“We are chihuahuas compared to our wolf ancestors”
Don’t you love it when you find someone who has been compiling what seems to be your favourite topics and thinkers and organising them neatly into a series of conversations ready to tap into? Discovering the podcast ReWild Yourself last year was just like finding a treasure trove of ideas I’d wanted to hear more about and hadn’t known was there. Daniel Vitalis is about to launch the third season of his taboo-shattering podcast later this year. It is host to wide-ranging interviews showcasing an impressive roll call of thinkers, authors, and practitioners who share their unique perspectives on the human experience organised around the theme of “ReWilding”. A self-styled hunter gatherer with polymath interests, Daniel Vitalis describes himself as a “modern-day savage” (thanks Daniel V, we need as many urbane savages in our civilisation as we can get!).
The concept “ReWild” implies the concept of human domestication*: in Daniel’s words, “we are chihuahuas compared to our wolf ancestors”; the experience of the human in the WEIRD (Western Educated Industrialised Rich Democratic) world; Radiohead’s “pig in a cage on antibiotics”; the Willy Loman± life; the factory farm human who lives, works, and moves around in a little box that shields it from its natural environment; the creature who consumes mass-produced chemically-treated homogenous foods sourced through large conglomerates (shipped and flown over thousands of miles at the expense of the earth’s oil and gas reserves built up over millenia); the human who lives to pay taxes and sustain civilisation’s established hierarchies and hegemonies; the animal who dies riddled with the diseases of affluence perhaps still able to dream of the wild potential it had for health, happiness, and vitality but never knew. A tragic, reductionist, simplified caricature of a lifestyle that is all too familiar.
Daniel’s concept of ‘rewilding’ is at once resonant (as a fully domesticated human, I know I would not be able to survive in the wild), reminiscent of the Matrix (verging on the extreme but – like the most effective of metaphors – in a way that reveals an otherwise invisible issue), and taboo: as Daniel acknowledges, “it’s just not something we talk about that much”.
I arrived at this party pretty late (already over 121 episodes in) with the publication of an interview with my all-time fave movement communicator and revolutionary, Katy Bowman (yes, Katy B, I’m calling you a revolutionary). Wildly relevant to the central topic around which Daniel organises his conversations,”Movement Ecology”, his conversation with Katy Bowman about her book Movement Matters (see Nutrient Dense for some of my thoughts on one of the essays in the collection), introduced me to the show. (New to Katy B’s revolutionary ideas? Start here.)
What’s great about getting to Daniel’s work at this stage is that there is a wealth of material to forage through in what for me is an especially great form: the podcast. A hands and eye-free information vehicle that allows you to move around, type, draw, do chores, stretch, lift, plank, play with your Yoga Tune-Up therapy balls, edit pictures, or even cook while you listen. (OK, I take your point, that concept didn’t need explaining, the bit coming up about the piezoelectric properties of fascia does… and I don’t. Yet! Apologies for that. Hang with me, I’ll get to it soon!)
ReWild Yourself Highlights
Alongside discussions on Vibram Five Fingers (more on these game-changing shoes another time), going barefoot (“F*ck shoes”), strategies for gut health and the role of microbiota in shaping our health, hunting, fishing, foraging wild water, ancestral wisdom (and what we can know of it), modern day sweat lodges, why we need community, how a good night’s sleep starts in the morning, consciousness, nature deficit disorder, and strategic relocation for the modern-day ReWilding human, here are my top three ReWild Yourself broadcasts so far.
Finding Purpose and Rites of Passage – Erwan Le Corre #56
Erwan Le Corre, founder of MovNat, takes a deep dive on establishing his business and acting on his philosophy of ‘Natural Movement’, in his words: “We are not meant to live in a confined environment. We are not meant to be disconnected from the natural world and our own true nature. Chronic pain, immobility, depression and lack of vitality, these are the symptoms of the zoo human syndrome. Modern society conditions us to consider this as normal and unavoidable. We don’t think so…”. Alongside this, Erwin talks about kindness, being open of heart, the “crazy” ego, and how our orientation in all these regards deeply impacts our energy in life, our energy for life, and hence our wellbeing. He explores personal rites of passage, how parenting has shaped his life, and the importance of plant medicines, acknowleding at every turn his debt to his incredible wife, Jessika Le Corre, founder of FeatherEagleSky beauty products and serial cold plunger: see the ice bath pics on her Instagram feed along with much much more. (On a separate note, Erwan is preparing a new book on his philosophy and work which is forthcoming later in 2017. Even more to look forward to this year, folks!)
Are you Kinaesthetically Literate? – Tom Myers #101
Originator of Anatomy Trains, Tom Myers, talks about the piezoelectric fascial network that holds our bodies together, the history of dissection and how fascia was until very recently entirely overlooked, just stripped away to get to what was seen as the important stuff underneath (crazy). Tom and Daniel go on to talk about human evolution on a grand scale, the separation between humans and other animals, the cultural changes that arise with the advent of agriculture (as soon as you domesticate plants you have to protect the land, thus engendering concepts of ownership…) and how they paved the way for the kinds of hierarchies of civilisation that we live with today. As you can see, the conversation is extremely wide-ranging and we also get a deep insight into Tom’s views on child rearing, human domestication and ‘rewilding’, the future of humankind, and his thoughts on birth and death. Big, amazing stuff in a chatty light format.
The Science of the Spiritual – Dr Dan Siegel #118
In this broadcast, Dr Dan Siegel takes us on a mind-expanding tour of his latest book, Mind: A Journey into the Heart of Being Human. Dr Siegel underlines the difference between mind and brain activity, characterises the mind as an emergent property of information flow, talks embodiment, entanglement, and quantum physics (Einstein’s “spooky action at a distance”) versus Newtonian physics, explores how space (and maybe even time) is actually a mental construction, takes us through his ‘Wheel of Awareness’ meditation, examines the directionality of time, notions of self-integration and consciousness, the parallels between science and ‘spirituality’, and what he means by ‘mwe’. Find out more about Dr Siegel’s work here.
All the episodes are quite long and more recently the interview proper starts at around 30 mins in, after Daniel V has responded to listeners’ questions. I find myself skipping to the start of the conversation**, unless the opening topics are really compelling to me in the moment and slightly resenting some of the interruptions he makes in his interviewees’ trains of thought.
OK! It’s clear that I have too much to say about any one of these podcasts so I’m going to move along now so that you can go listen to them yourselves. Let me know which are your favourites and what you think of the discussions, or maybe just go direct to source. Let’s regroup at a ReWild community meet, somewhere deep in the wilderness, or a MovNat workshop where we are trying not to die in a domesticated heap in the depths of the jungle. Or maybe just here again when I get my act together and parse some of the compacted thoughts, unexplained allusions, and technical terms I’ve nonchalantly wafted around in this review.
Happy ReWilding, tribe!
*Listen to Tom Myers probe the podcast eponymous concept of “ReWild“: the question is at the 1 hour 8 minute and 39 second point in episode #101.
±See Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman
**Reflecting on this comment from Monday 3rd July, 2017, far more into the ‘ReWilding’ lifestyle, I am now listening to the Q&A in full!