious we can be, like that time we lost our shit when something didn’t arrive in the mail on time, or when we made detailed travel plans and none of them worked out and we got so worked up about it…when we’re supposed to be relaxing on vacation.
The East is also. – like the sunrise – when we feel that a dark veil has lifted over a part of our life and we suddenly have a level of clarity and we wonder, “WTF….how did I miss that?”
This facet is active when you’re spontaneous and playful, or when you sense the vibe getting heavy and you offer just the right comment to lighten the mood.
The East helps us tap into the joy of living simply + spontaneously.
In short, the East helps us to lighten the f*ck up.
I want to note here that when I’m talking wisdom in the East, I’m not referring to knowledge. Knowledge is knowing a bunch of facts. Wisdom is understanding, realization, and the discernment that comes with experience and trusting our intuition.
In Bill Plotkin’s book, Wild Mind, it says, “Wisdom is simply innocence seasoned by experience.” Exactly.
All of these facets of the East are such beautiful things when in balance… but what about when they’re not fully cultivated?
I know a lot of people in my orbit are familiar with the East’s subpersonalities:
The Escapists, who are happy to check out after a day at a job we don’t like, so we spend hours staring at the TV.
The Addicts who maybe suffered a deep loss and have begun to overeat, overdrink, or watch too much porn.
The Blissheads – those “good vibes only” people who intentionally ignore world events and systemic oppression, spiritually bypassing instead, while sacrificing true intimacy, authenticity, and connection.
Or the Puers – “kids” that never grew up, with Peter Pan or Wendy syndrome. Those who love to soar ABOVE the mundane world of responsibilities, relationship tensions, and commitments. Ideally in a paraglider or on a Big Wall climb.
All of these subs are about evading, right? Like the other subs we covered in the North and South (the Loyal Soldiers, Tyrants, Rebel, Rescuers etc), earlier in life, these habits may have been helpful because they protected us from overwhelming emotions and maybe even physical pain.
Later, they try to shelter us from more existential dangers, like discovering we don’t have meaning in life, or blocking our awareness of a trauma.
We can call these the Escapists. In the end, they just wanted to help us survive through escaping or evading. I for sure have some of this in me.
So while the cultivated East Self transcends and helps us see the bigger picture, the East subs escape to a different experience than reality – and preferably one that’s more fun, happier, less vulnerable or, at the very least, feels a bit safer than whatever is going on in the present.
The balanced East can also help us recover from modern industrialized society. Sooner or later, we have to address the addiction and escapist tendencies that are cultivated but a culture that believes technological progress is the highest value; that we were born to buy buy buy and consume; that the Earth’s resources are here for us to use up and not steward for other beings and future generations – or even other people not he planet, especially if they’re not White.
The addictions of modern industrialized society protect us from seeing and feeling the suffering of the Earth for our … consumer habits. They encourage us to ditch our authentic self for a false sense of belonging in a wounded society, or for a false temporary pleasure of a high.
So what can we do when we have an Eastern sub personality (or personalities) running our lives?
The main question, as always, has to do with the War of Childhood Survival: Is it over? Because if it’s not, now might not be the best time to try and take down our defenses that have protected us for so long.
But if it IS over, then we can ask:
- Do you have adequate access to the resources of your true Self?
- Do you have a decent social support network?
If the answers to these two questions are a clear YES, then you can walk through Bill’s recommended 7 steps:
- Recognize you’ve been utilizing an addict or escapist strategy & make amends
- Abstain from behaviors involved in those escape patterns
- Further cultivate resources of your whole Self (more on that in the pod)
- Experience, explore, and heal emotions, memories, and realities the Escapists have helped you avoid
- Offer your sincere and profound gratitude to your Escapists for their services – maybe reflect on specific examples of when they were super valuable and saved you.
- Replace those old routines with positive habits that serve your authentic Self.
- Uncover, reclaim, and ACT on the deep longings beneath the escapes and addictions.
Most people get stuck at the action part. They eventually see what underlies everything – their true motivation, the root cause – but then the sense of overwhelm that arises when they think of actually having those difficult conversations, changing long-standing habits, leaving unhealthy relationships and basically being open to letting the old self die…it is so scary sometimes that we freeze. And distract. And escape all over again.
There is a way out, and we got into it on this episode.
You will learn:
// What a balanced Eastern facet looks like, and how we can cultivate resources within it to help us stop avoiding life
// The subpersonalities of the East and why they have such a strong desire to evade and escape reality
// How our Escapists were necessary and helpful…and how they might no longer serve us
// How a balanced East can help us let go of the addictions we see in modern industrialized society, consumerism and deeply-rooted toxic beliefs of colonization and a distancing from nature… and how the East’s wounded aspects can throw us back into being a cog in the industrial wheel
// 7 steps we can take to replace our Escapist habits with a lighter, big-picture and more joyful way of being present with reality, even its difficult emotions and challenging circumstances.
// Episode 82: How to Live in Polarity
// Episode 142: Your Wild Mind – The North + Protectors
// Episode 143: Your Wild Mind – The South + Wounded Children
// 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!