Running into Nature, when one projects no feelings

Posted Oct. 2, 2011 by F_Alexander in Open

commented on Oct. 5, 2011
by Saoirse



I just wanted to share a fun experience: Back at home whenever I would be walking outside in the pygmy forest and concentrating on developing enhanced vision, or when I would be deep in intellectual exercise regarding concepts such as four-dimensional movement, I would notice a change in my presence to wild animals. I would be walking along down the long, wide dirt driveways, and I would be deep in concentration, almost a meditation of sorts. On a number of occasions I would suddenly lose concentration as would I realize that there is a bunny munching on grass just two or three feet from my foot, or a number of birds hopping on the branches next to my head. Once I would lose my concentration and marvel at the normally skittish animal which is now within an arms length of me, it would suddenly be as if I had deactivated a cloaking device and popped into existence right beside the wild creature.
Within a couple seconds of exiting my previous state of mind, the rabbit calmly munching beside me (as one example) would quickly perk up its ears as if it sensed something, then it would look up at this human which is standing right next to it and take off startled! This has happened many times with rabbits, sometimes with birds, and once with a skunk as it continued to waddle towards me obliviously as I was concentrating. At that point I had become so accustomed to this effect that I stopped walking forward, as I DID NOT want to pop into its awareness as it was right beside me, lol! But as I began to become self-conscious and I started to take a couple steps back from the advancing skunk, it suddenly stopped sniffing about looked up towards me, at which point it it turned tail and began to waddle-hop away with speed.

I remember it was once said that those masters who have moved beyond feelings of self-service and into a state of unity would have animals approach them unafraid, that even a Tiger would not attack them. Now I can very much imagine what that might be like from my own experiences with temporary states of cognition. I think one element of this state is a sense of "not wanting anything of your surroundings," like a mode of ultimate Zen where you do not project any feelings of self like "I want to look at the animal" or "I want for them to not be afraid of me as I approach."

  • Saoirse Oct 05, 2011

    I'm sorry that you've misunderstood my purposes here. But you're all riled up about what you imagine I'm thinking, which bears no resemblance to anything I'm actually thinking. There's not much I can do about that. I can only take responsibility for my own thoughts and feelings, not for those others project on me. However, I do feel that profanity and personal attacks are counterproductive, and disruptive to others on the forum, so it would probably be better for you to send those kinds of things to me directly, rather than including them in forum discussion.

  • F_Alexander Oct 05, 2011

    I think I need to clarify the image I'm putting forth here. I am not walking differently or more slowly, I am walking in an average way for someone who is trying to stretch their legs, moving briskly (but not hurriedly) down the dirt road while my mind is set on certain tasks. This is not a walking meditation or even just a gentle walk. So in this case the argument for bodily micro-postures as the sole cause for an animal's placidity would be:
    When a walker moving at a salient speed and manner is concentrating on certain thought content, an animal shall react to that approaching being with virtual pacification as the result of typically imperceptible (to us) subtleties in gait and manner brought on by one's cognitive state.
    I argue that there is another stimuli influencing behavior, at a level which would seem instinctual. Now if you argue that you can walk briskly up to rabbits like this, then that changes things.

    I of course do not think that physical techniques for approaching animals are at all mysterious... unfortunately, I think you are simplifying me as a person because you still have this notion that you are "the lone rationalist, comin' to save all you weak-minded folk from your delusions."
    Seriously, do you actually read the things you write? This is bloody condescending:

    "It's easier to believe that humans have magic powers to make themselves invisible than to believe that an animal other than a human is capable of recognizing the behavioral cues that he depends on every day for his survival."

    Tucking little kindnesses into your posts doesn't make up for the frequent condescension, and your habit of painting other people as utterly unreasonable. "Oh, I guess I just don't believe in accepting things with no evidence the way you people must do, but I'm okay with that."
    I had maintained my politeness and repeatedly given you the benefit of the doubt, but I find it impossible to convince myself that you are not a polemicist in disguise. While on rare occasions I have seen you put forward the concept that you are open-minded and just without evidence, your overall manner is indicative of someone who has already decided the issue. In one case I even tried giving you the exact statistical evidence you said you'd like to see, from an individual whose knowledge of the subject was superbly credible, and whose presentation was accessible to anyone with some basic higher education.
    You feel that you're trying to rescue stupid people… so do I
    The word skepticism has become a synonym for cynicism, and it is also woefully coupled with a delusion of superiority, as belief in certain matters is taken as a proof in and of itself that someone is not being sufficiently discerning. Unfortunately, you don't seem to deviate from this habit of taking certain beliefs as ipso facto verification of ignorance.

  • Saoirse Oct 02, 2011

    It's not that the rabbit doesn't register your presence. He knows you're there. He's just not worried about it. I think you're working from the common assumption that rabbits and other critters aren't able to think or reason, but just act on instinct like little machines. I think it's difficult for a lot of humans to let go of the ego thing that says humans are superior to everyone else. It's easier to believe that humans have magic powers to make themselves invisible than to believe that an animal other than a human is capable of recognizing the behavioral cues that he depends on every day for his survival. I'm not sure why this is. I think it's just that humans don't like to think of themselves as part of the natural order. If other critters have consciousness and self-awareness, where does that leave the idea that humans are different and superior?

