How we lead our lives is ultimately up to us. Those three words, "up to us," can be the key, yet at the same time can also be a contradiction. How we lead our lives is "up to us," but we must ignore the conditioning that society throws at us. "Bigger," "faster," "better," "more," "upgrade," "richer" -- these words and more like them have become the new gods since the latter part of the last century. We are even conditioned in how we perceive beauty. A tiny proportion of the world's population are supermodels, yet the media, in all forms, convince us that theirs is the beauty that all women should try to attain.
In the modern age, blinders have been placed over our eyes so that we cannot see the big picture. We see only a narrow view of life. Blindered, we can no longer understand the humility of our smallness in relation to a sunset, an ever-flowing waterfall, the changing of the seasons or the majesty of snowcapped mountains. We have lost touch with the earth and the understanding, the reality, that man is just a part of life on earth. We have lost touch with our place in the pyramid of life -- so much so that not only do we view ourselves as being at the pinnacle of the pyramid but probably, subconsciously, that we created the pyramid ourselves! We have lost touch with the fact that the pyramid of life, the soil, the trees, the air we breathe, water, the animals, rain and sunlight and ourselves are all part of one community.
Fortunately, a visible shift in perceptions is occurring today. We are letting go of being told what to believe and what not to believe. Today, we are increasingly empowering ourselves as individuals and within the community. We are also at last moving forward, evolving morally, extending rights and considerations to areas beyond our direct self-interest, in issues involving children, women, non-European races and animals.
We are increasingly focusing on developing a healthier mind, body and spirit, and from this empowerment our focus will extend to the health of those around us, the environment -- everything around us.
Fundamentally, people do not truly want to harm themselves or others. We all know what is right and what is wrong. This is a part of us. We know that:
* It is wrong to harm.
* It is wrong to create suffering.
* It is wrong to take that which belongs to another.
* It is wrong to kill something or to cause something to be killed.
We know that a smile is better than a grimace, we know that caring is good and that selfishness is not. Within us, it feels right to be kind and it feels wrong to hold anger or malice. We simply know these things. Our being, our inner self, our inner voice tells us these things. All we have to do is to listen to that inner voice. At times we are tempted to do something for our own selfish gain and at the risk of hurting someone or something. At times we are tempted to lie or to betray someone. We might do such things, but not before the inner voice tells us not to, that it is wrong. We need to listen to that inner voice much more. It is our ethical voice.
Just imagine the world we could live in if we made ethical considerations globally before acting. The rainforests would not be felled, the seas would not be polluted, we would not inflict the earth with the calamities that we have created through our actions. By bringing in and acting upon our ethical considerations, by listening to our inner voice, we would have a calmer, quieter and ecologically more sound world around us.
I do believe that the inner voice, sometimes just a whisper, sometimes a loud clarion call, is starting to be heard. Many of us today are at last beginning to see once more that the inhabitants of the natural world are our fellow constituents of the only home we all share.
Learning from the Animals
Perceptions about the "beasts" are changing rapidly. The lion is, for example, tremendously better loved today than it was in the recent past -- and so too is the wolf. These major changes in attitude have occurred in a few short decades, and I believe, despite what we feel sometimes, that we are evolving morally. We will continue to head toward increasing spiritual reawakening as long as we realize that the connection between ourselves and the natural world is essential to our health and that of the planet. We will go forward spiritually by reopening ourselves to learning from special beings such as the lion -- as realized by our ancestors through the ages.
We cannot lose the lion or the other animals of great inspiration, or any more species on earth. They should be nurtured and protected for their own sake. We have much to learn from the animals and their wild domains. Our own destiny on earth is, I believe, reliant on the existence of these ancient and long ago perfected forms of life. Their existence creates in man a memory of his own roots in nature, roots that if severed spiritually and forgotten would inevitably result in the spiritual demise of mankind. We must remember the words of Credo Mutwa: "without the lion and other cats, a great spiritual darkness would descend upon all life." These great beings remind us that we and all life are born of one mother, the earth, and without them and the wild places we would suffer from dire loneliness of heart. We would become a lonely nation of life.
