Mindfulness in the Wild

Ellen on SafariI just returned from an amazing South African safari. Being up close to the “big five” was a bit scary, which made it very exciting. The big five are the strongest not the biggest animals—lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinoceros.

Elephants came to the lodge and aways to drink from a watering hole, about eight yards away. I tried to get even closer to take a photo and was quickly told to step back. As an American believing we’re safe in most situations, I had to be reminded that these animals were wild and potentially dangerous. By the time I saw the lions I was fully aware that they—not our ranger or tracker—were in charge.

I looked closely at all the animals but when I looked at the lioness’ eyes, it felt different from the other animals. She seemed fully present—remarkably so. When someone is present you can feel it; that’s the way it was with this animal.

Some of the big five are larger than the lion, some have horns that can be deadly, but none of them seemed as “there” as the lion. I wondered if that was in fact what made the lion king of the jungle. Mindfulness might trump speed, size, and even brute force.

If I can find photographs of these animals and show only the eyes to people kept blind about which animal they were viewing, I might be able to get some confirmation of this idea. Then I will figure out a way to show the eyes to other animals and study their reactions.

For the moment, however, these ideas help keep the safari experience alive for me.