Midlife Wisdom from an Elephant.

November 26, 2022

Midlife Wisdom from an Elephant.

May 29, 2023

On safari in Botswana, everything is primal, basic and, within hours, I can feel my senses and my instincts sharpen. Before sunrise we are bundled up, and head out to witness life as it has always happened. I watch the world begin to wake, the birds, the grasses, the big cats. It is such a privilege to participate in the magical and mundane; a mother giraffe and her babies are on the move.

This particular day, I arranged a visit with a couple that had rescued two elephants more than 10 years prior. I am a supporter of animal rescue organizations and hoped our not-so-small fee could help redress some of the toll humans have had on these magnificent creatures and their habitat. I was fascinated; the two elephants weren’t held in enclosures but were free to roam. Hand raised by humans, they chose to stay close to their human herd.

Having spent a whole morning quietly observing these magnificent creatures, we sought a shady spot where we would all rest in the afternoon heat. The pungent smell of swaying wild sage scented the thrill of walking out in the wild - vigilant, present and alert.

Absolutely focused on the moment.

Aware of self and surrounding, connected with everything.

You need to be in that palpable and heightened state of flow to survive here.

Then, the sudden flush of awe; the very sweet feeling of being a part of the whole. I could clearly see myself at once a small speck and at the same time an intricate piece of this grandeur. Harmony.

Uncontrollably, I started to well up.

It was suddenly just so awesome.

So magnificent.

So humbling.

So overwhelming.

And my tears started to make me feel self-conscious and vulnerable. It feels so daring to connect to being happy – and so exposed to show it.

Sometimes it is the beautiful emotions that are the hardest for me to share. My instinct is to pull back, to hide my vulnerability, disconnect from the moment, withdraw like a mother leopard stealing away with her cubs. I felt the need to hide my happiness in order to protect it, so it can’t be deflated or harmed by another.

I reached for my husband Gerry’s hand. In search of solace I sought connection.

He squeezed back. As if to say “I know, it is truly remarkable, stay here with me.”

A sudden moment of belonging.

A crackle of connection.

I stayed present, connected, and entranced.

Then the most magical thing happened.

This elephant reached out for me.

I felt the wet nuzzling of her trunk as she took my hand and walked with me until we found the shade of the tree.

It seems like she too wanted to belong.

Her human family was not surprised. Elephants often walk holding trunk to tail in their herds. They are very affectionate and live in strong, bonded communities.

Highly intelligent and emotional, did she sense my awe and connection or my sudden fear of vulnerable happiness?

Was she just copying what she was seeing?

Or was she wanting to be a part of the bond that Gerry and I were sharing?

I want to believe that she felt the shift in my energy and wanted, like Gerry, to give me courage to stay in a moment of belonging.

It got me thinking.

What does it take to inspire connection, love, tolerance, community in this time of fear and discord?

Like so many others I want to be a part of what is good in the world. I want to step away from the fear-based conversations into the ones that are generative and hopeful. I want to be present with friends, met and not yet met, to create dialogue around possibility and community. I want to call to others who seek transformation and abundance. I believe the world is kind, people are inherently good and love is the answer.

How do I find the courage to publish all of that in my life and feel the vulnerability that comes with it amidst the naysayers, the debaters, the ones that would ridicule me for the hope that I believe in?

Could this magnificent elephant have given me the answer?

Every moment of belonging needs first a vulnerable desiring of connection and authentic presence. Sometimes, you need to be the first one to fall in love, to feel the moment, to feel the awe. Sometimes you need to be the one to dare to connect.

What compels YOU to reach out and grasp extended hands? One of my wisdoms learned in midlife is that staying present in the overwhelming feeling of oneness and beauty allows me to be a portal for harmony and change. I feel vulnerable in doing so, but on most days I find that my courage doesn’t leave me empty-handed. Together in belonging and celebration we will inspire harmony and change.

It worked in the Okavango Delta, it might work right here.

Tania Carriere, epiphany designer, leadership coach and founder of Advivum Journeys, hosts midlife adventure retreats for those who are ready to explore life’s biggest questions. She is an Adjunct Faculty member of the Modern Elder Academy and keen student of the life lessons we learn as we travel. www.advivumjourneys.ca

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