Do you ever find yourself contemplating the animal kingdom for inspiration about parenthood and instincts? Partnership and sexuality?
Have you ever felt warmed by learning of a particular species’ mating-for-life habits on The Discovery Channel?
And do you sometimes feel jealous when you think of animals having an easier time with this thing called life and their role in it, that they don’t have to contemplate or lose sleep over?
I say yes to all of the above.
Here’s the thing. We watch The Discovery Channel avidly, go to zoos (weren’t they way more fun when ignorance was bliss?), hike, get into nature, go on safari (well,…), and engage in activities to protect and save the environment. We love the “natural world.” We even give some voice to the fact that we are a part of it and it a part of us.
But we don’t take it further. Like, we ARE it. Like, in our brain wiring. Our cells’ DNA.
We are wildlife.
Think about that for a second.
We are wildlife in a suit. At a desk. Standing up straight and pouring coffee. But wildlife just the same – on the inside.
Humans have instincts, drives, reflexes, defenses, survival mechanisms that evolved when we were living in the wild – and in tune with it – for hundreds of thousands of years. We have been existing in agricultural civilizations for only about ten thousand years. We are applying evolutionarily programmed ways of being and surviving in an environment other than where those instincts evolved.
Just take a pull on that one for a moment.
I’m not saying this dooms us. Or that other species, plant and animal, haven’t adapted successfully to survive in environments foreign to their their origins. But it’s worth a look to deepen our understanding of what keeps us suffering and prevents us from being more successful at surviving and thriving.
Modern humans take nature walks and take pictures and watch sunsets and take pictures because it feels good to be in nature, to behold it – it draws us and moves us deeply. So deeply, in fact, that it twinges in our DNA, which is programmed to not just notice a sunset, but to be an intimate part of the whole scene, to play our role in the system, be fed and nourished by it and respond in kind to its wisdom and laws.
Our internal wiring is designed for living in nature, functioning as wildlife, reacting and responding to events, creatures, action, the cycles and rhythms of each day with fluid instincts, sharp, clear mind, alignment with survival and unquestioned connection to the wholeness of all.
Now, take that last sentence and apply it to how we live our lives each day in our modern civilization.
Now, let’s bring the relationship lens to it, as is my function in this system we have. Look at that sentence and apply it to how we live in relationship, particularly the mate/partnership.
We think too much. We perseverate, ruminate, not responding instinctively with sharp, clear mind to our fellow humans. We apologize too much, not enough, and for the wrong things. We punish ourselves, punish others, make self-destructive choices. We don’t talk enough or talk too much. We are not in tune – with ourselves, our partners, our relationship blood flow and the natural world. We are not tapping our wildlife instincts nearly enough for the guidance and peaceful existence they are there to give us, particularly in the arena of human relationship.
When I stop and think about what it is exactly that people need in the area of relationship solutions, what it is precisely that my work as a relationship counselor is actually doing, it always comes down to one thing. It is all about getting present. Present to what? To now, to this moment, to our connection, to our communication. To our vision and living in alignment with it in every moment. To what is needed and what is being asked of me and of us right now.
This is much, much harder than it may sound.
It is so hard for us humans only because of the society our complex brain has created. It is actually not in our image, which has an innate ability to be very present, for survival. We have created a machine divorced from our ecosystem, our true home.
Getting present may land on readers as too simple, or easy, or boring, or frustrating, difficult, or too esoteric, dumb, or whatever, but it actually holds the key principle to success and fulfillment in relationships and life, to liberation from suffering.
Presence is our tie, our path back to our instincts that will guide us to living in alignment, freer to be at peace.
Getting present is when I can be here with you, available for contact, for communication, for listening or sharing, sending or receiving, for owning my missteps, setting my boundaries with firmness and love, holding space, following basic guidelines, being reliable to be present and being clear and informative of whatever is going on with me that prevents my being present when I can’t be.
The way the plants and animals are.
It is not difficult for wildlife to be present. This is my point. Wildlife can take presence for granted. It is how it exists.
Human suffering is a result of disconnect from our true nature, which, by the way, has the word NATURE in it.
Nature is presence. It is our birthright. Not analysis, not hope, not blame, not despair, not anger. Presence is our nature. Acceptance. Strength. Expression. Peace. Cooperation. Beauty. Fierceness. Embodied life.
When we want to know where our growth areas are, just look at moments of non-presence, and there is your work.
There are many.
And then the task is to practice presence.
Anything that gets us present is good practice. Including nature is crucial. Explore and make it a priority every day.
- Look out the window.
- Notice the sunsets.
- Watch The Discovery Channel and be inspired by the unapologetic presence in the lions.
- Do yoga by a window.
- Meditate in your car parked at the beach.
- Listen to and make music.
- Talk to your partner.
Ah, yes, talk to your partner to practice being present, to gain direct and immediate access to your learning edges – the ones that block your innate wildlife self from flowing. With a bit of guidance on exactly how to utilize the relationship journey as a ladle into the soup pot of the healing power of presence, people find that relationship is a very reliable and rewarding source of both material to work on and fruits of the labor.
The HeartMind Toolkit for Partnership, which includes Imago Dialogue and Gottman Method practices, is based on learning how to get present to another in the most profoundly simple and life-changing ways.
Thank you for reading. I wish you contact with the wildlife instincts inside of you. I wish you presence and more presence.
Let’s get back to our nature.