Tracking your inner animal

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I find this quote immensely reassuring. For some reason, I had this idea that my future should be laid out clearly in front of me, rather than enshrouded in fog, one step visible at a time. So much of my life has been navigated with extremely limited visibility, relying on all my senses to guide me. Does this feel right? I would ask myself, as I sniff along my path like a beagle hound. Looking backward, my path winds and weaves in a way that makes sense to nobody but me, and even then, not all the time.

Martha Beck talks about this in her piece called The 4-Step Plan to Get Your Life on Trackwhere she calls this navigating with your senses as tracking your inner animal. The world is transforming before our very eyes and ears – how we work, how we learn and communicate – and the well worn paths that many of us rely on to navigate through our life are either coming to a dead end, or leading us far, far away from where we need to be.

In this new world, what used to work doesn’t any more. We can’t rely on someone else’s ideas, we have to rely on our inner compass, which instead of the four directions, we use our six senses: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste and gut. We direct our intention inwards; we ask ourselves the questions, and we listen carefully to the answers. We pay attention to the signposts and opportunities that life presents us with – and like a good animal, we heed the warning signs, beating a quick retreat if our senses tell us to.

But many of us have domesticated our wild animal. Our wolf is an over-fed cavalier spaniel, cossetted and ignorant of the wild world outside. Let me tell you though, if you take your spaniel to the farm, she’ll chase a chicken if she sees one; within every domesticated pup, a wolf lays dormant. Your wild animal is the same – all you need to do is take her to a wild space, and she will sit up, sniffing the air and tasting the smells, and before you know it, she’ll be following some hot track, with you running behind, wondering where the hell she’s taking you now.

Martha gives us 4 steps to rediscover our wild animal:

  1. If you’ve found yourself off track, then you need to backtrack until the smell is strong again. You know if your track has gone cold – all the joy and purpose has gone from your life. So we circle back, and we think about what we were doing the last time we felt joyful and purposeful. 5 years ago, I remembered that yoga, studying and writing did that for me. My friend, stuck in an endless cycle of toxic office jobs, remembered that looking after animals, healthcare and doing arts and crafts made her joyful.
  2. Once you’ve found your hot track, look around for where the next step might be. For me, it was creating a daily yoga practice, studying a short social media course, and starting a blog. My friend got some pet rats, started a dog walking business, and made some gorgeous crafts. What often happens here, is that our rational brains kick in, and wants to make a career out of this hot spot. I tried out social media management and hated it. My friend’s business failed. Like Martha says, “…emotions like boredom, hopelessness, anger or anxiety mean the trail’s gone cold.”
  3. Don’t be discouraged – return to the last hot track and repeat step 2. I started another course through TAFE – communication and media – and joined my local writers group. I was also offered a job as a teachers aide, which seemed a little off track, but it wasn’t. My friend went back to an office job to pay the bills and contemplated her next move.
  4. Trust your animal. Its weaving and winding track may seem completely random, but everything is purposeful, preparing you for what you’re meant to be doing. Don’t let the track go cold – life’s too short for that shit. My teacher’s aide position lead me to a media officer position in the school, which has lead me, twisting and turning, to a Marketing and Media position in TAFE. My TAFE course lead me to a Media and Communications degree at University. My blog has supplied me with years of joy, connection and expression. My friend, at 40, decided to study nursing. She is now a qualified nurse, and loving it. Random? Not to her and her wild animal.

What I love about getting older is being able to see the larger narrative arc of our lives emerging. Things that seemed so random and nonsensical slot into place. Everything is preparing us for our purpose. We are in training, we are doing our time, we are learning our worth, our capacity, and what we are made of. We shouldn’t be suffering unnecessarily though – once we lose our sense of joy and purpose, circle back, find that hot track and hunt around for that next step.

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How’s your wild animal? Do you trust her to help you find your way?

