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  • Jesse Williams, LPC-MHSP

A Lesson While Mushroom Hunting

Updated: Jun 28, 2020

Anyone who glances at my website for a few seconds will know that I love being in nature. Helping people heal and being in nature are two of my greatest passions. Luckily, I'm in work where I get the chance to do both, sometimes at the same time (Cue that link to my nature-based therapy page!).

But that's not what I'm discussing today. Today, I'm discussing the act of hunting for morel mushrooms. And as always, it's not about the end product. It's about the journey.

I recently joined a Facebook group on foraging in East Tennessee. My background was originally in plant sciences, so this isn't necessarily foreign territory for me. But one thing that is new is that I've been seeing people post their finds from morel hunting. Morels (scientifically, genus Morchella) are little bee-hive patterned mushrooms that are considered to be delicacies. Upon seeing the posts about people finding them and cooking them for supper, I wanted to try my hand at this as well. I spent some time reading up on where to look for them, how to identify them, and how to hunt for them. By the end, I felt confident that I knew exactly what I was doing.

The kids and I walked out into the woods. I felt very certain of my approach that I found online: look on south-facing slopes around drained soil, usually near water. Scan for them, and if you don't see them, just keep going. Supposedly, you don't really stop to focus on one spot until you find one. Because where you find one, you typically find others.

We walked those woods for probably about an hour. While it was nice being outside with such great spring weather, we returned home empty-handed (and a little disappointed).

Later that evening, my son came excitedly running inside. "Dad, I found some morels!"

I admit, I was skeptical. I followed him up a north-facing slope, away from the creek, into a rocky area. To say I was skeptical is an understatement. I was in complete and total disbelief in him at this point. After all, the wealth of knowledge that I learned on Google had certainly made me an expert. And I knew this was not the type of location at which they would be. Yet when I got up to the spot, sure enough: morel mushrooms. Four of them! We picked them (mistakenly, as I have recently learned that you are supposed to cut them so that they return the following year), and we went home for me to ensure that we had identified them correctly.

As I sat on the porch later that evening, I considered how I had been so wrong. How a quick internet search hadn't explained all the variables that goes into the best location for a morel to grow. And yet, I had felt so confident! Sure, there's a lesson here about relying on the internet. About how we live in an age where we gain the confidence of an expert just from a Google search. About how this leads us into a false confidence that an expert in the area would actually laugh at. I could even go on to relate that lesson into my own field of expertise, where I see so much self-diagnosing through Google or (shutter) WebMD.

But the lesson that I stumbled upon here was actually more of a insight on ego. My son, innocent and young, ran on instinct and play. He didn't go out trying to force-find a morel. He just went out exploring and playing. And he stumbled upon the very thing that I had methodically looked for. He essentially found it without even trying. Without going into cognitive territory with rational and reason and percentages. And in the process, I stumbled upon a lesson about how our knowledge and cognition can sometimes short-cut the natural process of just looking and exploring. I started questioning how much this happens.

How often do we go against our intuition because we "know" better? How often do we try to change a natural process into a forced, figured-out, problem/solution? How often do we miss out on life because we are being too cognitive?

I'm guessing the answer is often.

I incorporate Medicine Wheel work with some of my clients. I spend these sessions educating people on the Medicine Wheel as a processing tool. As a tool of healing and exploration. I work to help people to realize that our society pushes this idea that the "Mental" piece and the "Physical" piece of the Medicine Wheel are all that exists. I demonstrate to people how we have to make room for the "Emotional" piece and the "Spiritual" piece. Yet here I was, in my own life, believing that the "Mental" piece was all that existed. That cognition and thought were the only pieces to the puzzle. And this isn't just about morels. This is about how we approach life.

When we find ourselves falling into this trap, I think a great way to handle it is to try connecting to The Eternal Child archetype. Think of Peter Pan. This archetype is all about seeing the wonder of life. Exploring that. Having fun. Letting go of the overthinking adult brain and embracing a love of life, fun, and exploration. For more on bringing archetypes into our lives, click here.

And that's not to say that overthinking adult brain is a negative thing. It's not. It's a necessary thing. It protects us. It figures out problems. It finds solutions. We would struggle to survive if we were, indeed, The Eternal Child. In my own situation, I would not have known how to identify a morel without knowledge and reason and mental energy. Picking a random mushroom and eating it certainly wouldn't be advised. Knowledge, logic, and reason are absolutely necessary for our survival. I'm certainly not discrediting plant identification and knowledge.

But it's about balance. It's about giving space for both The Parent and The Eternal Child. It's about allowing our intuition to guide the process and maintain balance. It's about having a complete Medicine Wheel, one that incorporates the mental, emotional, physical, and the spiritual. It's about sometimes being able to let go and just explore. It's about letting the woods of life just unfold around us without overthinking. It's about just allowing experiences to fall into our path. Trusting the process. Embracing exploration and wonder. And isn't that what life is truly about? Isn't that truly how we begin to experience life? When we get out of our heads and just feel the experience.

My challenge for everyone this week is to get out of their heads and to bring in some of The Eternal Child energy. See what areas of life feel like they lack wonder and exploration. Pretend to see things for the first time. Let the process just happen. Engage in discovery, intuition, and emotion.

Go explore the woods of life!


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