Blaze in the Company of Bears
— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
Who knew where writing about my love of slime molds and their intelligence would lead? I received a request from a woman named Liz Koch to do an interview for her website, and it was the slime mold article that made her call.
One question I raise in the article is, how can a blob of cells without any nervous system outperform a computer in laying out the most efficient route to getting to food sources? How is that possible? Isn’t intelligence housed in the nervous system? What utterly fascinating questions this raises! Where might this lead in the ongoing detective story of who we are, our connections to other life, and the nature of life itself?
In the interview (posted here), Liz notes that while our culture focuses on intellectual intelligence and development, and somewhat on emotional intelligence, our kinesthetic (body awareness) intelligence has really decreased, disconnecting and isolating ourselves from the Earth. Our kinesthetic sense is our awareness of our physical, animal, body. It is through the body that we connect with the physical world. But it is more than just increasing the limited awareness of our body most of us have. This philosophy was pioneered by Emilie Conrad. If you go deep enough, according to this way of thinking, something remarkable happens. When you take away the human history (the evolution of the human body), and you take away the story, and you go underneath, the “slime” is still moving. It is our access to a deep, biological, creative intelligence, a fluid system that is pre-nerve. We can begin to explore ourselves as a dynamic unfolding biological and planetary process, rather than as a static being.
According to Conrad, when we are born, we are 80% water. When we relieve all the blocks caused by culture and family, our tissue becomes more fluid; we can be more adaptable, and it changes our capacity for innovation. Fluid is seen as a resonant element, meaning that fluid in our body is aligned with fluid in the planet, and the planet and body are engaged in a resonant stream of bio-cosmic nourishment.
How does this connect with what we do at Earthfire? It is through this kind of work we can find within our bodies an expression of our profound rapport with our environment. An instinctive, felt rapport. One that can lead naturally to an entirely different way of relating to life, a different value system, and from there, a way of more consciously living in harmony with life’s actual processes and needs.
There are many creative and valid ways of working on our environmental crises. This is could be one of them, giving a quality of life to us and helping the rest of life in the process.
You can read a transcript of the interview below.
Liz Koch Interview
June 2, 2018
L: I want to welcome everyone. This is Liz Koch at Core Awareness and today I have Dr. Susan Eirich, who is the founder and executive director of Earthfire Institute, a wildlife sanctuary and retreat center. Susan is a licensed psychologist and educator, and I would say one of her calling, maybe a major calling, is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings. So welcome Susan, I really appreciate you being here.
S: Thank you.
L: So I want to start out saying that I titled this Stalking Wild because I work with the psoas, which is our core tissue that is very primal and part of the reptilian brain, and it is very responsive to our animal nature, so to speak. And then the animals are calling us to council; I feel this is really about our deep, deep sense of connection to all species and out interconnectedness, and what we can learn from this interconnectedness. So I want to begin by kind of letting people know you, because I think it’s intriguing you’re a psychologist and a biologist, and I think that is just a beautiful blending, so could you speak to what that means to you, how that has been part of your process.
S: As long as I can remember, there are a few things I have always loved, nature and animals just intuitively. Immediate love. And then when I started to think really, I was simply fascinated by that interface between animals and humans, you might call it reptilian brain or our subconscious, or what is that place where we shift from one into the other. So I was interested in human consciousness and then interested in the natural world. And they’re both, they’re interrelated, also. We are biological creatures; we are psychological creatures, so for us to understand ourselves it’s useful to understand all of those different levels.
L: I think it’s great, what you have done. Relating through kinship with all living beings to me is really vital. It’s part of the work that I do because I am really interested in developing our kinesthetic intelligence and our sensibility, something that in our culture we are not really focused on. We’re very focused on the intellectual development of our minds or our brains and maybe, maybe some people are interested in what we call emotional intelligence. But our kinesthetic intelligence has really decreased, as we all sit indoors, as we’ve disconnected ourselves and isolated ourselves and found that somehow movement, except constant repetitive patterns, is about all of the sensory stimulation we get. Children are literally not on uneven ground, for example, and so lose their sensibility of connecting with the physical world with mother earth and her earthly sensibilities, so our kinship with all living beings seems to be getting even more separated. So in return to that, I’d love for you to speak about some of the things that you want our listeners to understand about the initiative that you are proposing, because they are really interlinked with waking up our own living system, waking up to what is really going on. And our connection to everything else.
S: Well the first thing I would like to say is that you say knowing our kinship, which is important and beautiful. The more fundamental thing for me is the absolute joy of kinship. It’s one of the greatest joys in life, the profound sense of companionship that’s around us all the time, everywhere, available. So on one level, we really need to know and understand our connection. On another level it is our deepest source of companionship. I was at a workshop while ago and there was a gentleman who was out on the land meditating and after a little while he said he heard these words. He was looking at the trees and rocks and it said, “Include me,” and it was the earth speaking to him saying include me. And then later on I saw him walking with someone chatting back and forth. I was walking behind him, and he was saying “you know what, there aren’t two of us here, there are three of us.” He was talking to this other person. He said, “there’s you and me and the earth, there’s the three of us here.” And he began to use that for the rest of the workshop and said what a profound sense of companionship it gave him, so it was a mutual back and forth. It’s a little more abstract to think of the earth, but for me it’s the same with the trees and animals. Animals are simply an easier entree for us because we’re more like them, we understand them more easily. The nervous systems connect more easily. So my most profound initiative is, as you said, I really think it’s important to think in terms of, it’s not an elegant turn, but win-win. If we understand our connection and feel our connection then everything changes. All of our decisions change, it changes what we consume and my other favorite line is we need to expand our sense of community to include all living life, and that means expanding our sense of community just the same as we would for humans, so wherever we live we understand that the trees and the water and the birds and everything are members of our community, to be treated and respected as such. That is less a philosophical practice and a more practical thing because it leads to a different way of treating the land and if we did that, we would have a whole lot less environmental problems. And emotional problems, there goes my psychology part, if you will. It’s so healing and nurturing and sustaining to feel the connection with all life and not just the abstract, all life, and then with each specific life form, a particular tree or bird for worm or fish or whatever it is you come into contact with. So to try to help people get that sense, what you’re doing in a different way, or maybe it’s not so different, to get that sense of connection, and then to understand the gorgeous flow that comes back and forth between you and any other living beings once that connection has been opened and how healing that is and how exquisite it is and what a win-win it is because if we feel it, we get healed and we take care of the earth more differently, quite differently.