18 comments

  1. I really enjoy that and how you so generously share stories of journeys and their process. Such an antidote to overly-prevalent good news – bad news stories. I love the inspiration of the hot track, the message that we find our own paths rather than expecting-following laid out, so much genuine fulfilment in doing that… make our own rules… err guidelines… live by our own lights!
    My wild animal is probably a cat of some sort, always has been a trusty co-traveller even in the tough times, making the best of a situation while seeking then following the trail onwards when necessary, knowing the value of patience, faith in her self and a knack of self-preservation. We also share a love of sunny spots, warm beds and good dinners.
    That last paragraph… says so much so well. As I’ve acquired years I’ve also gained so much valuable perspective and reaasurance that I’ve made it through… good, bad, ordinary… whatever is, will be ok, I will be ok, and after that will be ok too.

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    • Hi Dale, I love the idea of your wild animal as a cat – they are such good hunters, and they are never fully domesticated I don’t think. I hope you’re well – it would be lovely to catch up soon xo

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  2. Thankyou. for your writing. Thankyou for the quotes – as always they are among the best to be found out there in the ether. Thankyou for your quotes – I am going to quote you, to me, to others, this week and beyond.

    We shouldn’t be suffering unnecessarily though – once we lose our sense of joy and purpose, circle back, find that hot track and hunt around for that next step.

    I love about getting older is being able to see the larger narrative arc of our lives emerging.

    The wild animal really resonated. At a recent conference https://aabat.org.au/forum-2017/ I attended a Nature Connection session with Claire Dunn https://aabat.org.au/forum-2017/annual-forum-session/claire-dunn-the-core-routines-of-nature-connection/. One of the practices I have been weaving in is a ‘sit spot’ – sit in the same spot, in nature, most days and observe, be curious about the animals, the seasons, myself. I will take your writings into this space and add to the richness. I certainly trust my wild animal to guide me. Sometimes it takes a few deep breaths and conscious remembering, but the feeling of her, the feeling of her is always true and there.

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    • Dear Kate, thank you for your love ❤️
      I saw Claire Dunn in Bellingen at the writers festival there a few years ago. I was so impressed I went and bought her book, which was incredible. A great read, a great story, and a wonderful adventure. The idea of sitting still in nature is a good one. I hope you find a lovely place to sit today ❤️

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      • Love the love. Claire Dunn story is inspiring. And her book was a great read – in particular the story of her personal journey and nature’s role in healing, was compelling. We are hoping hoping (and working towards – coz a bit of active actual work always helps get a hope off the ground) to bring Claire to our region for a couple of days workshop – one of which would be kids and parents tracking out bush together. Cant wait.

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  3. I really agree with Dale, that your writing is a refreshing dip into that which is not seen in the good/bad news of the day. The theme reminds me of something I read and cannot remember where, but it goes something like “if I knew where I was going, I wouldn’t go there”. It is kinda boring to go along the perfectly illuminated path to the shining city at the end. Much more interesting to use one’s animal (after all, we are animals) senses to see where we should be going. It has always served me well and I see no reason to do things any other way. Beautifully written and thoughtful post, thank you.💕

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    • Hello Ardys ❤️ I had never thought about the good news-bad news out there, but I suppose I don’t see the world like that (obviously) 😊 to me, the world is experiences building knowledge and wisdom, which hopefully the accumulation of puts us in a better position to serve the world.
      When I was young (er…until about 35) all I wanted was a clear, brightly lit path to some fabulous destination. It took me that long to realise that is just a myth, for me at least, and to accept the more wild reality. Slow learner hey!

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  4. I can totally relate to this post, Sara. I feel my way along my path – trying to listen and stay open / aware. But often I question myself…am I doing (feeling) it right? I will check out this article you suggested. I think her advice will resonate with me. Thank you. Your writing is beautiful!

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  5. It is interesting to feel so confused at times and lost and years later look back and see that you were on a path. It gives me some comfort when I am in the “feeling lost” time. And that’s such an interesting idea to think in terms of what animals teach us.

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  6. Wonderful post, Sara – thank you! I just finished a great book where wolves feature prominently, so I’m loving the repeating symbolism here. 🙂 I’ve also felt like my path should be obvious, but of course – why would it be, if I’m creating my own? Thanks for sharing Martha’s work and weaving in your/your friends experiences. I so relate. Cheers ❤ Aleya

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