Will you say Yes to Life? New Year Questions from the Jungle

How do they celebrate New Year in the jungle? As I write this, I don't know - by the time you read this I'll be finding out. Sand and I are just about to embark on another journey of transformation, leading a group of intrepid travelers into the rainforest of Ecuador.

The group, nervous, curious and excited, will set off to the jungle, a place most people have little experience of, where we are completely dislocated from the familiar routines of action and thought in which we live our every days and we'll begin to to learn anew. We get to see the world through different eyes, and experience it in new ways, guided by our hosts, indigenous peoples who live so differently than us: its a perfect place to bring in a new year.

Their way of life is not like ours.  For instance, the day starts well before dawn, they sit around the fire together as families and share the dreams of the night before, the parents or elders interpret, and they decide how to spend the day on the basis of this. Is it a good day for hunting? or for repairing the roof? or for resting? Theirs is a different orientation to life and a different way of navigating - can you imagine going to work and telling your boss you decided not to work on the priority project because of the dreams you had?

To survive in the jungle requires a tremendous amount of knowledge, built up over centuries and passed mother to daughter, father to son. You need to know which plants are edible, or can be used as dyes or poisons, where particular birds gather and at what time of day, which parts of the river are safe. The more you know the easier it is to survive and even thrive in this place.

But it also requires a tremendous amount of not-knowing, a willingness to allow the natural cycles of the forest to dictate when to hunt, or to let dreams indicate how the day should be spent. Decisions aren't reached by listening to a persuasive speaker who knows it all, but by lengthy consultations where every view, every piece of information is assembled and a consensus is reached. Participation in this requires a high level of not-knowing and curiosity. 

A world so different from ours seems a perfect place to start to write a new chapter of our lives. Perhaps we'll be able to see the world newly, and if we're willing, discover who we are at a deeper level and begin to re-craft how we live our lives.

So for those of us, in the jungle or not, who enjoy the turn of the year as a chance to reflect, let's see what inspiration is available from this part of the world.

3 Questions from the jungle for your New Year

  1. where will it serve me to not-know? Just as the full tea cup can't hold any more tea, the full knowing mind can't accept any new ideas, nor even inspiration. Most of us are addicted to knowing, equating knowledge with proficiency or worth. So often we are afraid to utter the words, "I don't know." That's been our culture. But how can we not-know, how can we make space for curiosity, for whole new ways of seeing the world. Try it!
  2. will you say yes to life? Saying yes to life is a philosophy, not just an action. It requires a willingness to accept that there is a source of intelligence beyond our own thinking, a larger order that is guiding us, we can call it life! The temptation, at this time of year particularly, is to picture and plan out exactly what we want. And there is some merit in that, after all we are smart and resourceful enough to achieve a great deal if we know what we want and act accordingly. But there's a danger in this approach too, that our focus becomes blinkers, and we miss the real magic that is available. What if today life wants us to go hunting and we've planned to stay home and work? Can we be open to something new, unplanned, surprising?
  3. what is life trying to tell me? Being open to something new is half of the battle, the other half is to hear life talking to us. These messages aren't necessarily going to arrive in our Inbox, or even our rational mind, more likely in our dreams, a chance encounter or a synchronicity. Being alert enough to hear this, or see patterns or to spot an opening door are the keys to getting in sync with life. And maybe you already know what life is telling you, you just haven't allowed your inner knowing to direct your course. In all these cases it will take some quiet time, undistracted, to hear, or remember, these more subtle messages. Help yourself to some silence with the question, what is life trying to tell me?

New questions may bring new answers, or affirm old ones, or simply open up a space for answers to emerge sometime soon. Whichever the case for you, I wish you a new year of health, happiness and fulfillment.