And this is why the seven principles of the lion are so important. [These are: Self-reliance; Fellowship; Willingness to Care; Affection; Determination; Courage; Loyalty.] The principles enable us to draw from the lion and nature essences that can fuel us so that we can grow into the fully alive, compassionate and selfless beings we really can be. The essence of each of the principles can fill the voids created within us by modern afflictions such as low self-esteem, loneliness and a sense of alienation. The seven principles of the lion bring us closer to the spirit of the earth, closer to our true selves and closer to true spiritual fulfillment. And closer to the earth's spirit, closer to our true selves and to our spiritual fulfillment we will be kinder to the earth, and to ourselves. We can heal the earth.
Women Having an Increasingly Positive Influence Upon the Earth
In this morally evolving world, I feel that women, historically subjugated, will have an increasingly positive influence upon the earth. I see this very clearly with regard to wildlife issues in Africa and beyond.
In the past, women were seldom allowed in the environmental field, deterred from entering the male-dominated realm of animal research and investigation, seemingly on the grounds that "They feel too much" and would overidentify with the animal being studied. But in the last three decades some of the most significant information that we have learned about animals has been gleaned by women. What they gleaned from their studies has influenced us all.
Through Dian Fossey's work we think of the gorilla called Digit and thereby identify and understand the plight of the gorilla. Joy Adamson brought us a new understanding and positive perception of the lion through the story of Elsa, the lioness. The list of women who have created this awareness and influence is long. In the sixties, Rachel Carson, with her powerful book Silent Spring, laid the foundation for the green movement, insisting that every part of the earth is interconnected, organic and endangered. Jane Goodall with the chimpanzees, Beirute Galdikas and the orangutans, Joyce Poole, Daphne Sheldrick and Kathy Payne with elephants, and many, many other women worldwide, through empathizing with the animals they study, in turn champion those animals' cause.
The recent beautiful book Intimate Nature -- the Bond between Women and Animals abundantly illustrates this fact. In the introduction the editors say:
These writers and researchers, together with those intellectual and religious traditions, began to mend what was broken by a system of careless thought ... What women have brought to the equation is a respect for feeling and empathy as tools to create intimate bonds of connection ... It has been women, primarily, who have spoken out most often against the suffering and pain of animals, and it has mostly been women who have had the courage to admit their love for the other lives around them. As forbidden a concept as it has seemed in scientific scrutiny, love for another species must always be part of that equation.
Men Identifying with All of Nature Around Them
The women have emerged, but this should not threaten the male. Lion prides are essentially female societies, made up of interrelated lionesses, mothers, aunts, sisters, etc. Elephants are also similar in their herd make-up. But the lion pride is vulnerable without the existence of the pride males. The males create stability, because they are the ones that can keep hyena clans at bay after a kill is made. Having a strong pride male means that other males cannot take over the pride and in turn inflict infanticide upon existing cubs within the pride.
The modern male should not be threatened by the increasingly empowered woman, but needs to acknowledge the sacredness of women. Women, nature's nurturers, reflect the divine earth upon which we stand, Mother Earth. All men were born from women and are obviously biologically a part of that woman, their mother. Men need to identify with that part of themselves. By recognizing this fact, men can begin to identify with Mother Earth. By identifying the earth as female, a mother, men can identify with all of nature around them. Through this, by seeing the earth as being a part of us, men would go a long way toward not harming the earth. With this would come the realization that harming the earth equals self-destruction.
The earth, men, women, the air, water, the animals, everything is one holy one. By recognizing this, we can all find wholeness and with wholeness comes great wonder.
The Reawakening: Recognizing & Reaffirming Our Connection With Earth & Nature
Increasingly, today we are recognizing and reaffirming our indelible connection with the earth and nature. We are reaching out to touch the earth and all that lives upon her. We are recognizing the sacredness of the earth and the sacredness within each and every one of us. We are learning that by loving the earth, we can love ourselves. We, after so long, are listening again to the wisdom of the drumbeat of our ancestors.
