The name SHIFT refers to the idea that rewilding, re-nativing, re-indigenizing, requires us to reconnect with natural forces and rhythms. It requires us to acquire a flexibility and flow, constantly attuned to our world, in both a moment-to-moment sense and a big-picture sense.
At SHIFT we explore this, by first connecting to the body, breathing life into its movements, imitating the living world, and then learning simple protector skills such as stick-fighting, but most of all: finding our natural and wild center, and moving from it.
.Many of the movements in martial arts training are taken from the
natural realm. For example, tai chi – perhaps the best-known practice
– has movements with names such as “cloud hands,” “White stork
cools its wings,” and “snake creeps down.” Practitioners learn from
people who learned from people who learned from people who
originally learned from their animal relations. Would it not be more
honoring, and perhaps a better learning experience, to go back to the
source and learn as did the original masters? It is the way our
ancestors learned, and it is the way of all native people –
Two-leggeds, Four-leggeds, Six-leggeds, Wingeds, and Rooteds. It
could serve us well and are healing and reawakening to return to this
relationship of belonging, of learning from each other in a
Circle-relationship way, rather than turning our back on our
relations and purporting to know what they have to teach us. Is
dishonoring them in this way what we really want to do?
… I watch people in a building imitating their teacher in the practice of
an exercise such as Dancing in the Clouds when just a doorway away
they could be outside learning directly from real clouds. I see others
practicing Golden Pheasant Stretches his Leg with the birds
watching them from the nearby woods, wondering why the people
are learning from another person and not from them, as in the days
of old. And why are they learning a golden pheasant movement
when there are none for thousands of miles? Raven, heron and eagle
stand by watching, and saying to themselves “are we not good
By living in the city we daily take a powerful domesticating medicine, a medicine that atrophies senses and capacities, that though natural to our human bodies, they remain antithetical to the needs and practicalities of civilization.
By practicing SHIFT, and by urban animal tracking and nature awareness, we take a different and balancing medicine, one that encourages the return of the quiet and waiting wildness within ourselves.
Until we can finally step into a fully rewilded life, living softly and simply amongst all our untamed relations, we must deal with the challenge of the urban and modern world.