Saturday night should have been a peaceful, perfect night. I was attending a Broadway Under The Stars fundraiser event at Jack London State Park with my husband, my dear friends Dawson and Christine, a delicious picnic and perfect Indian Summer weather. I had never before been to the sweet town of Glen Ellen or to the park, which was once Jack London’s 130 acre Beauty Ranch. Apparently, he is buried on the grounds there.
Our picnic was a lovely breaking of bread with our friends, followed by the outdoor concert held in the rustic stone ruins of London’s former ranch. Olivier and I were seated in the back, and because I was behind a tall man and couldn’t see a thing, I scooted out of my seat and decided to watch the show from the sidelines. Also standing to the side was an older man who was dancing to the music. Dancing fool that I am, always looking for any excuse to dance, I joined him. It didn’t take me long to realize he was specially-abled, non-verbal and with a big open grinning heart. His exuberant joy, unrestrained and caught up in the music, was contagious. Together, we danced.
But apparently, we were in the wrong place. Someone with a badge came over and told us we couldn’t dance there. So we moved, unfazed by the relocation, dancing on. Only now another person with a badge came and told us we couldn’t dance there either. Apparently, we were in front of a camera filming the event. So we went to the far back corner, behind the sound guy, behind all the people, in the far back, obstructing nobody. This time, when yet another badge-wearer approached us and told us we couldn’t dance, I lost my shit.
Why couldn’t we dance in the corner? Didn’t he see that this sweet man was just harmlessly expressing himself through his body? We were in nobody’s way. What was the problem with moving to the music in the shadows of the back corner of a concert venue? I was trying to make a rational case for why we should be allowed to dance, but the message was clear. No dancing. We were being disruptive.
I can’t fully explain what happened next. I got hit by a wave of grief and rage so enormous that it knocked me out of my rational mind. My tears were not the elegant weeping of the calm damsel. This was the ugly cry—mascara running down my cheeks and snot pouring out of my nostrils, shaking sobs and uncontrollable bawling. I’m not even sure how they found me, but the next thing I know, Oliver and Dawson were holding me in a cuddle puddle while my whole body was wracked with uncontrollable emotion. Dawson, who knew the park better than me, snuck me around the back to a place where I could stand above the stage, dance my heart out, and still hear the music. I felt my nervous system relax as I closed my eyes and let my body move whatever was erupting in me.
This is where I made a grave mistake. Olivier had to pee, so he asked Dawson to look out for me. Dawson was holding me while I swayed to the music, when I suddenly felt, in a moment of self-consciousness, concerned about Christine. Did she know where we were? Was I ruining her night? I suggested Dawson go find Christine and bring her with us, but he hesitated. Because I was such a wreck, Olivier had asked Dawson to promise he wouldn’t leave me alone. I assured Dawson I would be OK. I thought I would be. But I was wrong.
Long story somewhat shorter, I wound up feeling oppressed again. And now I was all alone, being told I couldn’t dance—anywhere. Olivier tells me that I interpreted the situation incorrectly, disputing my version of the story, so I’ll include that disclaimer, since it is not my intention to disparage the kind people who were volunteering at this fundraiser, who I interpreted as oppressing my freedom to move my body to the music. I acknowledge that by this point, I was in a full on trauma response, so my discernment of the facts may be fuzzy, as rational facts often tend to blur when we are at the mercy of a trauma response. I was not rational; I was emotional. The facts of what happened in the outer world are not important. What is important—the reason I’m writing about this story—is what was happening in my inner world.
When Wild Innocence Is Oppressed
The trauma I bumped up against hit me like a tsunami. I could contact the part of me that felt like my wild innocence was oppressed at the concert, as was the wild innocence of the old man I danced with. I could track a deeper wound from my personal childhood when the love of my mother felt conditional upon whether or not I was a good girl who followed all the rules and behaved like the docile, domesticated Christian girl she insisted I become. I remember getting yelled at and shamed when I was 5 years old, climbing a tree with the boys while wearing a church dress. “Lissa Rankin, you nasty girl! How dare you show those boys your panties. Get out of that tree and be a good girl right now!” Ouchie.
But the personal pain of having my own wild innocence oppressed in this lifetime felt like only 1/1000 of the intensity of the trauma that hit me in waves of deep grief and almost murderous rage. I felt the wildly innocent children, forced to sit at desks on a sunny day when the lake outside is sparkling and begging to have kids swimming in it. I ached for the leopard at the zoo, pacing in its cage, its wild innocence caged. I agonized with the unjustly imprisoned, feeling helpless and powerless, enraged that their “I’m innocent” pleas were ignored by a culture that racially profiles and unjustly locks human beings in a hostile, often unsafe, environment that violates our country’s promise to protect people from cruel and unusual punishment. I got whacked with the terror and outrage of those who have been and are still enslaved, their wild innocence so traumatized that it can only sneak out after hours in circles of slaves who dare to sing under their breath. I felt the wild women mystics and witches, the oracles, seers and healers, burned at the stake because their wild innocence and undomesticated power threatened an oppressive society. I got flooded with the traumas of every wild innocent child who has been sexually abused and beaten, who learned to dial down their light because it might trigger more abuse in the sociopaths who tortured them, cut off from their own wild innocence as they must have been.
The wave hit me so hard I could barely catch my breath, as image after image of wild innocence indigenous people were slaughtered by greedy, heartless colonizers who must have been so lost in the story of separation that they couldn’t feel the sweet innocence of these trusting people. I felt every wildly innocent rainforest destroyed by a clear cut. I felt every extinct animal species driven to extinction by those humans who maximize self-interest instead of protecting the wild innocence of the world.
