Be Thankful – Elephant Teacher

It seems these elephants take great pleasure in drinking water…


The lesson is simple. Be thankful.


If you are blessed enough to have the option to drink a glass of water today, be thankful.


Not everyone does.


Take some time to realize the beautiful blessings that are in your life. Consider every tiny thing. Remember how important it is that you are alive. 


You matter. Your life is a gift. YOU are a gift.

Taking such things into consideration, I hope we can all realize what joy can be found in a simple glass of water. And I hope we may all feel as thankful as these elephants are.


Their lives are not easy either. They struggle. They make mistakes.


Yet here they are…they are still standing, still living, still grateful.

Conquer the Darkness, Overcome the Predator

In a cheetah’s life, there is day and there is night. Most cheetahs live amongst bigger, stronger predators. And most of these predators will hunt under cover of darkness.


But a cheetah knows that, through the fear of night, and the unknown that might lurk in the shadows, they must keep going, because a new dawn is on the horizon, and with it, a glorious light.


All of us will and have and perhaps are, having to face “predators” in the “darkness”. There are many forms in which the predators take shape. They could be anxiety, temptation, anger, sorrow, or legit persons or even animals (depending on how and where you live in the world). 


But whatever the “predator” your facing is, it is just the same as the cheetah’s, these predators can hurt us. But only if we cave and give in to them. Only if we place ourselves in a position TO be hurt by them. We just have to get through the “night”. 


We just need to turn our focus to the oncoming dawn of a new day. 


The shadows and predators in our lives serve as merely a challenge in which we are born to overcome. 


And a reminder of the glory of a new day that awaits us at the finish line of our struggles.
So keep going. Because you are destined to get through it, whatever it may be.


And you will be a far more powerful individual because of it.


I took this photo early one morning, after many long nights this cheetah had been facing hunger and the fear of lions roaring in the darkness, yet in that glorious morning, there she was…she had made a kill at dawn, she was a champion that had conquered her “darkness”, and a powerful individual that had overcome her “predator”.
In the same way we are ALL meant to. 

Love is Selfless

Love must surely be the most powerful of all things. For no matter the distance, or the trials, it remains, strong and enduring…


Love and support one another.


Don’t hold others back.


Don’t put them down.


If you have the opportunity to either lift up someone in need, or put them down, it is ultimately your choice. It should not matter who or what they are. All life is worthy of upliftment.
Including yours.


No one should “demand” you love and support them. Nor should you demand they love and support you.


Love and support should come from the heart, it should be natural, in order to be genuine. And because of this, it will benefit both individuals in equality.


When you lift someone else up, don’t expect them to “owe” you for it. If this is the only reason you show “love” towards another person, then really it is not doing good for them at all. It is only for your own self gain.


That is not love. That is not support. 


Interestingly enough, doing true acts of love and kindness for another will always benefit both you and them. 


Here in this picture was a moment I was blessed to experience, two cheetah cubs supporting each other. Neither seemed to question the action of simply “being there” for the other. They both benefited from this interaction, purring loudly together.
I hope this image of selfless support in wild animals will bring thoughts of what love really means for us, and how we can support others in need. No matter who or what they are.

Hope is Glorious

Hope is glorious.
Sometimes the greatest struggles we face are actually blessings in themselves, for hope generally shines brightest when we are in our darkest moments.
Even if the future looks bleak, find hope in that you are still in the present, and the future has not yet arrived.

And we only reach tomorrow by finishing today.


This beautiful cub lost his mother, thus his future looked very bleak.
But he kept going any way, day after day, and found a way to not only survive, but thrive, against the odds.
He did not focus only on the bleakness of his future, but just getting through each day, simply by trying.


Today he is a young adult, together with his siblings, hunting on their own despite losing their mother at a young age. 
And they are living. 
Still living every day without question that they WILL make it to tomorrow.


Don’t give up hope. Just keep going!

All of us are built to overcome the odds and to thrive.

You can make it through anything. 


Keep on living!

