creature of the world*

animal.jpg
creature at the Academy of Sciences, SF, Taken with iphone

I’ve been reading and listening to Eckhart Tolle a lot lately. Like I said in a previous post, the book sat on my shelf for years until I picked it up again recently. (I was inspired by the Oprah podcast called A New Earth)

Yesterday, we took Ben to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. He is obsessed with the creatures of the world, most especially with sea creatures, and it was pure joy to be with him while he sprinted around the museum squealing with delight at every new animal. “What’s deese?” “What dat?” “Why he not moving?”

As we looked around I remembered a lesson from the podcast that I loved. Tolle suggested we try to experience things as much as we can without labeling them with our intellect. To be present, to simply experience nature (a tree, an animal, a flower) without knowing its name (or choosing to forget for a moment) gives us space from the rational mind. We can experience its essence without shutting ourselves down with labels.

The museum was a perfect place to practice this.. There were so many creatures that I didn’t know the names of. Strange, enormous fish with huge snouts, bright orange cylindrical things jutting out of the bottom of tanks (plant or animal?) and even large animals in dioramas like the one pictured above. Without a name, I could simply experience it without my preconceived ideas.

We do with this people all the time… adding them up in our minds, labeling them by race, class, size, etc. We cut ourselves off from the essence of who they are; we do the mental math before we even allow ourselves to connect.

For a moment, I got a window into Ben’s universe–seeing things for the first time, having no name and therefore nowhere to put them–leaving them simply as they are: A wonder, a delight, a wild and extraordinary creature of the world.

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

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19 Comments

  1. Blink

    I have been working on this as well on an off for years and very much lately. I enjoy the wonder and the peace and you know what? the world is going to keep moving along whether I am over thinking it or not so, might as well not and enjoy the process. A book called “Wherever You Go, There You Are” by Jon Kabat-Zinn was the first peek into this way of being. and it began the change of my life.
    An odd thing, i have seizures on occasion and while they aren’t very comfortable and i wouldn’t wish them on me I get the most curious feeling when they are done. I get sleepy after i have had several in a day (not at all often) and usually take a nap for sleep for the night.
    But, when i wake.. when i WAKE!
    EVERYTHING is brand new to me, the gorgeous sun shining, the light in the tree’s, the smiles of my children, everything. It isn’t like I have forgotten. I know where i am and where everything else is but, I get this wonderful feeling of enjoying that “first bite” of everything all over again and it lasts for about a day or less.
    I had never really thought of my seizures as a gift but, when they are finished running around my brain, they leave me a wonderful temporary treasure.

  2. Margo

    Funny you post about this. I was telling my doctor about Baby Led Weaning for solids and The Continuum Concept. We were talking about what path I will use to raise my son, it’s hard as I’m studying early childhood education and there is never talk of this approach in the readings.
    She suggested I read this Eckhart Tolle book. She then walked me to the counter so I could pay and I bumped into an old employer from a kindy….the doctor pointed to a book the woman had in her hand – it was the Eckart Tolle book. And here you are talking about it too. Okay universe, I’ll get it already!

  3. Jennifer

    Another great post, thank you!!

  4. Rebecca F.

    This is exactly why I don’t ask people “What do you do?” It is such a label. Bound by our occupation rather than our personality….

  5. stephanie alaine Tabb

    “we do the mental math before we even allow ourselves to connect” i could get that phrased tattooed on my forehead and still spend my whole life trying not to forget it.
    that is a profound observation and i want to hold onto it. thank you thank you, for the gift of these words strung together. they are moving in so many ways!

  6. stephanie alaine Tabb

    oh and ps you should TOTALLY read annie dilliard’s pilgrim at tinker creek. she is all into this kind of observation. seeing, really seeing for the first time. an amazing portrait of living awareness…

  7. Tinniegirl

    I think I’d better schedule a trip to the Museum. You’re so right, it’s a great way to step outside of knowing. What a gift.

  8. Puanani

    Thank you.

  9. Patty

    My husband and I are on our 3rd read-through of Power of Now and we have done the same with New Earth – we read outloud to each other. As soon as we finish, we feel like we need to hear it again – never have had that before with a book – great stuff!!

  10. cath

    So perfect.
    That last little paragraph… incredibly beautiful with tremendous impact.
    Much appreciated, Andrea.

