Before you begin this article; if you have not already read it, please refer to my previous article about "Grokking."
In every shaman / witchcraft culture I know of, animals are treated, at least in part, as teachers and guides for how to live harmoniously with the Spirit and Nature.
The normal Western reaction to this is that of course we can learn a lot about Nature by observing the behavior of animals. That's not what I mean, as you can probably guess. To learn the most we can, we must learn to communicate with animals, and even go farther and grok them. Then we'll be on our way to learning more than we've ever known about Nature.
All the oldest shamanic magic cultures tell of a time when humans and animals could talk freely with each other, and some have stories of how that ceased to be. Our culture has many accounts of intuitive rapport between humans and animals, mostly dogs and horses, so the talent isn't dead.
But most of this rapport has to do with love, friendship, and mutual assistance, and maybe learning on the part of the animal from the human.
The best modern account I know of about learning from an animal was given by J. Allen Boone when he told of his relationship with Strong-heart, a German Shepherd who starred in the movies. Assigned as part-time caretaker for the dog, Boone first started out with the common humans - are- superior attitude, but that changed dramatically as he learned how to engage in silent talk and reception.
"When I was willing and ready to be taught by a dog, Strongheart shared precious wisdom with me, wonderful secrets having to do with the great dog of living abundantly and happily in the present tense regardless of circumstances."
Though he didn't use the word, what he had learned how to do was "Grokk", for the state that Strongheart taught him to reach was one in which each, "without sacrificing the uniqueness of his own individuality, harmonizes himself with the other so that they seem to function as a single unit. "
The way to "Grokk" animals and learn from them is to be aware of and imitate their behavior in an open, egalitarian, receptive way. Being aware means more than just looking at them; it includes using all of your inner as well as outer senses.
Imitating their behavior means more than just copying movements. It also means practicing their sounds, moods, attitudes, and characteristics. One fascinating thing Boone did was carry a dictionary and book of synonyms around and note the characteristics that Strongheart displayed, as if he were a Universal being who just happened to be in a dog's form. So besides sniffing, running and barking, there were courage, confidence, compassion and host of others.
Every thing an animal does has purpose, and every purpose has to do with the present moment. Animals don't dwell in the past or the future. If a dog performs a task that we taught in the past, it is always a response to a stimulus in the present.
When a squirrel stores nuts, it isn't planning for the future, it is responding appropriately to signals in the present environment that indicate it's time to store nuts. Until you have grokked animals enough to share their experience of life, you really don't know what the present moment is. I'm not saying that reflecting on the past or planning for the future is bad. I'm saying that experiencing the present is good. Very good.
Practice - Grokking Animals
Grok an animal just for the experience, using a pet, animals at the zoo or around your home, or the Power Animals as patterns. Grok a sick or stressed animal and use the shaman techniques you know to ease your pain and heal yourself as the animal.
Grok and animal to learn more about life and living, or for special characteristics that the animal has.
Brightest of Blessings,