Growing

Be strong. Always be strong. Because you are growing…
This is quite a mighty little cheetah cub, for though he is small now, (you can see him in comparison with his mother), one day he will grow to be larger than her.

However this is not going to happen overnight, because he still has to actually GROW.
Wherever you are in your life, remember to stay strong, because you are growing.
Whatever trials and hardships you face, whatever darkness that you cannot see through, you are growing. 
You ARE getting stronger. 
But growing also takes time.


Grow through the weaknesses.

Grow through the fear.

Grow beyond the shortcomings.

And grow above all that might hold you back.


There are so many challenges in life, but every individual has the ability and the power to stay strong, to overcome, and to never give up.
We are all growing. But the direction we choose to grow is our choice.
And so like this little cub, may we all choose to grow UP, with the desire to always become stronger and better, to not focus on what is negative and what holds us down, but rather how we can grow above such things.
There is no cheetah cub I know that grows DOWN. Because there is not one of them that I know, that has ever stopped trying.
Neither should any of us. 

Gratitude

After working so hard, she showed gratification for her efforts.

Gratitude.
She had just made a kill.
She had worked so hard.
And she was so grateful, in that moment, to simply enjoy the accomplishment she had made.
This beautiful cheetah did not focus on anything negative about the food she was eating.
She showed relief and gratification in her behavior. No matter what other struggles lay ahead of her, she had one thing she was grateful for in that moment…
I was reminded of the importance of gratitude the other day. And this image of the cheetah came to mind, as I had watched her struggle for so long to make a kill, and when she finally did, she was simply joyful.
We can use this moment in our own lives: try this little experiment now, and every morning when you wake up: instead of allowing one thought of negativity or stress to grab hold of your mind, think instead of one thing you are grateful for.
It can be anything, from the ability to hear the birds singing outside, or the warmth of sun coming up, or perhaps it’s simply being happy to have a cup of coffee. (I LOVE coffee, it’s literally drinkable happiness😂)
Hold onto that one thought and feeling. You’ll find you cannot feel very negative when gratitude has taken its place as the focus.

Life Begins Again

Life begins again…
All life is precious. And with every new day, there comes with it new life.
Do not think so much on what “wasn’t” in yesterday, but try to practice focusing more on “what is” in today. In this moment.
Guard your life, your thoughts, your feelings, against unnecessary negativity, just as this mother cheetah guards her cubs from danger. Because it matters.
Animals guard themselves against danger, they don’t look for negativity in their lives.
I believe that every individual’s mind, body, and soul is as precious and able as a young cub. Perfectly made. Entirely beautiful. And capable of withstanding any trial or fear.
We ALL are built to be successful.
So allow yourself to feel joy and love, because this good, and all living things deserve to feel such goodness.
Allow yourself to except and learn from your shortcomings and mistakes.
This mother cheetah did, and her cubs have done the same.
Because this is an important step in growth and your success.
I think no other animal except humans focus so strongly upon the mistakes and gloom of their lives and the lives of others. Yet at any point, we can choose to focus on the positivity of new life that is surrounding and presenting itself to us, every single day.
Life is so important, YOUR life is so important. So live every new day as such.

Just Try

Reaching for the branch…

The elephant reached up for the succulent branches, but found it could not quite reach its goal…
Next time you, or someone in your life, says you can’t do something, that your not able to accomplish your goal, or that you will fail, how about just TRY instead.
Reach for your goals.
Reach for your dreams.
You might miss them. You might fall.
But you will never regret trying.
And, perhaps, you may find you actually ARE capable of doing things.
Maybe, you CAN do it.
Your dreams don’t need to be easy in order for you to succeed.
Your goals may not even happen overnight.
But if this were to be the last moment of your life, would you feel pleased because you DIDN’T try, or will you be pleased because you DID.
Your success is always YOUR success.
No one else.
So reach for it.
This elephant missed the branch it was after the first time…
but then, it tried to reach again, and succeeded…

