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Animals: Our Sacred Connection

This week's blog post was inspired by a series of synchronistic events that happened last week. First of all, one of my yoga students asked me why so many yoga poses were named after animals....We discussed how some poses mimic the actions of animals like Cobra or Cat pose, Down Dog, etc....Then I read an article about animal "asanas" on Eckhart Yoga by Olav Aarts...

Olav writes, "...This boundary between the civilised and the untamed is also paralleled by the division of the sacred and the worldly. The hatha yogi tries to oscillate between these two energies. He allows himself the freedom to move between the two. By taking a position between these two worlds he thereby functions as a messenger, or intermediate, between the world of people and the world of gods.

Animals are also a transition between the civilised world and the wild. When you look in nature, if you live in the country or the borders of the city, you see a lot of animals moving in and out of the domesticated world - for example dogs, cats and birds. They make this continuous transition between the wild and the civilised. The yogi mimics this transition as well, moving between divine space and human space." (More: )

This got me thinking of my own connection to animals and to nature and I decided to visit the Salisbury zoo last week. I walked around and observed the behavior of the animals around me: wolf, parrot, blue heron, bear, beaver, monkey, otter....and then I stumbled upon the buffalo....

The sign outside the buffalo habitat had this quote written on it: "The buffalo was part of us, his flesh and blood being absorbed by us until it became our own flesh and blood. Our clothing, our tipis, everything we needed for life came from the buffalo's body. It was hard to say where the animals ended and the humans began." - John Fire Lame Deer, Oglala Sioux (Lakota)

The buffalo stirs something primal in me - a connection with the past. Although my ancestors were Eastern Woodlands Indians and not Plains Indians...I can connect with the deep significance of this being to the people who called themselves Lakota. Some of my Native teachers were Lakota. I have learned and shared the story of White Buffalo Calf Woman, bringer of the medicine pipe - important to their spiritual/cultural history. In fact I had the opportunity to participate in an inipi ceremony (sweatlodge) led by John Fire Lame Deer's son, Archie in the early 90's. We smoked the medicine pipe he brought with him, and he told us of the importance of this pipe and the stories connected to it.

The First Americans knew intuitively of their connection to the animal world and were respectful of it....They knew of man's (and woman's) place in the sacred web of all things. Without modern science and technology - they knew of the intimate bonds between humans, animals and the plant world. Living close to the earth they observed the lessons and healing properties, the "medicine" offered by the plants and animals around them. They would not have dreamed of taking more than they needed or of killing the strongest animal of the herd for sport. They lived as the animals did - taking the weakest of the herd to keep it strong for the future - so there would always be more.

We are not so different from the animal world and indeed if we do not preserve it - we will have lost part of ourselves. Find some time for yourself to go outside and take a walk in nature. My Native American teachers would call this a "medicine walk". Yogis would call this a walking meditation in nature. Observe, listen and connect with the nature around you. What can you learn? What lessons might the chipmunk or crow, frog or vulture, deer or raccoon bring into your life?

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