As our vehicle peaked over Ximpalapala crest a few days ago and we got our first glimpse of the rocky outcrop being lit by the rising sun, one of my guest’s screamed behind me in excitement, “dogs, dogs, dogs!” Ahead of us, twelve wild dogs were tearing towards us in their typically exuberant fashion and I felt my energy levels surge.
When you’re with dogs you’ll notice how excitable they are. Their satellite dish-like ears are forever turning, listening for their next meal; their white-tipped tails wave incessantly and they are wild with activity. As a ranger, even on a freezing winter’s morning, you start to strip off your warm layers the moment you see the dogs, in preparation for the sort of driving you know you’re in for when you’re following them.
Normally dogs are incredibly successful hunters due to their stamina and team work and have a much higher success rate than lions, leopards or cheetahs. This particular pack were hunting not only for themselves but for the alpha female they had left at the den and for all the pups she was raising. Surprisingly though, by 9am that morning they still hadn’t made a kill and they eventually flopped down in the shade, apparently giving up.
They have very fast metabolisms and especially when they’re denning, they try to hunt twice a day. I was surprised that the pack didn’t keep trying despite the morning of set backs but when I looked at them all scattered in various patches of shade, not a single one seemed perturbed that the youngsters would have to wait till the evening for their meal.
It made me realise how much these animals valued and allowed rest, which when I thought about it, is actually one of the reasons they’re ultimately so successful. It made me a little jealous.
I don’t know about you but I for one struggle to rest. The rate that much of the modern world moves at doesn’t really allow for it but even if I do have the time for it, I carry a certain level of shame around it. Most of the time it’s due to the little voices in my head saying some version of “you’ve been talking about starting this project forever now, get it done” or “you should really be using this time wisely, go for a run” or “you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t keep going”.
Recently I listened to a fascinating Sounds True Podcast where a spiritual teacher, Jeff Foster looked at rest from a new angle. He reckons that we shouldn’t be trying to find rest, making it into yet another goal and only exacerbate the pressure we’re under. Instead, Foster invites us to see rest as our natural state and a place in us that already exists. The podcast discusses different ways of tapping into that place.
A lot of spiritual teachings encourage us to find peace and quiet by trying to train ourselves away from the noise in our head or to angle ourselves only towards joy and bliss. When we’re not peaceful, the self-berating begins, which let’s be honest, doesn’t bring any joy and the loop persists. Foster challenges that the way to peace is to actually allow the noise in our head and invite in our so-called negative emotions. It requires a shift in focus from how can I get rid of this feeling to how can I make space for this feeling? A longing for rest runs far deeper than a longing for sleep. It’s a longing for peace, truth, authenticity and allowing. It’s a desire to stop running from who we our, from our experiences or this moment.
Are there places in your life where you feel that if you just allowed the discomfort a little more, you’d find greater peace?
When I watched that pack the other day, I saw how none of them seemed to have those nagging internal voices (or if they did, they certainly weren’t listening to them). They knew the pups would survive a few more hours without their meal and they weren’t wracked with guilt. They trusted that they would catch a meal later in the day so they weren’t ruled by their hunger. They were purely listening to their bodies desire to rest.
Later that afternoon, the pack arose from their slumber and after a short bout of greeting and playing, set off in search of a meal. Because they had given their bodies a chance to recuperate, they were able to chase down and catch an impala ewe and were soon all well and truly engorged. With full bellies, they set off to nourish the pups.
Like us, they are pack animals, intimately reliant on and connected to one another. They acknowledge that rest is an essential part of their lives and because of it, they have the capacity to live a life of service to one another. It is not selfish to rest if it means that when you awaken you use that energy for the good of the whole.
It was such a good reminder to me that only once you’ve listened to your body, allowed the rest and nourished yourself, are you then truly capable of nourishing the rest of your pack, whatever form of nourishment that may take.