Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence
-The End of the Innocence, Don Henley
Remember summer days as a kid, without a care in the world? When days were spent riding bikes, swimming in the neighbor’s pool, eating Popsicles or falling asleep in front of a fan? Life was so easy back then – get up, play, eat, play, eat, fall asleep. As adults the “play” is replaced by “work”. So many responsibilities, things that HAVE to get done, it leaves little time for play. However, according to the book I am reading, there are ways we can rediscover our innocence.
The book is called Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World by Bill Plotkin. In a nutshell, the book:
“…introduces a visionary ecopsychology of human development that reveals how fully and creatively we can mature when soul and wild nature guide us. Depth psychologist and wilderness guide Bill Plotkin presents a model for a human life span rooted in the cycles and qualities of the natural world, a blueprint for individual development that ultimately yields a strategy for cultural transformation.”
Some background first: The author makes a distinction between soulcentric culture and egocentric culture. Soulcentric cultures “are designed to assist all members in discovering and living from their deepest and most fulfilling potentials (their individual souls), in this way contributing their most life-nourishing gifts to their community and environment and, in doing so, actualizing the culture’s potential (the cultural soul) and supporting its ongoing evolution.”
Egocentric cultures on the other hand, “prioritize the lifelong comfort, security, and social acceptance of the early-adolescent ego. An egocentric culture has a dysfunctional notion of the self, which it sees as an isolated, competitive entity, a free and autonomous agent…The primary values of an egocentric society are safety, comfort, middleworld pleasures and enhancement of socioeconomic status.” The author believes this type of society gains wealth without soul, and this “leads to its inevitable pathological outgrowths: power differentials, socioeconomic (class) stratification, and exploitation of minorities, women, children, the poor, and all the “resources” of the natural world.” (I think this culture sounds all too familiar.)
Mr. Plotkin posits a Wheel of Life with eight stages of development of the individual to create a soulcentric, evolutionary culture. The first stage in the life cycle is “The Innocent”, and it covers from birth to around age 4. It has many aspects, but one of the main developmental tasks in this stage is to preserve innocence. The author feels this preservation of innocence is so critical, he states, “A society’s return to soulcentric life begins with the care of childhood innocence.”
Whew! I know that is a lot to take in. And now you may be thinking – where the hell did my innocence go? My sense of wonder? Can I go back and get my innocence? The answer is YES. According the Mr. Plotkin, you can revisit past stages in your life and rediscover what was lost. He lists the following 7 ways to reclaim your innocence and I add my own take aways:
- Meditation. “In meditation we practice fully inhabiting our experience right now just as it is. We practice non-attachment or nonclinging to particular memories and people.” Take away: Be Present.
- Solitude in Nature. “The important things is a joyful mindfulness to the wild world”. Take away: Rediscover your connection with nature.
- Creative Art Process. “It’s about surrendering to what is immediately present–your art media and whatever impulses and feelings arise within you.” Take away: Let go.
- “Psychotherapy and therapeutic practices that emphasize present-centeredness”. Take away: Seek the help of professionals if you feel called to do so.
- Attend social occasions: “Drop expectations. Don’t hang on to memories. Let go of desired outcomes.” Take away: Practice awareness of self.
- “Get in the habit of reviewing your day to find one or two situations in which you could have been more innocent and present had you been more mindful.” He continues by asking you to revisit the scene and imagine acting more present and noticing the potential differences in outcome. This will help you the next time the situation arises. Take away: Self-reflection prepares.
- Hang out with babies: “Why not sit at the feet of a master?” Take away: Go to the source.
So are you ready to rediscover your innocence? Let’s prove Don Henley wrong–innocence is not ending, it is just beginning.