Wildness has always been a part of our ethos here at Wild Life. But what does that mean and what makes a wild life ‘wild’?
Before you panic buy the full Ray Mears DVD collection, we are not suggesting you give up on so-called modern civilisation, retreat to woods and spend the rest of your life living off the land, naked and care-free save for the fear of starvation, freezing to death and/or being eaten by something else. (Ahh, the dream goals!)
No. If you want to then that’s great. Full power to you. But most people don’t want this, and the good news is you don’t have to go full feral to get some of the benefits of the Wild Life.
Go to any heavily industrialised, sterile, urban area and you don’t have to look too far before you see the wildness creeping.
The ‘weeds’ appearing through the cracks in the pavement. The saplings sprouting from the unkempt guttering. The blue tits nesting in the hole in the broken wall.
The wild is always present in every environment. And this includes you.
You just have to start letting it in.
You see, you are the descendent of some truly remarkable individuals. The chances of your ancestors making it to childbearing years was pretty slim (remember, freezing to death, starving to death and being eaten alive).
The fact that your ancestors did this, generation after generation, right up until now, until you, means that inside you are some pretty impressive and resilient genes.
Your ancestors were not just able to survive in the wild, they could thrive in the wild. And the reason is simple…
…they were wild.
And so are you.
I became involved in the ancestral health scene about 10 years ago, after having a long spell as a bushcraft and wilderness skills instructor. Looking at ancestral skills and lifestyles, and those of existing, contemporary hunter-gatherer communities, I noticed that by adopting many of these disregarded practices many of my personal health issues, both physically and mentally, improved.
As I have discussed previously, my dog is one of my greatest teachers in life. He is the epitome of balance between modern comforts of the present and the wildness inherent in all things. He has a paw in both worlds.
And this is what we are striving for in creating a Wild Life.
I have no doubt in my dogs ability to survive in the wild. He may be small but in his chest beats the heart of a massive wolf.
But I am also not so naïve to know that his lifespan would likely be far shorter, and that his final demise would likely be painful. And I think he knows this too.
He currently has over a hundred acres to roam free in, yet he chooses to rest at home every day and make his bed here. Specifically on either my bed, or the sofa.
He benefits from the creature comforts of home, with regular (ancestrally appropriate) meals, warmth, and modern medical care for when he rips his claws trying to climb trees after squirrels. And he has access to pretty much everything his ancestors had; a broad range to run through, with mountains and forests, animals to hunt, the bare earth beneath his paws and the sun on his back, and a loving pack at his side.
This is the Wild Life.
What my dog needs is pretty close to what I need. That’s why I was drawn to the philosophy and practice of the Primal Blueprint system and why I became one of the early Primal Health Coaches (the first in Ireland in fact).
The Primal Blueprint’s 10 Laws is still a great starting place for building wild health.
Now please do not confuse the Primal Blueprint with the Liver King. They are most definitely not the same. The Liver King has some golden nuggets of truth in there but it is sadly sullied by the shouty, ridiculous pantomime of his social media presence.
From my work as a Primal Health Coach, we developed our 5 Circles of Health Philosophy. These are the 5 elements that we believe are vital to foster optimal human health.
Each of the circles is inextricably linked and entwined to the other four. For optimal integrity of our health we need to focus on all five equally.
This has become the core of every programme, workshop, and course that we offer.
And entwined within in it all is the wild. Nature.
Moving the way we were biologically designed, through a natural environment, wearing garments that allowed the freedom of movement, and without bringing toxins into us. Becoming a generalist in all things movement, not a specialist.
Optimising our sleep by creating a sleep sanctuary that closely resembles the type we are designed for. Setting our circadian rhythm but observing the natural sunlight.
Improving our stress management systems by exposing ourselves to appropriate hormetic stressors such as heat and cold exposure and appropriate physical stresses. Honouring our need for rest and recovery. Spending time viewing distant horizons and natural vistas for cognitive and mental health benefits. Learning to recognise our stress responses and have a toolkit available to us when we need it. Embracing hardship to be happier.