Power in Affection

A mother cheetah and cub

Observing affection between animals is truly a pure and moving experience. This particular moment was between a mother cheetah and one of her cubs.
It was such a sweet moment, but I find that it was also a moment that was powerful and inspiring…
Here are two individual, living creatures, and neither of them are controlling the other, both of them have made the conscious decision to show this affection towards each other. And in this, it is a picture of pure affection and caring, because both individuals are choosing to share this with one another.
What we can learn from this interaction is this:
Each and every one of us is an individual.
We each have our own thoughts, our own emotions, our own challenges, and our own experiences.
We are all capable of making conscious decisions in our personal lives. To choose to give without expecting anything in return, but giving purely because it is our choice to give.
We have no right to control others in their lives and choices.
And others have no right to control us in ours.
We always have a choice…we can allow others to control us, and manipulate us.
Or we can choose to not let them do this. And control ourselves instead.
We ACTUALLY get to decide this.
We also get to decide how we choose to treat other living beings. We know what’s right and wrong.
Choosing to love another should not be done with the expectation that the other MUST give this back in return.
Because then we really are only loving for our own self gain.
But loving another, with no expectations of them, and then they in return choose to love us in the same way, with no expectations of us, that perhaps must be one the purest form of selfless love.
When two individuals choose for themselves to give love and kindness to each other. For no self gain except the happiness that comes from loving another and seeing their joy.
That is why this moment of affection between these two wild animals is so remarkable, and I found it to be very meaningful for my own life, and hope it will inspire others as well.
Animals truly are a remarkable blessing.

The Lions in the Riverbed

Part of the lion pride in the riverbed, with some of the older cubs

I was working at a lodge in South Africa, and the lodge owner’s family/friends were visiting.
So it was a very laid back few days. On one particularly cold and rainy afternoon, me, along with the guests, the lodge owner, and the head guide/tracker all went on a relaxing game drive.
We did not see to much, most animals were hiding away from the cold and rain.
But as we came to one of the dry riverbeds in the reserve, we spotted a white rhino and her calf!
They were on the other side of the river.
There was a river crossing not far behind us, so we turned around quickly and went to it.
We crossed the dry riverbed and drove to area we had seen the rhinos.
They were gone. As if they had simply taken flight and flown away!
At this point, the rain was only a faint drizzle, but evening was approaching.
The head guide/tracker, I cannot disclose his name, who had been in the industry for many, many years and was highly qualified, offered to go on foot to check in the river bed for the rhinos, and maybe he could find where they went and if they were accesible.
This was agreed upon.
Normally, I would have accompanied him, but I knew he had had a particularly stressful day, and guessed he might need some alone time. So I stayed where I was.

He got off the tracker seat, and took off his radio and placed it in the vehicle.
Do you not want to take it? I had asked, and the lodge owner also suggested he should take it, but the head guide said he did not want it to get wet in the rain.
He then started off for the steep edge of the river.
Both me and the lodge owner called after him to take a rifle with him.
As a guide, if you are going to track something out in the Bush, you should ALWAYS take a rifle with you for protection.
You almost never need to use it, because you generally already understand animal behavior well enough, and know how to show wildlife respect, especially dangerous wildlife. 
The head guide denied the rifle, saying he was just going down quickly, and then he would be back. Again, we suggested taking the rifle anyway, but he promised he would be quick.
He walked away into the fading light of early evening, the cold, drizzle of rain splashing off of him, and he disappeared down the steep side of the riverbed.
We waited awhile. The guests chatted away in the back of the vehicle. Everything else around us was quiet.  Only the dripping on rain drops on leaves, and a whisper of breeze in the grass.


It had been quite some time, and I thought, he should really have come back by now. I felt a slight feeling of foreboding.


My ears, as well as the lodge owner’s, suddenly caught a sound further up river.
My heart went cold. It was a sound I knew instantly, but desperately hoped I was wrong.
Maybe I misheard it?
It was like a deep, barking “brah!” type sound.

