Reading by Liz Helgesen (Download file)
When animals look out of their eyes they don’t see what we see. Some of them see ultraviolet light, some of them can see very clearly for hundreds of yards, some of them can’t see further than a foot away from their heads, some of them see color, some of them don’t see color. When they listen with their ears, what they hear is not the same as what we hear. When they taste, their taste buds are different than ours. When they smell, some of them smell hundreds of times better than we can, some of them can’t smell at all. But we as human beings have the ability to reach out to them and they have the ability to reach out to us and when those two things touch, when the being of that wild animal and the being inside of you is yearning for a relationship and it touches, that’s the magic. […]
Most of the time we stop ourselves from seeing what’s really going on outside of us. Or we use the filters that we put in place and what we see is only a projection of what we want to see out in nature. What we need to do is sit down and just go to that zero point, that place of quietness inside where we can have relationships and understand what is going on around us. I think that some sort of contemplative, meditative practice is extremely important for us as human beings, no matter what it is. It’s an incredible way to clear yourself out so you can be there in a present state in a relationship.
A wolf called Cheyenne helped me tremendously to cultivate a meditative, mindful practice. Whenever I was in this wolf’s enclosure and I started to think about something else, immediately within seconds the wolf knew that I was not one hundred percent with her. In response, she would lift up her lip and start growling at me, telling me: “Steve, you are here with me now. You be here. Don’t think about other things. Don’t be outside this thing. Be with the magic that is taking place between me and you at this moment.” And that lesson has carried me over because with her, she was physically telling me, “Meditate, be still.”
Meditation is not always with your eyes closed, being remote from humans, and remote from everything. A lot of it has to do with what happens when your eyes are open and you’re walking around in this world. Who are you? Are you out for yourself? Are you becoming a martyr? Who are you? Are you judging everything by standards that you’re not even sure of? Maybe you can just be who you are and not have to worry and change that self-narrative because we all have a self-narrative about who we are but like any story we can change it. We have the power of the pen, which is our consciousness. We have the power of rewriting our own story, which is inner work. And that’s just as important, if not more, as outer work. It really helps clear you out and when you’re cleared out inside, these animals tend to want to look at you and they’re attracted to you.
Steve Karlin is a former National Park Service ranger, renowned environmental educator and award-winning environmental reporter who has appeared on local and national news. He is the founder of Wildlife Associates, where animals that cannot survive in the wild are cared for, and in turn given the space to become teachers.
SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: What does being with the magic at this moment mean to you? Can you share a personal experience of a time you were being with the magic? What helps you meditate with your eyes open?