We are at a time of rediscovery. It is a very exciting time. We are, in different ways, reaching out to touch the divine. The old ways were never dead, but were hidden, quietly waiting for the time when we had reached the stage at which we said: "Enough, I will no longer be alone, living by dictates rooted in shallowness and ignorance." The old ways contain such wide wisdom, for they are of nature and of earth. This wisdom is to be found on the rough intricate bark of a tree, in a single grass seed, in the flow of a brook, in the wind beneath an eagle's wings and in a child's smile. It is wide, this wisdom, all-embracing.
The understanding of how we once used to interrelate with nature, the environment and the earth, and for so long -- this is beginning to return today. The sun still rises and it still sets; on cloudless days, the sky is still blue and the tides advance, then ebb as they have always done. Such phenomena, such miracles are the inspiration upon which we should build our connection with the earth. We should do it in the miracle of every breath that we breathe.
The earth speaks to us. It always has. And now, as we did before, we should listen to the earth. To listen is to begin to understand.
The reawakening is happening and these words emphasize this realization.
"Contrary to popular belief, primal religions are today reviving in many parts of the world. The superior attitude that spread European civilization over the globe, spurred on by Western Christianity and materialism, has been discredited in the twentieth century. Native faiths -- ways scorned, forbidden, almost destroyed -- reached their lowest point at the end of the nineteenth century. Their flame was extinguished. But today the disregard for the earth, for community, for spirituality have brought the whole human enterprise into jeopardy. Arising like a phoenix from the ashes, tribal peoples are gathering again in their ceremonial circles, remembering discarded teaching, renewing the ancient ways." [The World's Religions, J.W.E. Newbery]
Renewing The Ancient Ways: Listening to the Truth
By renewing the ancient ways, those who will come after us will look back at the present time and remember it as a portion of human history when, after so much disconnection, mankind began again to listen to the truth, when man across the world began slowly listening to the ancient drumbeat. It will be a time remembered when spiritual strands of connection began to be built all over the world, touching from continent to continent, heart to heart and soul to soul. This time in which we live will be remembered as the "Reawakening."
When a lion calls upon a grassy plain, a bird sings, and within a cat's contented purrs, energy resonates.
Everything lives; we are all energy, a dynamic pulsating energy called life. Understanding this, one cannot but feel a unity with all life, a unity with God. All things live, and knowing this, we know God lives and exists in us and everything around us. To feel this, to know this, brings celebration to our spirit. And it is wonderful to be alive, and to see life within all things.
By knowing such things, we can embark upon life renewed, feeling cleansed, and new lessons and wisdom will come from new life. Together we can go forward ... To walk with lions.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Seastone,
an imprint of Ulysses Press. ©2001. http://www.ulyssespress.com
This article is excerpted from the book:
To Walk with Lions: 7 Spiritual Principles I Learned from Living with Lions
by Gareth Patterson.
Gareth Patterson has lived as a man among lions and as a “lion man” among modern people. Moving between these two worlds, he has observed the wholeness in lions and the disconnectedness in humans. To Walk with Lions describes the seven spiritual principles of the lion: self-reliance, loyalty, fellowship, willingness to care, unconditional love, courage, and determination. By aspiring to these qualities, individuals can learn to live with a greater sense of purpose, community, and meaning.
Click here for More Info and/or to Order this book.
About the Author
Born in Britain but raised in Africa, Gareth Patterson has worked with lions in wildlife reserves in Botswana, Kenya and South Africa. He inherited the mantle of the "Lion Man of Africa" from George Adamson when, following Adamson's tragic death in 1989, he helped to save three of Adamson's orphan cubs, which he rehabilitated back to the wild. Over the years, Gareth has been involved in many different wildlife projects and campaigns. He has studied lions in the wild, promoted the need for indigenous environmentalism, investigated and exposed the sordid practice of "canned" lion hunting in South Africa, and co-founded of the "Lion Haven," Africa's first natural habitat sanctuary for orphaned lions. He is the author of several books. Visit his website at www.garethpatterson.com/