There is a tree I know that has been teaching me about the power of presence. It’s an ebony tree with a thick black stem and dark limbs that flex into a thick canopy of evergreen leaves.
In stillness, the tree is uniquely itself. It is elegant. It does not have a five-year plan. The tree does not need to look busy to feel valuable or important. It is not actively doing anything. Yet, the scope of what that tree achieves is quite remarkable.
The tree invites birds to its branches. Recently a giant eagle owl took to roosting in the recesses of it dark shaded branches.
At a certain time of year it fruits and monkeys and baboons gleefully take to its branches.
Nyala can bee seen under the tree eating leaves that have fallen to the earth due to the monkeying around in the branches above.
A monitor lizard is living in a hollowed section of the trunk.
The tree’s presence is formatting the space around it. It’s shaping an infinite scape of occurrence simply by being itself. It’s essence arising out of it’s deep unmoving refusal to be anything but itself.
Let your presence invite everything to be itself around you.
Harmony is everything being uniquely itself, and in that way a part of a greater whole.
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.
The force of life moves a leopard.
I believe presence is the ability to meet life. It is the simple way that the very intelligence of life guides us in every moment.
Leopards live in this deep union with the unified field of intelligence. They don’t move…they are moved.
What I mean is that a leopard does not have a verbal mind. There is not the mental construction “I should get moving”. But rather the moment shapes them from a feeling, from stimuli – maybe an impala crosses their path. Maybe the day cools. Maybe shade beckons. The unfolding of life asks for an action and the leopard is guided into movement by what is being asked. In this way the leopard’s movement is aligned with the entire movement of the universe.
We see this in humans, in great masters. Martial artists and dancers fall often into this place where the dance and the dancer have become one and the same.
Our goal is to remove all mental clutter, insecurity or trauma, to the point where the moment shapes us and simply informs us of what is required of us. This is the empty way of Zen.
This is the way of the leopard.
Trackers are adept at creating psychological states. On the trail of an elusive creature they enter a paradoxical place. They are obsessively determined to find the animal but the desire to find it has not been allowed to become a crippling attachment to outcome. What they commit to in order to generate the outcome is simply the next track, then the next track, then the next.
To me, what it looks like, is the dynamic nature of play. They are relaxed; they allow the moment to evolve. They lose the track and check the trail up ahead the go back to the last track. Lightheartedly enjoying themselves doing something that seems almost impossible, they relentlessly allow the process to unfold.
All transformations begin with a single track and then another. Most profound shifts in our lives come from tiny decisions. There are things we want, the person we believe we can be. Between that person and where we are now are small steps… the next track. Cleaning out your bedside table, an apology, a thank you note. Learning to say no or yes.
Commit to the next small track, then the next, and meet greatness in the play of process.
This is the way of the tracker.
There is an aloe in my garden I admire. With spiny fronds that protrude and odd wedges for leaves it looks like a kind of immobile alien. Viewed from a distance the word curmudgeon comes to mind. As a plant, the aloe looks defensive. That is because it is, with a supreme elegance. Its adaptions to the harshness of its surrounding are genius.
It is covered in small sharp thorns. Underneath the thorns is a thick waxy skin that prevents it losing moisture. Inside the frond is viscous foul tasting goo that, as a child, my mother would put on my nails to prevent me biting them. When a frond dies it withers and then folds downward to protect the stem- a kind of ever replacing armor.
The aloe that occurs from southern Africa all the way to the Arabian Peninsula (and even makes an appearance in Madagascar) has been perfectly shaped by its environment.
Like the aloe, our patterns of defense have been perfectly shaped by our environment. There is sophistication to a defense mechanism. Rage, disassociation, isolation were born in us for a reason. Passivity or hyperactivity as a means to feel safe was constructed by the complex maneuvering of the psyche.
To understand and even admire our defense pattern is to step towards wholeness. To thank it for its necessity rather than loathe you for its presence is an invitation to be more yourself. Not perfect, but on a journey of growth.
At certain times of year, out of the fortress of the aloes defenses, rises a beautiful flowered frond. This is the aloe’s essence. And from this frond, a multitude of beautiful birds come to feed- mirroring the beauty of the aloe’s fronds with the beauty of the birds themselves.
Love your defenses. They protect your essence, which is so beautiful that it can’t help but attract others to it.
During a walk that I went on a couple of weeks ago, I felt a certain shift in consciousness, and a shift in the way that I was perceiving the natural world. It’s something that stayed with me for a long time, and I realised that what I was discovering was a much more native way of discovering myself in all things, in the natural world. It began with a very critical voice, centered on the fact that I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I had all these places I wanted to be, and things I wanted to achieve, and I wasn’t doing enough to get there. That’s my common theme (it may be a different theme for you…we all have one). When that voice should have made me do more and motivate me, it actually made me rebel against it, and stop doing things. It was a recurring pattern for a week or so, and so I turned to the wilderness for the answers…
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.
It’s no secret that if I had the choice between technology or tracking an animal in the wilderness, I’d choose tracking. That said, I know that connecting this world village is made much easier, and more effective, with the use of the wonderful world of technology, social media and media sharing.
Join me on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more regular updates on what I’m up to and for up to date info on the retreats that I’ll be running in future. Let’s create connections from the wilderness of Africa to wherever you are in your journey…
Wisdom and enlightenment are nothing if not shared with those around us. My heart and roots are grounded in the ancient art of storytelling, and this allows me to share what I have learned, and share my essence with those around me.
To that end, I have joined Kari Van Tine in The Empowered Visionary Summit – a free online event where I will spend some time – along with other visionary speakers – sharing some of my stories and contributing to this living village.
Kari is the perfect person to lead this summit. She has always felt like she was living a “small” version of herself. Even when she was successful, she always felt like she could do something more. Then, a few years ago, she was in a car accident. It was a pivotal moment for her: her “normal” life was no longer okay. She wanted to step into a bigger version of herself and do something meaningful with her short time on the planet. As she began her journey to learn how to reclaim and own her power, find her voice, and make a difference, Kari experienced a deep desire to interview visionaries and luminaries about how to live big and bold … and become the hope this planet needs.
If you are interested in finding new ways to step into your own power and learn how to do more and be the best version of yourself, sign up for The Empowered Visionary Summit!