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.
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…
I am always struck deeply by the sense of belonging I have when I drive out on a piece of wild land with no other person around and see a creature as magnificent as a leopard and he accepts my presence. I pray that other people will have the chance to feel that. I pray for future generations to have that chance. I want to bottle the feeling of awe and safety that comes when we begin to lose our fear of the unknown wilderness and see it for what it really is: a place of great safety, acceptance, a gathering of ancient friends, and, in the deepest moments, home.
This is true for all things in your life. Look at them without fear and you’ll see that in our true nature home is inside us and all around us. The world is full of wonderful relationships, but our culture has become obsessed with the romantic kind as the answer to a lot of problems in the minds of millions. Popularized by culture, it has become an obsession that keeps us from seeing all the other places and ways to connect.
I heard wood borer beetles feeding and clicking deep within a fallen down marula tree – the sound of life wanting to perpetuate itself. Those borer beetles are the bass sound that runs through all of us as we try and make this short infinite life something that we can be proud of now, not just as a well received eulogy.