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The Way of the Tracker: The Elephant Track

When you look at the image above, what do you see?

Perhaps you see a man standing in an odd position (I’m hiding a beer behind my back). Maybe you see the tree on the left of the frame that has had its head cut off or the odd shadow below it.

When I showed this image to my tracker friends and asked them what they saw they all answered as if I was asking a stupid question.

“The elephant track”

The first thing they notice is the twig in the front left-hand corner of the frame and the impression of itself it has left in the powdery soil as an elephant has compressed it to the ground. They see the wrinkled edges of the elephant’s foot.

They see it because they have trained themselves to see it. This is the development of track consciousness. It’s the development of searching images in the filing system of the brain so that you begin to see through the eyes of a tracker. You begin to notice what you’re looking for.

Life is full of tracks.  You have to train yourself to see what brings you to yourself and what dissipates you.

You have to learn to see the track. You have to become the sort of person who might notice the subtle signs of destiny if you walked across its path.

That is the way of the tracker.

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Growling As a Way to Maintain Harmony

The monkeys in the camp are cheeky. They like to sit on the paths between the rooms and scare the guest as they walk past.  Mostly, it’s a game of intimidation- they advance on you and see if they can make you run away.

Many of the people around the camp have actually become afraid of them. Yet there are certain people the monkeys do not mess with.It can be quite interesting to notice when you walk in a group down the path who the monkeys choose as their mark.

I remember another time when I worked for a period with big cats in a sanctuary that they would immediately select a person in the group that was interacting with them as the one to try and cut from the herd. It was fascinating to see the speed of the selection. Luckily these were cubs we were raising, so there was never any danger, but still the process was interesting.

There is a study that was done some years ago where known psychopaths would watch a 12 second video of people walking down a path. Without fail the psychopaths would select the same people as their victims based on a set of almost imperceptible cues.

We express very subtly to people how they can treat us.  Many people I work with need assertiveness training. They need to learn to stand up for themselves. I think of this as a kind of wildness. To know what you need and where you stand all the time. Like a wild animal, very honest and not at all harmless.

Finding this place inside yourself paradoxically makes you not dangerous but safe. People feel you are not the one to target. Being in touch with your truth says don’t inflict yourself on me or there will be consequences.

I see this all the time in nature. The animals let each other be, stay out of each other’s way and allow everyone to get on with it. Occasionally, when there is no other option, they unleash there teeth and claws and set a very clear boundary.

Trusting you can stand up for yourself according to the studies Brene brown did is the doorway to deeper compassion. She found that the people that were the most compassionate had the best boundaries.

Learn to growl as a way to maintain harmony.

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Into the Unknown

Boyd Varty Retreats

To be a tracker is to develop a relationship with the unknown.  Every time you come across a trail left by some elusive wild creature a question forms in the space between your eyes and the track, a question that is innate to every trail. The scope of unknown that lies ahead is unfathomable. The terrain is unknown, the animal’s movement, mood and whereabouts. Its presence on a vast landscape brings one to thoughts of needles and haystacks.

And yet, the tracker is inclined towards this. He is attracted by all the things he can’t know for within that evolution is the aliveness.

The tracker does not concern himself with outcomes but rather with the next track, the next step and then the one after that.

Rilke pointed to this as he learned to live in the mysterious unfolding:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

To the tracker this is not a flimsy whimsy but rather a resilient state of curiosity. It is a state that requires constant untold commitment to commitment.

Be courageous enough to know that you do not know where you are going, but you are going anyway.

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Moonlight Baboons

In the middle of the night across the river a lion roars.  I rise from a half sleep and walk to the sliding doors that shut the night out. As they slide open a dimension opens. There is a distinct sense of stepping through a threshold as I go outside into the night. I feel in a few steps I have stepped from a domesticated comfort into a moonlit wildness.

The air is cool on my bare skin and the stars faint against the size of the moon. An ebony tree towers to my right silhouetted in silver light. From high up in the tree a baboon spots the lion across the river and begins to bark thunderously into the night. It is a guttural and sharp sound. RRRRRRAAAAAAA HUUUUUUUU. RAAAAAAAAAAA HUUUUUUUUU.

Its an ancient feeling – two primates awake in the wild, both aware of a predator.  There is immediacy to a moment like this. Beautiful as it centers your presence. Aware. Here

Reverence is precipitated by awe. To belong to a process as old as the human experience. To remember yourself as nature. To belong to being alive.