Some time ago, I watched a beautiful excerpt of the Animal Communicator documentary film, featuring Anna Breytenbach’s dialogue with a black leopard. It stirred something deep inside of me. One would have thought that the sight of a woman allegedly having a fully-fledged conversation with a wild animal would bring up some form of skepticism, and if not, then at least awe that such a thing could be possible.
But no, what surprised me was that, whilst it moved me deeply, it rang as natural and non-sensational as if I was watching a movie scene of two friends chatting about life. It’s just that I had forgotten. That I had learned to dismiss what had always been there.
But what exactly had I forgotten? What exactly had I dismissed?
My favorite books as a child were the Dr. Doolittle series, the adventures of a man who could speak with all the animals. I never tired of following him on his travels, and delighted in his conversations with the four-legged creatures, the feathered ones, and even the archaic nautilus floating down the ages at the bottom of the oceans.
And then… I grew up and internalized the adult belief that humans cannot speak with animals. Animals can’t speak, remember! But who said that speech is the only form of communication? Why are we not taught to pay attention to and honor all other forms of communication we have access to? The ones we have somehow ranked to a secondary order of importance, if not completely suppressed and eliminated from our conscious awareness.
For one, there is telepathy – the classic example where you think of someone and he or she calls you or sends you and email. And what is interesting is that once you start paying attention, you notice that, not only are such occurrences relatively frequent, they are even reproducible.
And then, there is all the rest: the intuitions, feelings, physical sensations, crystal clear mental images, sentences coming through between waking and sleeping… you name it… There is no shortage of information coming in. And what we need is not to suppress it on the account that it does not form part of a recognized form of communication, but rather hone our discernment in such a way as to understand what is coming at us without passing it through the filters of our limiting beliefs.
How do we do that? To take a simple example, how do I know that I am not projecting my own emotions and expectations on my dog, imagining what he feels like, and then having a conversation in my head about it, only to conclude that I have succeeded in communicating with my dog? Because that is not what we are talking about here.
And that is where the black panther has another important lesson to teach us. The black panther symbolically represents our capacity to confront our fears of the unknown and trust the future. Its path demands that we surrender to the darkness of the void and its terrifying uncertainty, knowing it is a well of pure potential, calling for our awareness. All it asks of us is the courage to stay there, willing to hold it forever, trusting that the flow of life will spring forth and carry us into a reality that offers many more facets than the ones we have been holding on to.
And that is our potential. To breathe and observe without our mind vying for control. To be still and to trust. To let go of everything we think we know. To jump into the darkness and listen with our heart.
Next time your child makes an off-hand comment about why the cat is lethargically curled in the corner, pay attention. She may know something you don’t. Something you too can learn to remember.