Conall

Voices of the Wild – My magical encounters with wild animals

May these true stories awaken in you what is wild, free and connected with all of life. I have had many incredible encounters with wild animals, like meeting a mountain lion and cub, having an anaconda snake around my neck, communicating with a bobcat, running with wild mustang horses and others. It is possible for all of us to communicate with the wild and to live in kinship with all of life. When you are in nature, are centered, silent in the mind, present in the body, with an open loving heart, the wild will talk to you–if you are willing to truly listen.

THE ANACONDA SNAKE AROUND MY NECK

I travel on my own deep into the Amazon jungle of Ecuador. I had not planned this trip at all, but was strongly drawn to find the ingenious people of the rainforest who still live in a natural way with the earth, so I could learn from them. In the poor village the roads end, I meet a river guide and within the hour I am on my way. A small boat takes me unto the wide river and we glide for hours upon the water, further and further into the jungle. Sounds, songs I have never heard before resound from all directions. The howler monkeys are laughing and in silence I almost hear these enormous plants growing. Eyes peer through the shadows of the leaves. The jungle is intensively alive, full of wonder and unknown. My skin though is prickling alive with mosquitoes, which find my sweet blood so very tasty. Sweat is pouring down my body. I feel the strong urge to put my head and arms into the water to cool off, but my river guide waves frantically: no, no, no. I look to where he points to: crocodiles are close bye and ready for a meal. I am not going to offer my hands up, no matter how much compassion I may have.

I am lucky, the river guide and his friend invite me to their tribe in the heart of the jungle, once I shared with him about my search and purpose. We talk little, only one of them speaks broken Spanish, so myself. They teach me less through words, but through the way they live, and how they relate with each other and nature. Once we are welcomed into the tribe, I am offered to live in a tiny hut made from leaves and I sleep on the bare earth. I become part of their community, prepare the meals with the women, learn about natural medicines from plants, which and how to use them, watch the men hunting. They need the meat for survival and always offer their prayers beforehand and offer gratitude to the animal that had given it’s life. All is done in deep respect toward nature. They are strong people and know how to live in harmony with the natural environment. It certainly isn’t comfortable, but a simple and connected life. Everything is so much slower here than the speed I am used to in the busy world where I come from.

One day, knowing that I would need to return soon into ‘civilization’, the one who speaks a little Spanish, motions me to follow him. He tells me, that the tribe wants to offer me a rite of initiation through the medicine man. Ok, I say. I do not know what they really mean by that. I walk with the men beneath these mighty trees and their endless thick roots, until we reach an opening, where the sun shines through. It is so hot and wet. They ask me to stand with closed eyes and begin chanting, songs I had never known, but the sound stirs something deep in me. Heavy barefoot steps come closer. The voice of the shaman tells me that this is a moment of life and death. If I succumb to fear I could die. Then he asks me, if I was ready. Well, I shrugged my shoulders, if I died here it would be alright (I didn’t have a child then) and there is little that scares me (except big hairy spiders, which I encountered plenty, even in my bed).

I would be fine really, or so I think. Sure, I motion to him, ready for anything.

From behind, he lands an enormous weight unto my shoulders, which sinks me unto my knees. He asks me to open my eyes. Shock jolts through me, Holy mother –it’s a humongous snake. A full grown anaconda snake at that. My shaman laughs through his brownish teeth and says she hasn’t eaten, if I freak out she would certainly strangle me to death and he would not be able to unloosen her. First I think he is making a bad joke at my expense, but then I realize rather fast what he speaks is true. Her head comes toward my face and she hisses with her flicking red tongue intensely. I am terrified out of my wits. To make matters worse, with focused motion she is moving in closer and closer toward her prey- my neck. Instinctively I put my hands there to protect myself. Naïve, for that would make no difference whatsoever.

Now what do you do, when you can’t stop your fear and it will certainly lead to what you fear the most? The only thing I can remember to do is to breathe and breathe again into my belly. Then into my feet and the ground. I breathe deeper, consciously relaxing in the midst of terror seems counter intuitive, but it is the only thing that works to calm my shaken nerves. I am not too fond of snakes, especially one as close to my skin as this, but I open my heart anyway to connect with this big, long and hungry snake. Sweat is dripping from my forehead. I can’t waste time on fear, indeed, this is a matter of life and death. I keep relaxing, opening and grounding. It’s working, slowly she drops her head lower and lower. When I am calm and centered she rests her head unto my belly, her body wrapping around mine. I stroke her slithering skin with a genuine sense of friendliness, and she closes her eyes. Getting used to her presence and weight I walk with her; all the while she rests on my shoulders and belly peacefully. What an awesome power this snake carries. The Anaconda Snake and I are many hours together, our connection is strong when I return her back into the wild. The medicine man smiles and nods, apparently I have passed my initiation well. The tribe has a feast that night under the stars. Something is deeply changed in me. I am not the same person who has come into the jungle, as when I leave. A greater power has awoken in me. It moves through all of us, like the snake, it is the energy of life. The power of creation itself is not to fear. I can only surrender to that and let it live me, all the way.

