Be More Zebra
I hope this finds you thriving!
I’ve just returned from a trip to South Africa, which fell into the category of ‘bleisure’ – that is, part business, part leisure.
(Great word isn’t it? It’s just been overtaken though by my new favourite word which is ‘Snaccident’ – defined as finding that you have eaten an entire family-size bar of chocolate by mistake!)
My main reason for going was to participate in the One Solution Conference in Cape Town. This was an amazing and inspiring experience – involving many local people and groups speaking about how the Three Principles understanding is transforming their lives. You can find out more here: www.onesolutionglobal.org
My husband Ross and I also had a lovely trip on the Blue Train – a 27-hour ride through South Africa’s amazing beauty.
And then a few days on safari in Pilanesberg National Park near Johannesburg.
We were fortunate that the safari lodge we stayed in was high on top of a rocky outcrop – overlooking the plains below. There was also a water-hole right below us – which meant that we could sit on our deck and just watch all these wonderful wild animals. Talk about a glorious back garden!
In between early morning and dusk game drives, we spent hours just watching them in their natural environment.
What struck me was how perfectly and naturally the stress response works in animals generally regarded as ‘prey’ by those higher up the food chain -animals like zebra, impala and wildebeest. They seem completely unbothered by personal thinking, and live completely in the present moment.
This is in sharp contrast to most of my clients, who have a lot of personal thinking about pretty much everything – and spend a lot of time ruminating about the past, or imagining the future.
It all seemed so simple, and I found myself imagining (I know I’m anthropomorphising here) their thoughts, basic as they were.
Am I hungry? Yes – then carry on grazing.
Am I too hot? Yes – then walk over to the shade of that tree.
Are the flies bothering me? Yes – then find a friend so we can wave our tails in each others’ faces for a while.
Am I horny? Yes – find a mate.
Is there a predator nearby? Yes – run like hell!
I imagine these animals are experiencing extreme stress as the predator is chasing them. But once the chase is over, (usually after just a few minutes), they just go back to a calm, relaxed state of mind, and the system settles down again really quickly.
(Or they have become lunch, I suppose, and aren’t thinking anything at all.)
No existential crisis. No self-esteem issues. No five-year plan.
No anxiety about the predators that might chase them tomorrow. No guilt, depression, or resentment about what happened yesterday.
Now, I’m really not saying I’d rather be one of them than be human! I’d take the ‘being human’ deal any day.
But I still believe there is something to learn from them. This is the stress response at its most healthy and natural. It’s doing what it was designed to do, in short bursts.
What we humans seem to do instead is, through the power of thought, create a kind of chronic stress, which is often nothing to do with what’s actually happening in the here and now. (Being chased by lions is really very rare for humans, at least where I live!)
This over-thinking, when taken seriously, can create prolonged suffering – both psychological and physiological.
Knowing where your experience is coming from – moment to moment. Is there a real and present danger, or are you torturing yourself unnecessarily?
So here’s a formula for peace of mind, well-being and optimum performance:
YOU minus an innocent misunderstanding about how your mind works.
You’re never more than one thought away from a whole new experience of being alive!
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