Leaning Into the Vibe of the Wild

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When my undies are in a bundle or I’m otherwise all in a dither about a situation or another person, or when I’m simply disappointed with myself, I often pay close attention to the wild animals crossing my path. They always help me get my groove back. Always.

I stumbled into this ancient idea about a decade ago when I was a practicing physician and feeling disconnected from my work. I desperately needed some good vibes. At first, the idea that a beastie could help me find my way in life made me laugh out loud. How could an animal do that? At the time, I believed that humans were somehow operating at a “higher level” than the wild creatures. Now, I know better.

The first beastie to change my mind was a walrus. To be clear, he was stuffed and hanging on a wall in a shop downtown. He was definitely dead — which was how I was feeling inside. But, I began to be curious. What could a walrus have to teach me about my life? It turns out that walruses seem to enjoy surrendering their giant bodies to the beach. They are unabashed in their largeness and their lounging. Have you ever noticed how walruses at rest look terribly unconcerned about absolutely everything? They aren’t fretting about the comment they made on the Zoom interview yesterday that made them look ridiculous. They aren’t trying to be polar bears. And they certainly aren’t panicked inside that the clams will someday run out.

That lifeless walrus led me to begin a process of deeper self-acceptance. Maybe if I could manage to be myself and relax a bit, things might improve at work? Things did improve and, because of that, I began to really start paying attention to all of the beasties that I noticed. The insights kept pouring in and I kept following their guidance. Ten years later, I’m still watching for the lessons that the wild things have to share with me. I’ll never stop.

This spring, our yard’s resident robin lost two eggs to a predator. Do you know what that amazing bird did? Without skipping a beat, the robin rebuilt a brand new nest within days and began her creative process all over again. She didn’t flap all over town complaining to every other bird, who would listen that this dastardly deed has been done to her. She didn’t waste a minute. Instead, she got busy tending life itself.

There’s a glorious auburn groundhog who wanders in the splendor of our sunny (and organic) lawn, devouring tender dandelion greens. Yesterday, this gentle vegetarian took some time to settle down onto her belly and sunbathe. I’ve also seen her pause to stand on her hind legs to sniff the air, and it looks to me like whatever she is sniffing must smell pretty damn fantastic. This wonderful groundhog isn’t in a hurry to get somewhere or to accomplish anything grand or lofty. She’s merely nourishing herself and taking things one moment at a time. This groundhog knows how to be content.

The next time you’re feeling frazzled or off your rocker, I invite you to connect with a beastie. Going outside to see which beastie you notice first is ideal. But, you can also simply close your eyes and think of one you admire. Connect with your breath and then feel into their presence (they’ve got it in spades!) and ask yourself, “If I was a [bobcat, sea turtle, or fill in the blank] how would I respond to this scenario or mood? What would I do if I just trusted myself? If I wasn’t worried about the future or the past or what anybody thinks of me? Could I be content right now? Without anything changing?

With the help of the many wild creatures, I eventually left my medical practice and discovered a whole new vocation. It’s one that gives me great joy. And when I struggle from time to time to find my feelgood, I know I can find it again as soon as I’m willing to open up to the wisdom of my wild companions here on Earth.

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