MEETING A WILD BOBCAT

I walk on a path through an open and wild area on the California coast with my 11-year-old daughter. She too has a deep connection with the animals. As we stroll along hand in hand, we see the high grass in the field moving and stop in silent mutual understanding, present, watching, sensing. Who is there? What is moving between the grass blades under the bright midday sun? Whoever it is clearly comes closer toward us; soon it is so near we can see the back of a large brown furred animal. As we watch, quiet with anticipation, out of the grass and onto the trail emerges a most beautiful, gracious bobcat. I motion to my daughter to slowly sit down. I too touch the ground and wait, as the cat leisurely strolls toward us.

She approaches, looking straight at us, and only an arm’s length away, she lays down before us. She isn’t injured or ill, but healthy, strong and at ease. I’m thrilled to meet this wild creature so intimately, but hold my excitement at bay, to not scare her off. She calmly looks at us, catlike; completely relaxed and alert, she stretches out, as if for a nap. A most beautiful, unusual friendship circle has formed between us. We give her our full attention and she communicates to us; telling us how to be at ease and walk through life with natural grace.

When our communion is complete, my daughter and I silently thank and bless her. The bobcat gives us one more look, as if to say good-bye in her own way, then gets up and strolls away. We wait a few moments watching her in awe, before we leave as well. I will never forget her face, the natural grace she exuded. What a way to walk through life like that.

FACE TO FACE WITH A MOUNTAIN LIONESS AND HER CUB

Our adventure that day isn’t over. After encountering the bobcat we meet two other wild cats: A little further down the trail we see a mountain lion mother with her young cub walking toward us on the path. At first I rub my eyes, it seems otherworldly what I am seeing. As I realize that I am not dreaming, I should feel fear and turn back, but my daughter and I keep walking forward hand in hand. We cannot stop or turn away, as if a greater force is magically pulling us toward the golden lioness and her cub, who are stately walking toward us.

Suddenly, at the same moment, the four of us stop. We are woken by surprise when we realize we are facing each other only from about thirty feet away. My daughter is mesmerized; so am I. At lightening speed I check with my body senses: Is there any danger from the mountain lion? I can sense none from this proud and magnificent animal, who is standing in open sunlight with golden shimmering fur. Her lean muscles vibrate with strength, ready to pounce if must be. But she relaxes in our presence. As if in silent knowing, she is recognizing me as a mother. Both of us are leading our young. She isn’t hungry apparently (well, that would be too late now anyway). We watch and feel each other out, we all just look at one another with an open curiosity. The meeting is profoundly intense, and surprisingly relaxed.

My daughter is at ease, so I suggest that she connects and communicates with the cub. The dignified lioness and I have a “mother to mother” talk. She teaches me much in these amazing minutes, where time stands still. She shows me what living from true power really is. My daughter seems to make friends with the cub, as if this was the most normal thing to do. She does not put her experience to words, but receives in her own quiet way gifts from the cub and I think this furry young lion bundle feels my girl’s blessings too. Then our meeting has comes to a natural ending. And the bond we formed continues on in the beating of our hearts.

We bow as the great wild cats turn and slowly walk away. A magnificent sight to behold, we both will never forget.

COMMUNICATING WITH ANIMALS AND LIVING IN HARMONY WITH CREATION

The heart knows the universal language of all creation. The wild animals understand it. When you are connected to the heart of creation within and around you all wild creatures will resonate and you walk in oneness with all of life. It is like breathing air, simple and natural. We are interconnected after all. When I meet the wild animals; they seem not threatened by my presence and come often close to me. Why? I do not know. Just, that my heart is one with them and I can communicate with them. I love them. It is nothing supernatural, rather most natural for me. More like–of course, how could it not be so, since we are the same life, just different expressions?

Being in harmony with all of life isn’t complicated. It is in us. We just need to pay attention to it and live like that. The wild is dear to me. There is not much left. Can we stop the destruction now, protect instead what is so precious and learn to live in harmony with the gift and magnificence of creation? It is up to all of us.

A word of commonsense caution: If you want to get to know the wild animals better and learn to commune with them, begin with deer, birds, squirrels. Don’t go for a wild cat, bear or snake unless you are really solidly connected and have plenty of experience and skill. Listen to your own nature and theirs at a safe distance. It will open up worlds for you and benefit all beings. Enjoy!

PREV

Being Peace - Living with Thich Nhat Hahn

NEXT

A Life of True Compassion - Working with Mother Theresa