This is not some big story about getting wasted in a wet T-shirt contest on the beaches of Phuket.
This is rewilding in the biggest yet simplest way possible—by getting in a lake with some elephants and giving them a love bath.
Scrubbing elephant butts
The day was hot. We were super sweaty after walking dirt roads, keeping up with the fast pace and long gait of our elephant companions. After we arrived at the lake, we sat in a small patch of shade and observed the elephants for a while, from a distance.
I had signed up to volunteer with elephants, but was the only volunteer there. I wasn’t sure exactly what I had signed up for. I was pondering my purpose when two elephants eagerly dashed into the water.
Anni, my coordinator, turned to me and smiled. “You want to go in with them?”
I quickly peeled off my shoes and socks and tromped over the prickly plants to get into the water.
Splish, splash, and I was takin’ a bath! Just like the Bobby Darin song, it was both treacherous and joyful. We had to steer clear of kickin’ ele-legs, while simultaneously tossing water over Dong Kair and Soy Tong’s large bodies. Using our hands as scrub brushes, I could feel the ripples of their sensitive skin and wiry hair protecting it. A surge of energy rushed through my being.
Have you ever held a liberated elephant in your hands before?
The elephants at Elephant Nature Park have been rescued from lives of abuse and oppression. Previously used for work or entertainment, these elephants now splash around in freedom.
I was there to help relieve their suffering. I could feel the power of these mighty beings held in my loving arms. I felt a visceral connection to these animals who have throughout history been seen as symbols of spiritual strength.
As I touched Dong Kair’s spine, I experienced a flash of my own true nature. In that moment, I knew that by consciously participating in the elephants’ liberation, I was one splash closer to my own.
I thought I was coming to help the elephants, but in the process my own heart has been healing. I’ve learned so much more than I bargained for. When we work together for the liberation of all beings, everyone benefits.
Top five life lessons I’ve learned so far:
1. Empathy and intuition are highly valuable skills.
It is common knowledge that elephants are empaths who care deeply for one another. Anyone can witness it by observing their everyday behavior or their heroic acts to help a member of their herd. In case there was any question, researchers and scientists are working to back this up with experiments that prove this truth.
Elephants are also highly sensitive to subtle information from their environment. They not only have magnificent ears, but pick up underground signals with their feet. They detect subtle shifts by reaching out with their trunks. Most elephant noises are emitted at frequencies we can’t hear. They communicate and receive information on ethereal levels.
So do many humans these days.
Intuition and empathy are qualities most of us are born with. In many modern societies, these gifts are not always accepted, encouraged, or cultivated. However, as we awaken our human consciousness in amazing ways, many are opening up to their sensitivities and heightened perceptual abilities. As the elephants show us, this can protect us from danger and help us communicate in ways that benefit our collective.
2. We need to be mindful in a bigger way.
In close proximity to the elephants, it is critical to be super mindful of their behaviour. One can literally get crushed by them if they spontaneously spook and stampede. Bull elephants are particularly dangerous when they are in musth, a heightened state of testosterone, which makes them unreasonable and highly aggressive.
As a practicing Buddhist, mindfulness is a core practice. Working with elephants has encouraged me to up level my mindfulness practice while in the field. It is not helpful to shut down out of fear of being hurt (remember that empathic elephants can sense fear). We must be hyperalert with an open awareness.
As we navigate this process of conscious awakening, it is critical to open our awareness to the energy of situations and each other. We need to look beyond the masks and pierce through the veils of illusion. There are many tricks and traps along the spiritual path. This deeper level of mindfulness is necessary so that you can safely open up to greater spiritual awakening.
3. More play, please!
Elephants roaming freely are giant bundles of joy! They splash around in the mud and squirt water all over the place. They climb all over their friends. They run whenever inspired. They roll when they feel like it. They love to play. Witnessing them play brings joy to my heart. It also reminds me that we don’t have work so darn hard to be successful.
Any of the great artists, innovators, and creators throughout time have followed what lights up their curiosity. They took ample time to explore and receive insights that furthered their work. Contrary to the myth of “hard work equals success,” time for rest and play actually helps us be more productive.
Watch an elephant play and tell me you don’t want to cross things off your to-do list to join them.
4. Find your herd and love them hard. And gently.
Elephants are fiercely protective of members of their herd.
However, elephants don’t just stay with the families they are born into. They choose who they want to spend time with by forming additional bond groups and clans. Elephants live in a fluid fission-fusion society, accumulating social and ecological knowledge over decades.
As more people explore alternative relationships and community structures, we might look to the elephants to see how we can be simultaneously loyal and participate in our relationships with non-attachment. This will allow us to accumulate more wisdom until we attain enlightenment.
5. Get paid for being you.
Do what you love and love what you do! I devoted my first book, Phase Out, to this concept: if everyone were doing work they love, we’d all be happy. World peace would become real.
The problem is that many of us grew up in families or educational systems that didn’t encourage us to embrace our natural gifts. We were encouraged to get jobs within traditional systems, organizations, and institutions that further derailed us from our unique path. There is so much societal conditioning and programming that will tell you to be a million things other than who you are. It’s time to embrace your inherent awesomeness and do what sparks joy for you.
“Creativity is the way I share my soul with the world. And without it, I am not okay. The only unique contribution we will make in this world will be born of creativity.” ~ Brené Brown
The elephants at Elephant Nature Park are no longer forced to do jobs that suck their souls. They now get to roam freely and people pay to serve them. Volunteers flock to feed them, bathe them, and otherwise give their resources and love to these mighty creatures. All they have to do is exist in all their glory.
This can be your life, too. It takes a journey of releasing the bonds that have held us back from our liberation. In my line of work, both with my clients and with elephants, I’ve witnessed how it is totally and completely possible. In fact, you do a great service to the world when you pursue a personal path to freedom. Your energy becomes clear, and everything in your life gets better. Your field raises the energetic vibration of all those that come into contact with you.
What greater service could you do for the world?
Answer the call of freedom
Actively freeing other beings from suffering will lead to your liberation. Freeing yourself from the bonds of convention will lead to a life of sovereignty. Either way, it’s a win-win. Let’s all peel off our shoes and socks, swimming in the sweet lake of liberation.
The water is fine! And the elephants are waiting for us to join them.