Every child who gets punished for playing, every sexy wild woman forced to wear a scarlet letter, every whirling dervish told to sit the fuck down and stop twirling, every school shooting gunning down wild innocence because scared, traumatized NRA members insist that our right to self-protect with guns is more valuable than protecting the wild innocence of our children, every #MeToo woman or man who was raped and persecuted because her/his wildness made some traumatized, light-deprived perpetrator long to dim her/his light it all hit me like a tidal wave, leaving me gasping and wrecked.
It’s not the first time that a personal incident has triggered a transpersonal trauma. Although it happens rarely, I can recognize when I am feeling a pain that is not just my personal pain from this life or even what might be my past life trauma, but rather a trauma that crosses all boundaries of the separate self, tuning me into the collective trauma. I don’t see these events coming, so I feel confused and shocked by the intensity when they hit. Yes, I’ve learned about empathic walls and how to protect myself from such things, but when they hit tends to be when I’m wide-open, feeling safe, not expecting to need protection. Then WHOOOOSSHHH. . . . I am underwater.
When the crest of this wave hit me, I knew in that moment—I had to get out of there. I felt like I could not stay one more minute, like the walls were closing in around me and I had tunnel vision. I thought I might pass out, but I kept my wits about me just enough to find Olivier and, in a flood of tears, beg him to take me home—which, bless his confused heart, he did. I know how to get through these transpersonal traumas. I just breathe, just like Lamaze breathing when you’re in labor, and over time, the wave passes and I am OK. After an hour’s drive and an hour of tears, Olivier held me in bed until I fell asleep. I knew I was safe, my wild innocence still intact somewhere inside of me. But I couldn’t shake the empathic feeling and survivor’s guilt regarding all the people who are not free, are not safe right now, whose wild innocence has not been protected by the people who should care but are too wounded, too numb, too self-interested, too cut off from their empathy to care.
I don’t know anything about Jack London. I’ve never read his books, heard about his history, or visited Jack London State Park before. But in my dream that night, Jack London came to me to educate me about his history, tell me his backstory, and help give me some context for what had happened on his land, which he called Beauty Ranch. He had a passion for rewilding our culture and took it on as his mission to help rewild this 130 acres of land. His most famous books—The Call of The Wild and White Fang—spoke to this mission, naming and honoring the traumas of domestication and reveling in the wild nature of living things. Beauty Ranch, he told me, was an experiment—a way to rewild the land, to protect it, to honor it as alive and sacred, to be humans learning to live in harmony with the land, rather than trying to dominate it.
London told me he was an activist of sorts, strongly opinionated about society’s need to get back in touch with our wild innocence. His ideas bumped up against a culture demanding domestication. His wild stallion visionary ideas threatened others. Those in the town of Glen Ellen didn’t necessarily agree with these counterculture ideas about nature and human nature. After years of building Wolf House, meant to be his dream house, his house burned down. Rumor has it that the villagers did the burning as an act of protest against London’s revolutionary ideas about how we should and should not live.
“Everything you felt on my land, I felt too,” he told me in the dream. Every oppression of wild innocence, every morsel of grief and outrage related to the domestication of the wild, he couldn’t handle it. He said he was infuriated that his land had been turned into a place where it’s not safe to dance when there’s music playing. “I’m so sorry, dear one,” he told me. “You can dance here.” So I danced with him, on his land in the dream space. I woke up to my whole body shaking the trauma out of my system.
When I awoke, I felt curious. What had happened? Had I been possessed by Jack London’s spirit? Was I meant to be a messenger of his intention to rewild the world? I have no freaking idea. What I do know is that I felt the full peace, full acceptance, and full compassion of the completion of whatever that part of my journey was. I felt so much tenderness for every being on the planet who has ever had its wild innocence oppressed, and I felt inspired to share the story here.
I suspect you, dear reader, are one of those people who may have had your wild innocence oppressed—so maybe this all happened just so you could read this and say “Yes. That is what happened to me. Yes. I should have been allowed to express my wildness.” Maybe you were shamed for squirming in your kindergarten chair when a butterfly beckoned from the window. Maybe you were forced to change clothes as a teenager because your parents told you that you looked like a slut. Maybe your partner told you to dial it down because you’re “too much.” Maybe something much more devastating happen, something that threatened your safety and violated your birthright to have your boundaries respected.
So I will say, like London said to me, “I’m so sorry, dear one.” You deserve to be fully expressed, to be the “too much woman” or the wild man on fire with passion.” You, dear, deserve to dance.
I’ll leave you with this song dedication. An invitation—close your eyes and let yourself dance to I Hope You Dance.
Share with us in the comments how your wild innocence has been oppressed. And if you’re looking for a safe space to fully dance your heart out and radiate your light at full brightness, join the Healing Soul Tribe, an ongoing virtual community committed to helping people on a healing journey alchemize their traumas into soul growth, rebuild modern tribe and thrive at full volume. Register here.
Swaying to the music,
P.S. On Wednesday, September 19, my dear soul sister Sera Beak will be offering a free video event to talk about her new book Redvelation. Her book is so brave and badass—and will probably trigger anyone who is unwilling to consider that Jesus and Mary Magdalene may have had a daughter named Sarah, who might be (gulp) a past life of Sera Beak. I don’t know whether Sera is the reincarnation of Jesus and Mary Magdalene’s daughter, but I know that every word of her soul journey rings bright RED with Divine Feminine truth, and every time I talk to Sera, I feel awash in gratitude for how deeply committed she is to stay aligned with her intense soul demands. My soul is pretty badass and demanding too, and if you’re another brave, risk-taking, soul-following spiritual badass, I’m sure you’ll love what Sera is offering. Register for free here.
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