I'm An Animal


I’m a busy gal, and sometimes I feel like I’m a head on a portable access device that conveniently moves my noggin from room to room, from home to grocery store, or from living room to studio space.

I walk in nature, and wander through the backyard with Lily, playing or resting with cedar trees, far less frequently than I ever intend. More often in past months, the length of my time in nature is governed by time.

And as I am writing MUCH more these days, I am on the computer more and more. I do think of the internet as the modern day Oracle of Wifi, but being in the i-world cloud is very different from actually cloud gazing.

This is not to say that I am a geek or always absent from my body, and shamanic embodiment. I can and do talk to animals (both in ordinary and nonordinary reality), and feel the soul and language of a tree by laying my hands on its bark. I listen and integrate teachings and love from both dog and tree.  

Still, it’s getting busier and busier around here, and living an embodied life feels more like the spice at the end of the recipe than the meal itself. Lately, the day’s recipe looks like this: one cup of shamanic work, one cup internet, two cups writing, four cups strategizing, one cup of work-related reading, add techno gadgets to taste, and the spice – one tablespoon of body nuzzle with Lily, one teaspoon of soaking in the hot tub.

The latter, following the body’s desire to creatively be, does not happen nearly enough, and moving is often an action based on what I think I need to do rather than what I feel I need. Lily, my bearded collie, is always breathing deeply, and I am sure she is not repeating to herself, breathe into my heart, breathe into my belly. She needs no mantra to remind her to inhabit her body, soul or heart.

It’s so easy to live with some measure of disconnect, isn’t it? I mean if you tend to not be cerebral, and actually live in your body 24/7, maybe you don’t know what I’m talking about.

But if you show any of the following signs, I posit that you are, like me,  living a life that can tip toward the reductionist rather than the vitalist. Do you recognize any of these signs? Do you ever have:

  • Subtle or moderate fatigue based on mind rather than body activity
  • The habit of turning to ANY electronic device more than you wish
  • Keeping and creating a calendar that you realize, once the week begins, is more than challenging (ok, nuts), and that you cannot imagine actually accomplishing everything there (ever read Jennifer Lounden’s work on “Conditions of Enoughness” in her book Satisfaction Finder? see link below)
  • Playing with your computer more, and your dog less
  • Depending on clocks all the time to tell you what to do
  • Driving, walking, perambulating without being conscious that you are going somewhere (i.e., arrive at the drug store without remembering the drive, walking from one room to the other not feeling the carpet under your toes, your shoulders moving in rhythm with your gait, etc.)
  • An inability to separate from your cell or iPad or computer during waking hours
  • Eating any meal or snack automatically without any relationship to taste or real hunger or the texture, smell of the food
  • Hurrying – lots of hurrying or just a chronic “I am always doing too much” (NOTE: I have NEVER heard anyone complain of “being” too much)
  • Moving for purpose (fitness, need to go somewhere to do something, etc.) as opposed to spontaneously moving just because it is natural to move)

Maybe you never do anything on this list (and if you don’t please call me because you are my guru). Maybe you do other things that suggest you are not always inhabiting and living in and from your body.

I posit I am not unusual. And there are lots and lots of theories about why we live more from our minds that our bodies. Topics like stress, being isolated, tech addictions, etc. are examined in our culture ad nauseum. There are a million articles written every year about not being present. About coping with stress. About taking media fasts. About getting on diets so we can be more fit (and many are about getting fit because your health improves more than the real reason to get fit -- moving is natural). So you don’t need one article about any of this from me.

What I do want to talk about is the reason why we are so preoccupied with our preoccupations. What is underneath not being present, our doing continually fast paced lives, reaching for the tech device rather skipping outside for a roll on the grass or just a rest, leaning on a tree?

I believe it’s because we are forgetting to indulge these pleasures. And I think we have forgotten because we constantly forget a very important thing: we are animals.