  11. Tina

    I stumbled upon this idea recently although a little slightly different. I think Marianne at Zen and the Art of Peacekeeping was kind of how I put it together. Marianne was taking a break from printed words and the media b/c of how overwhelming it could be. This got me to thinking of how many words our brains use all the time, like you said Andrea, labeling and classifying everything. So when I was feeling especially overwhelmed this past summer I would try to think in only images to calm my brain down. It was definitely a very interesting experiment. I am going to try this way too. Trying to experience without the labels. Labels always feel so confining. Thank you! I love this!

  12. shannon

    wow! you and i are on similar planes right now. i love tolle’s teachings so much. and you are so right, having a little person around you really puts things into perspective and offers a great opportunity to put his teachings into practice.
    my almost 22 month old is learning the word “mine” and i’ve been fascinated with how the ego starts to take hold at such an early age. i’ve really been reflecting on labels, too. when i catch my mind wanting to label someone or something, i’m observing it, and noticing the judgements that are attached to those labels. it is such a freeing feeling to witness my ego wanting to label, and slowly, releasing what those labels represent.
    he is so right…that when we stop labeling…we can truly enjoy the ALIVENESS of that person or thing. stopping the labeling reminds me that we really are “one’.
    ahhh…i could talk about that book forever… 🙂 thanks for opening the dialogue!

  13. shannon

    wow! you and i are on similar planes right now. i love tolle’s teachings so much. and you are so right, having a little person around you really puts things into perspective and offers a great opportunity to put his teachings into practice.
    my almost 22 month old is learning the word “mine” and i’ve been fascinated with how the ego starts to take hold at such an early age. i’ve really been reflecting on labels, too. when i catch my mind wanting to label someone or something, i’m observing it, and noticing the judgements that are attached to those labels. it is such a freeing feeling to witness my ego wanting to label, and slowly, releasing what those labels represent.
    he is so right…that when we stop labeling…we can truly enjoy the ALIVENESS of that person or thing. stopping the labeling reminds me that we really are “one’.
    ahhh…i could talk about that book forever… 🙂 thanks for opening the dialogue!

  14. shannon

    wow! you and i are on similar planes right now. i love tolle’s teachings so much. and you are so right, having a little person around you really puts things into perspective and offers a great opportunity to put his teachings into practice.
    my almost 22 month old is learning the word “mine” and i’ve been fascinated with how the ego starts to take hold at such an early age. i’ve really been reflecting on labels, too. when i catch my mind wanting to label someone or something, i’m observing it, and noticing the judgements that are attached to those labels. it is such a freeing feeling to witness my ego wanting to label, and slowly, releasing what those labels represent.
    he is so right…that when we stop labeling…we can truly enjoy the ALIVENESS of that person or thing. stopping the labeling reminds me that we really are “one’.
    ahhh…i could talk about that book forever… 🙂 thanks for opening the dialogue!

  15. mccabe

    beautifully put,
    beautifully you….
    xoxo
    mac

  16. amy k

    I remember this from the podcast too.
    I am going to dork out and ask — How did you answer Ben? Did you describe the animal or have him describe it or simply say “I don’t know?”
    How do we answer a kiddo without labeling or giving something a name? I am so curious about this as it is powerful to be able to look at the world with a babes eye.
    xo ak

  17. kolleen

    i really enjoyed that book and would have to say that particular part was one that REALLY stayed with me…resonated with me and i wanted desperately to know exactly how to do just that…no labels, nothing. is is so much easier said than done!! i too, find looking at things through the eyes of my children really helps me. i love this post and wish you and your family the happiest of thanksgivings!!!
    xxooxxoo

  18. clangley

    Fantastic post. I love the idea of reading and listening to Eckhart Tolle, but don’t have the time right now. And I get caught up so much in trying to keep my kids from fighting and making messes that I’m missing some of these opportunities to let them “teach” me…
    Just wonderful. Thank you!

  19. Patty

    Hi Andrea!
    It was so lovely to meet you at the trunk show a few weeks ago! I always enjoy reading your blog and I have recently been reading Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” and really relate to your blogpost. I’m working on just trying to be present and it’s been quite an eye-opening read. Keep up the awesome work on your blog here…love stopping by.
    -patty

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