Inspiration and lessons for your leadership journey!
“I have never understood the saying 'To think outside the box.' Why would anyone sit inside of a box and then think outside of it. Rather, just get out of the box.”
~ Lawrence Anthony ~
Lawrence Anthony is a legend in South Africa and the author of three books including the bestseller, The Elephant Whisperer. He bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants from all over the globe. Two most notable accounts include the courageous rescue of the Baghdad Zoo animals during the height of the US invasion in 2003 and the 1999 heartfelt story of the rescue of a wild herd of elephants that was deemed too dangerous to live.
The wild and traumatized herd. That wild herd lived on another game reserve some 600 miles away from Anthony’s private 5,000 acre game reserve, Thula Thula (meaning "peace and tranquility") in South Africa. They were troublesome, breaking out of the reserve, and violent. They hated humans. The owners wanted to get rid of them fast. If Anthony didn’t take them in, they would be shot. Anthony did take them in and more. He found himself fighting a desperate battle for their survival and their trust.
Love and trust. Known for his unique ability to calm traumatized elephants, Anthony had become a legend. When they first arrived, Anthony worked with the herd intensely for three weeks never leaving their sides. He earned their trust, especially of the matriarch, Nana.
They were mysteriously able to sense when he left the reserve and when he returned. When Anthony would return from trips outside of the reserve, the elephants somehow sensed his return and would come up to his house on the reserve and stand to greet him.
Then, on March 7, 2012, Lawrence Anthony died.
The funeral march. When he died of a heart attack, the elephants, which were grazing miles away in different parts of the park, began traveling over twelve hours to reach his house. According to his son, Jason, both herds (there are two herds in Thula Thula) arrived shortly after Anthony's death.
They hadn't visited the compound where Anthony lived for a year and a half, but Jason says, "In coming up there on that day of all days, we certainly believe that they had sensed it."
For twelve hours, the two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of the conservationist who saved their lives. The formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot several years earlier as pests, held a two-day vigil at Anthony’s rural compound – to say good-bye to the man they loved.
Dylan, Anthony's older son, said, “They had not visited the house for a year and a half and it must have taken them about twelve hours to make the journey,” he said.
“The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd, a day later. They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush.”
Elephants traveling in single file to the Anthony home at a slow, funeral march-like pace.
(Photo by Thula Thula Game Reserve.)
Interconnectedness. So, how after Anthony’s death, did the reserve’s elephants — grazing miles away in distant parts of the park — know?
“A good man died suddenly,” says Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, PhD, “and from miles and miles away, two herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost ‘funereal’ procession to make a call on the bereaved family at the deceased man’s home.”
“If there ever were a time, when we can truly sense the wondrous ‘interconnectedness of all beings,’ it is when we reflect on the elephants of Thula Thula. A man’s heart’s stops, and hundreds of elephants’ hearts are grieving. This man’s oh-so-abundantly loving heart offered healing to these elephants, and now, they came to pay loving homage to their friend.”
The electromagnetic heart field. One explanation might have something to do with our hearts. Recall from Chapter 2, Baggage Check, the findings of the Institute of HeartMath (IHM)?
The heart’s electrical field is 60 times greater in amplitude than the electrical activity of the brain and the magnetic field of the heart is more than 5,000 times stronger than the brain’s magnetic field! The researchers were able to determine that the electromagnetic field of the heart can be detected for several feet in all directions around a person – but that was limited by the equipment they used. It is possible that it can be detected at much further distances by other yet unknown instruments – or, maybe by elephants.
The IHM also reports that when a person generates positive feeling states, such as gratitude and love, and those feelings results in heart coherence, that person’s brainwaves can synchronize with someone else sitting just a few feet away – a biological empathy of sorts. I wonder if that phenomenon was also occurring in Thula Thula?
Lawrence Anthony and the elephants of Thula Thula teach us important lessons about a leader’s love triumphing over violence, trauma, fear, and hate. They impart to us mysteries about our interconnectedness and how our very presence – our state of being – affects each other.
(Repeat these quietly to yourself multiple times throughout the day.)
I take time today to nurture my state of being.
I nurture positive energy and feelings in myself and others!
I am radiating peace, joy, goodness, abundance, and love!
I celebrate the interconnectedness of all things.
I am a loving leader!
Have an amazing journey today!
PS. Special thanks to Tana Blair for the inspiration for this week's blog!
Alan Mikolaj is a a professional, experienced, positive, and passionate speaker, leadership and organizational development consultant, change agent, author, and coach. He holds his Master of Arts degree in Clinical Psychology from Sam Houston State University. He is a certified graduate coach from Coaching Out of the Box and holds his ACC and membership with the International Coaching Federation (ICF).
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