Building a community of support around us, both physically and virtually. Understanding our place in nature so that we will never again feel alone. Finding our role and purpose so that we can be of service to the community around us. Remembering that:
‘For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack.’Rudyard Kipling
Eating in a way that is optimally appropriate for us as well as being sustainable over time. Eating the highest nutrient density we can, from as local a source as possible, in as small of an impact as possible to the planet. Eating seasonally. Occasionally getting a little bit hungry. Having feasts, and honouring our bodies with the energy and nourishment it deserves.
Looking to nature, be it other species or other fellow humans, gives us a huge amount of information to help us get and stay healthy.
It doesn’t mean you have to give up your modern comforts. Everything is a tool when we use it appropriately, but as always the difference between a medicine and poison is in the dose.
The Diseases of Domestication and Captivity
I truly believe that the further we move away from how we were designed to live, in accordance with our natural environment, the closer we get to various diseases of modernity.
This can be easily seen in other species.
Take orcas, for example. If you’ve seen the film Free Willy or the documentary Blackfish, you’ll be familiar with the condition of Dorsal Fin Collapse, the bent top fin that you see many captive orcas exhibiting.
There are many theories as to why this happens, from swimming in tiny circles in sea park pools, to lowered blood pressure from inactivity, to the stress of captive diet changes. But it is a rare occurrence in nature, usually only due to injury.
The captive orcas never have to struggle for food, never risk injury from boats and fishing, and have modern veterinary care on call, yet still are suffering the defects of living a non wild life.
Now look at trees grown inside a biodome. They tend to grow quickly and vibrantly. That is until they fall over.
The trees have the optimal light, nutrition, water and soil substrate yet they fail. Why? Because they are lacking the things we all need. The appropriate amount of stress. In this case, in the form of wind.
The constant battering of the wind forces the tree to increase it’s root structure and produce the more structurally integral ‘stress wood’. It’s a simple case of “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”.
And I believe we are no different.
Many of our developments of modern civilisation have had major positive effects on our species, but too much of anything is never good.
Antibiotics have saved millions of lives, but the overuse of them may be creating a future shitstorm that’s heading our way.
The germ theory of disease had led to increased hygiene and in turn the eradication of many diseases. But now, with people aggressively avoiding touching dirt and soil, over using chemical hand sanitiser, and generally not being in contact with the materials and foods that all of our recent ancestors were, has led to compromised immune function and an increase in allergic diseases. This is know as the Hygiene Hypothesis.
Changes in our diets from the hugely varied one of our ancestors has also created complications. Lack of hard, fibrous foods has created a number of dental arch abnormalities, such as malocclusions and crowded teeth. This can also have a knock on effect to how we breathe, and then how we sleep.
Maybe it’s time to eat those chewy bits rather than leaving them on the plate.
Metabolic Syndrome is a clustering of at least three of the following five medical conditions: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high serum triglycerides, and low serum high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
It is very much a disease of our modern domesticated lifestyles.
Some of the key causes are obesity, stress, insulin dysregulation and sedentary movement activity.
Our sedentary lifestyles are creating other problems too. Even those who work out an hour a day but are sedentary for the remainder are subject to the same ill health markers as those who don’t. This has given rise to the term ‘active couch potato syndrome’.
And all this sitting and use of many handheld devices are reeking havoc on our postural alignment, increasing curvatures of the spine, ‘tech neck’, and lower back pain.
Perhaps the greatest crisis that I see from modern lifestyles, which again is rarely seen in traditional hunter-gatherer societies, is the prevalence of mental health issues.
We are at epidemic levels right now.
Is adding a bit of wildness a cure all?
Of course not. But it’s pretty much free to include some, and I do believe it adds to our overall health and wellbeing.
We don’t have to go full feral and live in a cave, just add a little natural balance to our lives.
Simple things like getting outdoors more, eating some wild foods, kicking off your shoes and going barefoot on the grass, and observing the sunrise occasionally are all simple, small things that can help add up to big benefits.