The Human Animal

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We are animals, but we are also human. This divergence in our collective identity is something I think about often.  “Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.” – Erich Fromm

We seem to be disengaging as a whole from our essential connection with nature even though we come from nature and it is all around us. Humans have drawn some sort of line between themselves and their roots. Our children are spending less time in nature and more time where they can plug in. This disconnection with our natural ties concerns me. Within the world of psychology exists an entire field of study called Ecopsychology which explores the synergistic relationship between how we as humans relate to nature and how that relationship, or our lack of meaningful emotional ties to nature, has a direct effect on how we exist on our planet. There is scientific evidence proving that your level of happiness can be directly affected by the level of your nature relatedness.

When you reconnect and establish a meaningful bond with what you are meant to feel connected to, it may feel as fluid and undeniable as a key in the right lock. Realizing that your body, mind and spirit are all connected to nature could potentially catapult you toward a more calm, peaceful existence. Nurturing that connection can lead to more happiness. So what are we gaining from this disconnect and how can we work toward getting back to basics? There is so much to gain by getting back in touch with nature.

Since the beginning, people have used figures of nature to teach lessons and explain our surroundings. Humans apply unnecessary characteristics to natural things to help us explain the unfamiliar and assimilate our developed distortion. Within these myths and legends, a fox is sly and an owl is wise even though those creatures are unaffected and uninterested in the process and reasons behind the anthropomorphism. An owl is not interested in being the most wise of it’s parliament. We put upon that owl the trait of being enlightened. Instead of just admiring an owl for the beautiful creature that it is, we have to assign meaning to it and figure out it’s usefulness. Relax, it’s just an owl and owls are beautiful, that’s enough. Now more than ever I feel a need to release all this chatter and superfluous meaning and just find my own connection with nature and remember how simple it all really can be.

There is so much wisdom in nature and all too often we either ignore it because we are desensitized to our surroundings, too caught up in the insignificant details of an over stretched life or just disconnected to what we have a natural affinity to admire. “This we can all bear witness to, living as we do plagued by unremitting anxiety, it becomes more and more imperative that the life of the spirit be avowed as the only firm basis upon which to establish happiness and peace.” -Dalai Lama

We need to get back to nature. We need to remind ourselves of what is right outside our  front, back and side doors. Our access to more peace and nature is so close that I feel sad when people fail to acknowledge it. My favorite type of window is an open one.

A ‘breath of fresh air’, ‘stopping to smell the roses’, and ‘taking the path less traveled’ are right beside us yet we seem to find endless excuses to build a literal and figurative wall between ourselves and these marvelous gifts. Why do we do that? Why is it not a priority as important as drinking water to get out and connect with nature? What human ‘parts’ of us force us to disconnect? Brick walls such as fear, self-doubt, and anxiety keep us from experiencing this life the way it is meant to be enjoyed… with unbridled, all-consuming passion and emotion, but also with simplicity, ease and a sense of natural instinct.

A bird sitting on a tree is not afraid of the branch breaking, it instinctively knows that if that branch happens to break it has wings, yet the bird doesn’t ruminate over this fear as it sits. It is able to just be. Lucky bird.

Be The Owl

I talk too much and I wear my heart on my sleeve.  A dangerous combination that leads to vulnerability.  If I can stop blabbering and be a little less transparent, I may be able to take another step toward happiness.

Native Americans believe that animals have unique meaning and power.  An animal guide, or spirit animal, can appear to you in a dream or in the physical world.  Whether or not you believe in the power or presence of animals as guides, they still have many important lessons to teach.  Native Americans used animal traits to teach their children lessons the way we use fairy tales and myths.  They used the world around them and what was available in their surroundings to impart knowledge and wisdom.  Every culture uses this practice in some way, but something about this Native American tradition speaks to me.  I’ve always had much respect for the simple, natural way they view the world with respect and awe.

Eleven years ago, I was in a bit of a low valley of my life and during a trip to Arizona to visit friends and regroup I stepped outside to enjoy the warm night air.  As I sat and let my mind wander in search of answers, I looked up and saw an owl.  We stared at each other for a long time.  In that time, my mind was quiet for what felt like the first time.  You never know where comfort and peace will come from, but being able to recognize those moments and draw from them is important.  Enlightening moments will not always show themselves as obvious as an owl looking down on you in the midst of a troubled time, so I need to learn to pay more attention even during the chaos in which I exist at times.

Since that night in Arizona, I believe that the owl had something to teach me.  Whether I was meant to have that chance encounter or I read too much into it, I drew knowledge and wisdom from that moment:  I need to be more like that owl.  I need to quiet my mouth to quiet my mind.  I need to learn to take in more and disclose less.

The truth is, that moment happened over a decade ago and I have still not been able to translate that insight into my life.  I’ve often gone back to that night in my mind, but haven’t known how to apply it.  As part of my happy promise, I pledge to unearth the premise that being more owl-like will lead to more happiness.

myhappypromise

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