We quieted everyone.
Silence.
A long silence…

“HEEEYYY!!! HEY!!!! HEY!!!!!” the silence was broken by the sounds of our head guide screaming. He was WAY up river.
In an instant, we started the engine of the game viewer, and flew up river along the bank. There was way down for the vehicle, it was to steep.

As we came towards the screaming and yelling, my eyes fell upon the scene…

Down a small, muddy cliff, and in the sandy riverbed, first I saw the head guide.
He was taking rapid steps backwards, his jacket was off, and he was waving it frantically in front of himself, yelling at the top of his lungs.
Then there came charging at him a ferocious lioness.
Her legs were stiff and she was snarling, her huge teeth bared.
She was not mock charging.
She was charging with the intent to kill. The jacket the head guide was waving at her seemed to be confusing her slightly, just enough to keep her from pouncing and grabbing him.
And then there was another lionness charging at him.
And another.
And another!

Everything was happening in moments, yet it seemed to be in slow motion.
The head guide was in mortal danger, for the entire pride of lions was in that riverbed, and this pride had several sets of new cubs with them. They were going to kill him to protect their young.

I do not know if any words passed between me and the lodge owner. I only remember that we each grabbed a rifle, for thankfully I had brought two with us that day.
I don’t remember much of those moments, but I know that I had the rifle ready to fire in an instant.
I did not feel anything at all. I just knew what had to be done, and that I was going to do it.

We charged down the muddy cliff side as quickly and carefully as we could.
There was lots of yelling from all of us. And the head guide was able to stumble over to us.
We stepped between him the angry pride of lions. Ready to shoot. 
I remember feeling entirely calm in these moments.
I don’t think my heart rate had even increased. I was looking down the barrel of the rifle, into the eyes of one of the charging lionesses, I felt so aware of everything around me. Every sense and every detail was heightened to a point of purity. And felt such a sense of calmness.
I remember, in those few moments that seemed an eternity, I willed the angry lioness to see how much I did not want to do this. Because shooting one of them was something I never wanted to do.
Don’t do it. I remember thinking towards her.

Watchful but calm pride members

And then, they backed down.
They did not want this either, there was the loud, metal “clank” sound of the lodge owner loading his rifle, and this made the lionesses back away, still growling, and go back to their cubs.
All of this happened in seconds. And then the head guide, who was very pale, took the rifle from me. For it was actually his rifle. (Legally, I actually was not allowed to use it, but that was the last thing any of us were thinking.)

Ferocious snarling came from my left side, and all of us whirled around to face another charging lioness.
And I knew her.
She had charged many people before. She had chased one of the vehicles I was in before, jumping at the back. And I had caught her sneaking in the shadows between the tented camp I worked in, trying to sneak up on a client who was distracted by other lions in the distance.
This lioness was very aggressive, and fearless, and she charged at us, while we yelled at her.
She came so close, that I believe she was about to be shot.
Then she crouched down suddenly. Snarling.

Yawning lioness

We tried to edge our way back up the steep bank. I watched her tail, it twitched in an upward motion, which meant…

Another afternoon with some of the pride, relaxing

She snarled and charged again!! 
We yelled again.
She crouched.
Over and over and over, this happened. For every step away we took, she charged.

Yawning. Another time with some of the pride

Twice she came to a point where I believed someone might really shoot her. Then she would crouch once more.
Step by step, she escorted us back into the vehicle.
And as we got in the vehicle, she glared at us, came forward again, but was interrupted by the gentle moaning call of her sisters, calling her back to the pride.

Leading the pride away

With a slash of her tail, the lioness turned and went back to join her pride.

We found the rhinos the next morning…

Everyone was safe.
Also, the rhino mother and her calf had apparently caught wind of the pride of lions, and bolted from the area before we had arrived.
We did see them the next morning, far away from the lions.
And the memory of that encounter remains clear and loud in my mind to this day.
We saw that same pride again later on that night, and the cubs were playing as though nothing in the world had happened.
And those same cubs are now grown up, healthy and capable lions, and powerful members of their mothers’ pride.

An older cub
Proud mother