I loved the meerkats!
They were incredibly cute, climbing out of their burrow at dawn to turn their little faces immediately into the warming sun. Apparently, meerkats have little solar panels over their stomachs, so turning toward the sun quickly warms them up after a night in the burrow.
I was the only South African amongst the fifteen overseas visitors, most of whom came from Germany and England. We were all seated very comfortably, except for the fact that we had been required to meet our Meerkat Adventures guide at the ungodly hour of 5 AM.
These adorable little animals were completely oblivious to their human audience. The only time they took any notice of us was when the guide inserted his hand between a meerkat and the rising sun. The little creature whose warmth had been stolen immediately moved out of the shadow to find another spot to bask in.
Three days after my meerkat experience, I was wandering around in the small Karoo town of Calitzdorp in the pelting summer heat. All of a sudden, I had a flash of insight. I suddenly understood what so many spiritual teachers keep telling us: that most of us live in a world of illusion. The meerkats were natural, and behaved according to instinct; but our behaviour as human beings is largely programmed by our parents, society and the media. In other words, our world is not real.
At the time I was reading Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender, by the late Dr David Hawkins. This, his last book before his death in September 2012, was definitely instrumental in providing my burst of insight. According to Dr Hawkins, humankind is essentially sleepwalking. We are unconscious of the beauty and magnificence of each moment because we have created the world we live in through our programming. Most people are desperate to stay unconscious, Dr Hawkins believes: either we flick on the TV and allow ourselves to be further programmed by the shows we watch, or we frenetically and endlessly socialise, shop, sightsee, work-whatever will let us escape our feelings. Dr Hawkins advises that instead, we could surrender all those unwanted feelings to a higher Power.
Jesus, one of the greatest teachers in history, said: "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." Surely the truth Jesus was referring to is simply reality: seeing things as they really are. In other words, Jesus was urging us to be totally aware.
Dr Hawkins goes on to say that our loss of awareness can halt the growth process; and where there is no spiritual growth, there can be no inner freedom. Our repressed emotions can lead to physical and emotional illnesses, ageing and even premature death!
In Letting Go, Dr Hawkins surmises that to release negative feelings such as anxiety, guilt, anger and fear can change our very physiology for the better. We can enjoy greater muscle power, better vision, lower blood pressure and healthier skin tone, to name but a few of the improvements available to us.
The meerkats sat on their stok sterte (stick-like tails), fully aware of every movement or sound in their immediate environment. They were fully present. They reminded me of an anecdote about the Buddha, who was once asked, "But what do your disciples do?" The Buddha said: "They sit, they eat and they walk". The man was puzzled. "But everyone sits and eats and walks", he protested. To which the Buddha replied: "Yes, but my disciples know when they sit, they know when they eat and they know when they walk!" The meerkats knew that they were sitting, looking and listening to everything in their immediate world.
Another very good book I have come across lately is Anita Moorjani's true story of her near-death experience, Dying to Be Me. The foreword is by world-famous spiritual teacher Dr Wayne Dyer. Moorjani's account of her experiences with terminal cancer makes fascinating reading. She wrote the book for two reasons, she says. The first is to encourage each human being to just be ourselves, and in so doing, to enjoy life to the fullest. The second reason is to convey her conviction that all humankind should allow itself to be an instrument of something greater than itself.
The ancient Greeks lived by the maxims "know thyself" and "be thyself". My own spiritual philosophy has always embraced the notion that we are really here to enjoy ourselves. That being the case, how much more we should be aware of reality, so we can truly experience joy! The ancient Egyptians believed that at the gates of heaven, we will be asked only two questions: "Did you find joy?" "Did you bring joy?""
What happens when we surrender our negative feelings? What happens when we allow ourselves to become instruments of a higher Hand? Besides all the physical benefits already mentioned, another major plus is freedom from stress! Dr Hawkins's research has found that repressed feelings make us vulnerable to external stress-so when we can release our internal negative feelings, we aren't so strongly influenced by external stress. The word "surrender" in the title of his book rings especially true here.
Perhaps we should try to imitate those cute little meerkats. Remembering how they set off playfully on their daily foraging journey, I wondered how many of us are still pursuing the truth of reality that Jesus spoke about. That pursuit both requires and expands our consciousness; and an expanded consciousness is the core of any authentic spiritual path.
In his first book, Power vs. Force, Dr Hawkins offers some fascinating insights arising from his research. Using kinesiology to test people's responses, he found that the higher one's consciousness, the less likely one is to respond negatively to the classic culprits of an unhealthy lifestyle: things like sugar or fluorescent lights. He concluded that an elevated spiritual state protects us from these harmful inputs. But this protected state can only be reached through spiritual pursuits-especially, the practice of challenging our current belief systems and looking beyond our programmed beliefs about reality.
In South Africa, especially in the drier areas of our country, we find a lot of water pumps. Some of the older pumps work on the principle of "priming": you first introduce a little water to prime the pump, which encourages the rest of the water to follow. So if you want water, first add water!
The same principle applies to living a stress-free life. When we surrender all our negative feelings, we prime our internal pump with peace. From there, external peace is sure to follow.
I greatly enjoyed my two hours with the charming meerkats. I'm convinced that if we could follow their example-if we could experience the truth of reality as they seem to do-we could be joyful and free. In order to do that, though, we must surrender to something greater than ourselves. This is how we demonstrate our faith in the benevolence of our universe; for ultimately, its nature is to continually manifest the greatest good in any situation.
- Hawkins, D.R. 2012. Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender.
- Hawkins, D.R. 1995. Power vs. Force: The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior.
- Moorjani, A. 2012. Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing.
- Hahn, Thich Nhat. 1995. Living Buddha, Living Christ.
- Meerkat Adventures: www.meerkatadventures.co.za
Dr. Sibis Mouton is a practising behavioural kinesiologist and former world champion in the Ironman distance competition. She facilitates the ZEST4LIFE courses in Cape Town, South Africa; at Quest in Devon, England; and on Mahe Island in the Seychelles. For more information, visit www.zest4life.co.za or email firstname.lastname@example.org