In common conversation, the word “wild” is often used to describe something that is out of control, uncivilized, or lacking reason, but these interpretations are misleading. Wild also has many positive connotations, including being in tune with nature, fully present, confident, and resilient. All animals, even domesticated ones, retain some “wild” characteristics that provide great wisdom for humans.
Wildly in Tune
Wild animals are in tune with nature. As the seasons change, they adjust their routines, such as by storing food for the winter, building shelter, or moving to a more hospitable location. Squirrels store nuts, bears find dens for hibernation, and monarch butterflies migrate hundreds or thousands of miles every year. Animals’ bodies also adapt to their seasonal climates. Horses, for example, develop thicker coats in winter and shed them in summer to remain comfortable in changing temperatures. Animals also know how to respond to severe weather. During the recent hurricane, the wild horses in North Carolina did just fine; they know how to band together as a herd and stand with their backs to the wind to ride out the storm.
Wild animals are also in tune with their bodies, unlike humans who tend to spend more time in our heads. Wild animals will naturally exercise through stretching, rolling, running and playing; they sleep when they are tired and eat when they are hungry. They know how to keep themselves well. They even choose their food wisely, generally avoiding poisonous berries and plants.
As the seasons change, go a little wild. Note what your body is asking for in each season, including different types of foods and environmental adjustments. Watch your pets and note the adjustments they are making; watch the wild animals outside your window to get some ideas for how to nurture yourself and remain balanced in each season.
Wild animals possess a natural self-confidence borne out of living on their own without human intervention. As the saying goes, “a bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the branch but on her own wings.” Wild animals generally do not expend their energy worrying about what could happen unless actually faced with an imminent threat. They are fully present and mindful, and respond to what is, rather than all the things that could be.
Animals, wild and domestic, do what they want in each moment, and are willing to ask for what they need if they aren’t able to get it on their own. Watch your dog or cat a few minutes past their usual mealtime. If you haven’t fed them, they will probably try to direct your attention to the food or food bowl. They are asking for what they need. If you don’t give it to them, they will find another way to satisfy their needs, including jumping on the counter to sample your food. Animals prioritize self-care, in part as a matter of survival. Humans can learn to be wild in this way too, trusting in their own strength, and asking for what they need.
Wild animals also can teach humans about working together and having healthier relationships. Wild dolphins work together to drive smaller fish into shallow water so they can catch them more easily, and wolves often hunt in packs to take down large prey. Predators aren’t the only ones who work together; prey animals can be sophisticated collaborators. Horses organize themselves in herds where they utilize each individual horse’s strengths: Some horses take on the role of sentinel and watch out for predators, some raise the foals, some lead the herd to water. Each member of the herd has an important job.
Roles and relationships change over time and animals don’t seem bothered by these changes. Humans fret over empty nests, but birds don’t. When fledglings are too big for the nest and ready to fly, the parents encourage them and then take off themselves. Many other animals follow the same pattern; they nurse and train the youngsters, who then head out on their own. Humans going through relationship changes could lower their stress levels by accepting the change as natural rather than expending energy resisting it.
When a wild horse decides a situation is uncomfortable or unsafe, the horse moves to a safer situation, whether that is back to the herd or away from the perceived threat. Humans often override these same impulses, because they don’t want to offend someone or because they talk themselves out of being “irrationally” afraid, often to their detriment. All creatures have intuitive or instinctive senses. Animals live by these senses, but humans are often conditioned to ignore them because they are not “logical” or explainable. Humans who learn to trust their instincts, and live with their wild senses wide open, can discover a whole new world of wonder.