Breathe

Jasmin, taking a moment to breathe.

I had a most remarkable moment with this particular cheetah one morning…It had been a cool morning. I had been up before the sun. And after finishing up my other monitoring duties, I was on my way to check on a cheetah named Jasmin.


Jasmin was a unique individual. She had a special and quirky way of doing things. And she enjoyed her solitude. She was probably one of the most difficult to track every day, because she would hunt by walking in large circles. I had to wonder if she had trouble with her sight at times. Because she definitely did not act the same as the other cheetahs on the reserve. But it clearly was not enough to keep Jasmin from making kills. She was definitely capable of that.She also would often hide inside of thick bushes. Not underneath them like most cheetahs.

No, Jasmin would climb on top of large bushes, and crawl down inside of them. Becoming completely concealed, unless she peaked out from the top. I spent many frustrating hours searching for her at times, when I was getting to know her. But once I came to know her special ways of doing things, I began to figure out her patterns.

On this day, I found her lying beneath a large shepherd’s tree.The early morning sun shone golden open her dappled fur.
I came nearer to her, slowly. 

I was surprised because she did not move. Surely she could hear me?

Jasmin under the shepherd’s tree.

I edged closer, purposefully making loud footsteps so she would notice my presence. Still nothing. Jasmin was lying with her head up, facing the hills and valleys before us, but had her eyes closed shut. Only her whiskers twitched, as she breathed in the air. But as I came up to her, she finally opened her eyes, and gave me a slow, yet respectful, glance as I came close.

Jasmine glances at me

Then she slowly turned, and looked back out over her hunting grounds. And then closed her eyes once more. Jasmin took a long deep breath. Then released it. Her expression was one of complete, and utter relaxation. She seemed to have found a perfect state of peace.
I was amazed. For here was a wild animal, teaching the simplest, and yet so important, lesson in the world: Breathe.
Just take a breath.
It is wonderful what the air can do for your stress. For your fears. Your anxieties. When your emotions become overwhelming, close your eyes, take a breath, and live in a single moment of peace. Just one moment.
Emotions are not bad. They are entirely necessary. It how we know when we are happy or sad or scared. But allowing those emotions to control us, and make the calls on how we react is not good. Life can be terrifying at times, and we may want to allow those emotions to control us…but Jasmin is reminding us of something different…just breathe. When the rivers of emotions start to overwhelm, we just need to pause a moment and take a breath. And then, like this cheetah did after taking a moment for herself to breathe, begin your day. 

Do not take a leap into a river of fears, uncertainties, and anxieties without taking a breath first. You may yet have a swim before you, so take a second to breathe.

Laugh, Says the Cheetah

Laugh.


It had been quite a day, I was feeling weary and scattered. But I still had to check on two more cheetahs.

These two cheetahs were brother and sister, they would soon be old enough that they would split and go on their own ways. But not quite yet…

They both followed a pattern in their territory, they would hunt and make a kill, then climb one of two mountains in their land. Until they became hungry again, and then would descend the mountain to hunt.

Today they were on top of one of those mountains.

I hiked up to the top, knowing them well enough that I would be able to find them if I just kept going.

I was quite exhausted when I did find them, both lying together in the shade, watching me with lazy interest.

The two of them rolled about, stretching, yawning, cleaning each other, and eventually playing with each other a bit, though rather lazily.
I had to laugh. They were both so relaxed and carefree. And as I laughed, I realized how important that moment I’m had been for me.


Find something in every day to make you laugh, you will find your life increases because of it.
This cheetah may have only been yawning when I took this picture, but in this simple action, he did two things…
He made me laugh.
And the fact that he “looked” like he was laughing, made me consider the importance of laughter…
Something we can learn simply by observing the nature around us, though the animals may not always realize it, sometimes the little things they do can bring us laughter.
So take a moment in every day to find something that makes you smile.
Humor is a beautiful thing.
“A cheerful heart is a good medicine…” Proverbs 17:22

Overcome. The Cheetah’s Message

Ivory, and his example of overcoming.

Overcome.


This cheetah was living a life in chains. He was chained to the ground. Forced to be petted by hundreds of people a day.

He did not know his mother. He was taken from her as a cub. And thus he was never taught how to hunt by her.

He was destined for a life behind fence. A life behind bars.
But then, this cheetah, whose name is Ivory, was given another chance at life…

He was released into the wild.


Experts said he would never be able to hunt. It was impossible. Because he never had a mother to teach him.

They said, he could never be wild.

It was a hot afternoon, I was out monitoring, and was looking for Ivory.

Deep in the thick bush, I found him.

He was a huge cheetah. Most people were nervous of him. He was very powerful. And I had seen him charge several men before. Though with me, he was always very calm. I believe because I showed him respect, and simply remained very calm when around him, it gave him the sense that, me being there, was totally normal. And thus he had no reason to have a reaction to me.

I also never went to close to his food.
So eventually, Ivory knew me to be an “Acceptable human”.
He would allow me quite close.


So when I took this image, Ivory had just made a kill. And as he tore into his meal, I watched his absolute ferocity. His most certain strength. How could anyone look at the magnificent example of power, and not see how incredible he was.

And as I was thinking this, marveling at his beauty and strength, he paused for just a moment, and looked into my eyes…

It was almost like he knew what I was thinking, and in his eyes he seemed to say, “I will always overcome.”

This magnificent cheetah did not doubt his ability to overcome all things.

So I believe Ivory is sharing a message to the world:

Your current circumstances may have you feeling trapped, chained, and behind bars.
All those “experts” and “judges” who seem to be good at declaring your wrongs, yet refuse to see their own, may be telling you what you are. Who you are.
What you cannot do.
What you can never be.

Ivory


But if a cheetah can prove wrong the naysayers, and rise above the darkness of current predicaments, you can too.
Challenges are a part of life. But we can overcome all things. We are built to succeed.
And Ivory is a perfect example of this.


Ivory is a fully wild cheetah.

He is living free at Amakhala Game Reserve.
And is a father of two cubs. And sure to be a father of many more magnificent cheetahs in the future.

An Elephant’s Lesson on “Your Choice”

Adult elephant teaching a young one how to use its trunk

An adult elephant teaching the young…

I observed this very special moment in Africa.

A herd of elephants came out of the Bush, hurrying along to a waterhole.

Dust storms arising at their mighty, yet quite, padded feet.

In amongst the middle of the adult elephants was one tiny baby.

Coming to the water.

He walked with the confidence of one who had not a fear in the world.

As the herd approached the water, taking not that there was no danger around, they then spread out a bit to enjoy the refreshing water.

One of the adults then chose to teach the baby elephant how to use its trunk to drink water…and in this special moment, they showed me a most beautiful lesson, which I believe the world needs to hear:


There may not be a way for us to perfect and control all things that happen in our lives, but certainly we CAN choose to do the right thing…
We can choose to learn from others, and to also teach others.


To rather be a guide and a positive example, than a judge and condemner.


To give, and to love.
To help when it is needed, to save another when we are called, and to forgive when we are asked.


Choose to be the reason someone takes a step forward.
Never be the reason someone trips.
Never choose to hurt someone.


Be the elephant who teaches the young.

We may not be able to control and avoid all of the hardships and challenges we face in life, but we most certainly can choose the way we treat others. And by choosing to better another’s life, we are also bettering our own.

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