This notion about forgetting is not just a theory; it’s true. I know this because I see people exhibit this particular memory lapse all the time. When I say, in my shamanic work, that I serve animals, people always assume I am talking about every species other than homo sapiens. When I qualify and say, “I am talking about species other than homo sapiens,” people laugh. Or look at me funny. And there is, almost always, a moment when people look a bit startled because they suddenly remember that they ARE animals.

We may know (in our heads) that we are animals, but we don’t LIVE like animals, and we may secretly think that is just fine.

Underneath it all, could this acceptance, albeit unconscious acceptance, be the connection between our chronic stress, the media dependency, the disconnect, etc.?

The phrase “you’re an animal” is pejorative. Which is also not surprising because our species believes in species superiority. We have dominion. And so we get to do anything we damn well please to any and every animal. This is what wolf traps and Moon Bear torture and zoos have in common.

To remember and claim, “I’m an animal” means (in our cultures’ eyes) we are less than. Doesn’t matter that bears know how to regulate their bodies in ways that would make a yogi jealous. That dogs can read emotions and soul-state instinctively, and love us precisely as we are. That dolphins spend their entire lives in sensual communities, making play their biggest occupation and food their toy. Let’s not even talk about how much sex they have.

We have DECIDED that living from the gut, from our deepest instinct, is not good. Or, if good, this cannot be a sensible and reasonable way to live day in and out. Again, a dash of meditation, yoga or shamanism is swell, but our culture believes this is not the real business of life. Our cultural agreements – both silent and spoken – reflect this.

I think if we lived as animals (albeit animals with human brains, which does not give us any advantage over other species – different is just different, not better) we would have a much bigger container for our lives. We don’t have to smash the way we live, we just need to enlarge and redefine what living is. Or what it can be.

More often, we would take a nap when we were tired. We would go to sleep when we are sleepy. We would play a lot more (and the notion of how to play would be far less befuddling (you are cheating if you think computer gaming is play)).

We would know that using our heads was a good thing because we have brains that can be pretty fun, but we would not value our brains more than we value a solitary ramble in the woods or our union with all our animal relations.

We would taste our food when we eat. We would tend our young better. We would not have wars. We would gravitate to education that was rooted in curiosity, inspiration and natural passion.

We would know that being (and being present) is the key to life, and that authentic doing arises from being.

Would our culture collapse or just change for the better if we learned, even clumsily at first, to allow our priorities to naturally arise from the animal? Maybe this looks silly at first. Maybe we do calendar “be” for X amount of minutes per day or week. And then we see what arises. I can’t be sure, but I am imagining, that, for me, I might not move a muscle for a long time before I hear my pectorals whisper “stretch this way.” I am unaccustomed to listening to the instinct.

No matter. I get to be a beginner. Although I am a 61-year-old woman, I may just be an infant animal.

To say, “I’m an animal” without cultural bias creeping in, without dramatizing it, without planning it. What does this evoke in your heart? I feel more open and free when I say it. I feel curious. I feel like there is an entire life to explore within those three words. And that I don’t have to do anything to live that way but listen -- and move from the whisper.

I’m no Lassie, but this is the year of following my instinct more. And not thinking about following my instinct. To rise unbidden, based only on what my whole body wants, to move from the true desire of every cell in my body, without predetermined expectation, is a mystery, maybe the deepest mystery for us humans. To be free to respond to an action without thought, but from our senses is part of being in life rather than willing life. It’s a whisper that rises.

With more practice, maybe I can begin to recognize that whisper in relation to every part of my life and not just when Lily kisses me or I am leaning into a cedar tree. Make a connection and decision not based on synthesizing data, but from the fluid, unstudied reach of my hand.

It’s a good thing we all get to be beginners time and time again. And take lessons from our dogs. And cats. They’re all teachers. And I am their most willing student.

Visit www.jenniferlounden.com to delight in her many delicious offerings. You can find the Satisfaction Finder in her shop.