    I think it's kind of like me and car engines. I don't get car engines. So it might seem to me that it's more likely that mechanics are using magic on them than that just tweaking a few nuts and bolts will make the engine work again. But that's only because I'm not a mechanic. For someone who works on engines every day, there's nothing mysterious about it. In the same way, there's nothing mysterious to me about wildlife behaving normally, so I don't have any reason to look for supernatural causes.

    On the other hand, I also know that I'm in a forum where folks tend to go the other way -- why look for a natural explanation when there's a perfectly good supernatural one? I'm okay with that. Having had friends who have been tortured for their ideas, I'm not real big on forcing people to think one way or another. We don't need to agree. I enjoyed reading your rabbit story and would love to hear more of your wildlife experiences, if you feel like sharing them.

  • F_Alexander Oct 02, 2011

    Well I would argue that some of this does fall under the category of what the public calls "magic."
    It is no great mystery (except to some people) that our body language is perceived and registered by many lifeforms including ourselves, and in the latter case the study of microexpressions makes for a wonderful example. Although I guess there is the caveat that such subtle movements also coincide with rather pronounced oscillations in the "emotional envelope" as TCM would call it, and indeed the mechanisms for processing that stimuli create a concurrent process that most researchers would shrug off as unimportant when examining their data.
    But sidenotes aside.
    I do not think that if someone is just walking along casually with their thoughts on their personal matters that an animal will fail to register their approach in plain sight. But of course you suggest that a hare's brain will not only distinguish between subtle body cues in the person wrapped up in planning their fantasy baseball team and the person in a state of higher spiritualism, but that it will then decide that the latter is harmless to the point of nonexistence because of slight physical cues to cognitive content.
    This is a rabbit... a creature which flees at the slightest movement in the distance or the slightest sound of approach, a behavior often witnessed in our area. I'm sure many people, like myself, can recall past experiences in which they walked while lost in their own thoughts, and delighted at the sight of an animal many feet away as it retreated into the wild. I'm sure that some people have had encounters in which they have happened upon a normally skittish animal at a distance of twenty feet or less while hardly being hidden from its sight. I am no stranger to the dynamics of movement and stance you have practiced yourself, as I have had many lovely close encounters with hummingbirds and other wildlife.
    But to think that the reason I have found myself within arm's reach (leg's reach rather) of rabbits after approaching them in plain sight, would be due to the slightest of differences between one's gait and stance when they are deeply involved in spiritual thought instead of being deeply involved in another kind of passionate contemplation.
    You will excuse me if I prefer a more comprehensive framework for understanding such an occurrence.

  • Saoirse Oct 02, 2011

    This is connected with something I've tried to get people to understand, but most people have a hard time with it. I think the reason is human ego more than anything else. It's hard for people to let go of the concept that humans are superior, and that attitude totally changes your nonverbal when you're approaching a critter. I have a friend who simply can't understand why rattlesnakes who hover and buzz at him relax when he backs off and I approach. He's even seen me many times say casually, "Knock off the rattling, ya goof. We don't need all that ruckus," and the snake will stop rattling. It has nothing to do with what I'm saying, or at least, not in the sense that the snake understands it. Humans are so verbal that they've almost lost their ability to pay attention to nonverbal behaviors. Other species (although most have some form of verbal language as well) depend much more on nonverbal, not only for communication but for their very survival. It can make them seem almost psychic. I talk to snakes and other critters because humans aren't so good at controlling their nonverbal without a lot of practice. When we speak, our nonverbal naturally falls in line with what we're saying. So, speaking to the snake as if we're old friends just hanging out together helps to keep my nonverbal in the right zone to send a low-arousal, relaxed message without my having to concentrate on it. The snake can see from my nonverbal that whether I'm a predator or not, I'm not hunting at the moment and so he isn't all that concerned about my presence. You can often see prey animals grazing nearby while a predator is napping, or resting. They know the predator is there, but he's obviously not hunting at the moment, so he's not a real threat. My friend thinks he's superior because he's human. He moves into the snake's space arrogantly, and the snake responds to the aggressive movement. Or, almost as bad, my friend tries to sneak up on the snake -- which makes him look like a predator. From the snake's perspective, large animals moving casually through the area, or standing nearby are common enough. They're not a threat unless they're close enough to step on you -- or they're all tensed up and creeping toward you through the brush.

    When you're walking along, lost in thought, your nonverbal behavior is sending a relaxed, disinterested message. You're just passing through. You're not interested in rabbits or anything else. When you suddenly "return" to noticing your surroundings, your nonverbal changes. You become slightly more tense and alert. You're suddenly paying attention to the rabbit and the birds. So the critters become more alert and cautious in response.

    It's not magic, but with practice, you can use it to get close to wild critters for photography. The tricky thing is keeping your nonverbal in that relaxed, low-arousal state when you're really super-excited about the chance to get a great photo of a bobcat. :-) That's where the talking comes in.

  • F_Alexander Oct 02, 2011

    Ooops, forgot to finish editing the title ^_^

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