Tracking as Metativity
Tracking As Metativity
A DEEP CORE PRACTICE
Metativity: an activity, a metaphor, and a meditation. For years I read about tracking, earnestly and still thought, What’s the point of that anymore? It seemed to me like learning typewriter repair. And yet I kept finding that the people I knew who were most nature-connected were all trackers. Invariably. Most people think of tracking, and they think of following paw prints in the dirt. Yet this is to tracking what the alphabet is to Shakespeare. And this analogy bears out in other ways, because learning to track is really learning to read the pattern book of nature, which is the richest, most nuanced, most layered text that exists. To hear stories of the San Bushmen tracking, for example, is to hear about the leading edge of human development: these are people so deeply connected to their place, to its animals, to the patterns of day and night, seasons, and weather, to the rhythm, gait, and breath of an individual animal, that they can follow it—sometimes at a run, across ground baked hard as concrete, zigzagging through the Kalahari as if they are following a chalk line that no one else can see. And of all the nature awareness disciplines, tracking yields the richest application to our own lives, as modern as they may be. What do we do in relationship? We track the ones we love. What do we do in meditation? We track our breath, our sensations. How do we move forward in our lives? We track our goals. In all of these endeavors, we are following a trail, barely knowing what comes next, yearning forward, imagining possible futures, and yet anchored to what is here and now. The deeper our attention, the steadier our observation, the more comprehensive and open our awareness, the more information comes to us. And if we can listen with all of our being, see with all of our faculties—without expectation, without attachment to outcome—we may be able to continue following until we find what we are looking for, or at least until our inner workings are laid bare. Have you figured out whose tracks are on the facing page? It is revealed in the appendix if you can bear to wait.
Tracking is a practice that gathers all of you into it. It can become one of those things you bring your distress to. If you are angry, if you are anxious, heading out on the trail gives your body an opportunity to come back to itself. Tracking is the ancestral provenance of the hunt. The hunt is predator and prey, and sometimes we are one or the other or both. Tracking is an activity with a lifetime developmental arc, something you can pour yourself into that will transform your relationship with yourself, and the living world. We are blessed, on this platform, to have teaching from extraordinary trackers, principal among them John Stokes, Founder of the Tracking Project in Corrales New Mexico, who has been trained by some of the finest trackers in the world. Start learning from John with Tracking and the Arts of Life.
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Humans have probably always been awed by the natural world.
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Video: Distill | Photography: Stein Egil Liland | Licensed from Pexels.com, used with permission.