To be Fully Human: First be a Good Animal


A wild animal doesn’t miss much. They are always alert to what is happening within and around them. That attention keeps them healthy, happy, and successful, and we could learn something from them.

A few days ago, I went for a hike in the high dry hills above Lake Okanagan, a beautiful natural area, only minutes from my home.

Despite that fabulous beauty though, after about an hour I found myself physically present in the woods, but consciously absent. I was four decades back in time, reliving fragments of a pivotal memory.

And then I saw this deer. Though she was quite close by, she kept her boundaries well defined: she could respond to my presence in a heartbeat if necessary. It was obvious that she was watching me long before I saw her.

She alone exercised true presence of mind. While I was drifting in the dark sea of my psyche, she was physically and mentally in the moment. Suddenly so was I. The intensity of her attention brought me solidly back into my body, and centered my mind within those minutes we shared.

After she graciously posed for the above photo, she made her way down a rocky slope of dry grass and tangled brush, to carry on with her morning routine. My day however, became an adventure from that point on.

That brief, early morning encounter in the sun-dappled hills, made me realize that I would be a happier and more successful person if I were more like that deer.

If I were a better animal first, then perhaps I wouldn’t have amassed such a quantity of unresolved issues. In my whole life, I have never seen a deer lost in troubled thought while the power of the moment slips by unnoticed. What does that tell us?

Why be a Good Animal?

Wild animals instinctively know that survival depends on their physical and mental awareness. Their actions determine their success and their awareness determines their actions. Fortunately for them, their action-zone is primarily defined by concerns over food, procreation, and safety.

We humans are more complex. Our psychological needs for happiness, success, creativity, relationship, and security, dwarf our physical survival concerns. These needs require an even keener sense of awareness, because they are more dynamic in range. Our senses must engage our call-to-action on more varied and subtle levels.

If you are a good animal, you will be thoroughly aware of your immediate circumstances, and you will deal with situations and events as they occur.

If you are not a good animal, you will move unconsciously through circumstance, failing to deal with or understand situations. Your psyche will absorb these moments deep into your mind-body complex, where they will remain as nebulous euphoric or toxic influences.

You need to become a good animal to effectively deal with life. The good animal in you will avoid building that vast and dark unknown that the all too human among us seem so adept at creating.

If you become a better animal, you will understand and control your life as you move through it — rather than in therapy or catharsis — decades later.

How to become a good animal

Seeing that young deer on my morning hike, made me aware of how disconnected I was that day from my moment-to-moment reality. It also caused me to think that all of our past unconscious influences that snare us in the present, are avoidable. If we could be more like that deer, alert and ready for action, we would lead happier and more successful lives.

Here then are a few thoughts on how to be a better animal:

Be present in whatever you are doing and whomever you are with. Be there in your body rather than off somewhere in your mind.

Be alert and engage all of your senses, including your subtle intuitive senses. Experience how you feel in each moment. Pay attention to what you see, hear, smell, and touch.

Be ready to take action. Action backed by presence of mind is the most powerful creative force in this world.

Be strong in your response to circumstance. Being strong means having the courage to employ all of your strengths as needed. These include strengths such as, compassion, empathy, sensitivity, wisdom, as well as protective aggression.

Be curious about everything around you. Dive deeply into everyday life and you will discover unexpected opportunities long before others.

Be connected to people around you. You are not alone, regardless of how lonely you might feel at times.

Be expressive to others about how you feel. Don’t let important thoughts go unsaid. Be clear about where you set your boundaries. Say what works for you and what doesn’t.

Be consistent in your dealings with circumstance and people. You will avoid much turmoil if you consistently deal with circumstance in the moment, rather than letting it accumulate unresolved.

Be proactive by finding creative ways to enjoy being in your body and being more aware. You could go for a walk in the woods and try to see the deer before she sees you.

Nature is a wonderful teacher. It never gets in its own way as we humans do. We are a gifted species: so much so that we haven’t yet had the required time to learn how to use all of our gifts.

Because we have such a dynamic range of abilities and awareness that we haven’t yet mastered, rather than use them — we all too often get used by them.

So whenever you find yourself being used and abused by your own mind and emotions, you will find it refreshing and rewarding to get back to basics.

And what could be more basic than honoring and developing your fundamental attributes as a conscious physical being? That is the foundation of all your precious human gifts.

Those gifts of mental, emotional, and spiritual, awareness and ability, are not there to be thorns in your psyche: they are yours to learn to use for your benefit and advancement. But that learning requires a solid foundation.

To become fully human then — you must first learn to become a good animal.

What do you think?

Over to you now…

6 thoughts on “To be Fully Human: First be a Good Animal

  1. Bennett Kankuzi

    Very informative post! I like your suggestions on how to be a better animal!

  2. John R. Post author

    Thanks Bennett,

    I feel strongly about strengthening the basics. It makes everything that follows that much more effective.

  3. Lexi of Creative Energies

    Excellent insight here! My husband sometimes dryly remarks that humans are much more biological than they want to admit.

    Bringing our full awareness into the present is such a simple, but often elusive, act that changes everything in our lives. Thanks for sharing your experience with this.


  4. John R. Post author

    Hi Lexi,

    I like to think that the animal, or biological part of us, is the excellent vehicle we use to explore our spiritual and energetic nature.

    Like any vehicle we depend on, we want to keep it well-tuned, and we want to pay close attention to our driving. You are right: being aware in the present moment is simple, and elusive — and it changes our life if we can master it.

    Thanks for dropping in.

  5. Carina

    lol! That will be the first time I will take a walk in the woods in order NOT to loose myself!

    That is incredibly insightful! I’m impressed that an encounter with a deer triggered this kind of… epiphany, if you will. Sharing your story with us serves me already… I’m already imagining referencing back to that deer as soon as I drift at work tomorrow. It will really help me out. It’s a lot better than telling myself that I should ‘smarten up!’ Be like the deer… that is way more zen!

  6. John Rocheleau Post author

    Hi Carina,

    If you work in an office, you could tack up a shot of the deer on the wall by your desk.

    I used to do a little practice I called stalking. I would go in the hills and walk very quietly and deliberately, trying to be fully aware with all my senses. The rule was, whenever I saw or sensed a deer, I would silently approach as close as possible without them seeing or sensing me. If they did see me, I would freeze, even if I were in the middle of a step with one leg up. I would have to stay in that position until the deer turned away, and then I would continue my approach.

    It was a great mind-body awareness practice. I did that as part of my Tai Chi and Chi Gung training. Those were rewarding days 🙂

    Thanks for your thoughts,


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