L: That’s beautiful. Well it quite literally, the scientific point of view is, more and more information is out there discussing the conversation around intelligence in all living organisms, and you did a great blog about the slime mold. I must’ve posted it for or five times because one of my somatic educators, Emily Conrad, who was considered a pioneer, she used to talk about the slime mold and she used to say that when you take away the history, and she’s talking somatically, when you take away the human history and you take away the story and you go underneath, the slime is still moving. And that was her way of saying, you know, we have access to this deep biological creative intelligence, we are part of that, and then I saw your slime mold blog and it was like here it is. I’d like you to speak a little bit to everyone around this innate a creative intelligence that you have so connected with all life forms.
S: I love slime molds, what can I tell you. I used to watch them as a little kid, they fascinate me because they would be in my backyard and I would see this thing that looked like just a bunch of slime and then it would be in a different place, and then it would be in a different place, and it was so slow but it was clearly moving and it was this weird kind of jelly thing, and then suddenly it would stop moving and it would turn into something hard and it was like what is this thing between life and non-life, because it looks like it turned into almost a stone, and it just fascinated me. And then I saw an article, I don’t know a while ago, about a guy talking about the intelligence of slime mold, and I thought back to that utter fascination I had, the fascination I had, I think, was an intuitive connection, not just to the connection between worlds plant-animal-moving-not moving, but why was I so fascinated with it. The particular article I first read was saying this slime mold, this little blobs of cells, first of all they come together, they’re single and then they come together into a whole cell, a large cell, they can actually plot a transportation system. If they put a slime mold on a map of Tokyo, in effect, they can actually plot the most efficient way to get to treats that they put around it even better and more efficient that the transportation system of Tokyo. They can actually outperform computers in certain areas and they’ve got no nervous system, no brain in our sense, but the native intelligence of how to find their way to food is incredible. They also show a capacity to learn, they can find something that’s noxious but not toxic to them and they can first send out a little tentative finger so to speak and test that and pull back if it’s awful, but there’s food on the other side so they send it out and test it again, and they can figure out that it’s actually not dangerous and they can overcome the resistance to it, then go over and get the food. So there are several levels of different types of intelligence and just that, it’s just so amazing. Because we think of intelligence as in our head and it’s not in our heads, and it’s not in our nervous system. In an octopus, for example, for those of you who’ve read that wonderful book The Soul of the Octopus.
L: I did read that book.
S: And there’s another book about octopuses, too. The brain is diffuse around the body, and also there are different pathways to consciousness and intelligence. Ours is one, like the great apes. Another is the cetaceans, you know the dolphins and the whales, another is through the parrots and corvid family. Like ravens can outperform chimpanzees in certain tasks and the octopus got its high-level of intelligence by a whole, incredibly different pathway so it’s not the nervous system, it’s not human, it’s not apes. If you start to go back to the evolutionary pathway and see these pathways to different types of high intelligence, you begin to go down and down and down, if you want to think of the idea of up-and-down the evolutionary tree, though that’s not a good way to think of it, you end up to there’s a fundamental intelligence. And then some years ago I was reading a book trying to understand it because it was physics which isn’t my major skill and at the end he was saying, and this was maybe twenty or third years ago, it seems that intelligence is a property of the universe, and since then there’s more and more evidence that that is true, and life is one expression of that universal intelligence, enhanced in many wonderful ways on our incredible earth. But the nature of life is creativity, and the nature of the universe, I think, is creativity expressed in intelligent adaptation. And then the higher levels of spirituality and simply enjoying one another and enjoying life. That’s the scientific.
L: It’s amazing. As I’m focusing on this book, it’s basically about encouraging people in my profession to change the language of body from the dogma of anatomy to an objectivity to living process, so the idea is that, one of the things I’ve learned through the core intelligence of my own self, is that when I kind of go below the nervous system which I learned to do about working with Emily Conrad because she was very adept at entering what she would call the fluid system, which is pre-nerve, and when you learn to be able to kind of dissolve your idea of being human, and she used the octopus as a living way that tissue really moves, and that our tissue can become more fluid and we can be more adaptable and that it changes the way that we think it. And that it changes the capacity for innovation, and so my work was very touched by hers because I kind of, I got the idea but I didn’t know how could we, as humans, kind of deconstruct what has been called the colonization of our soul into this kind of being an object and being a thing and seeing nature as everything else but us. The deconstruction of something like that. And so this tissue called psoas was that somehow I became known to know a lot about was basically going back to a very fluid messenger of the axis of the human organism and being able to reenter the simplistic it away, neutral territory of being, being instead of doing, just simply being. And so as I’ve played with this, one of the things that it has brought me to is also reading things like physics because there are so many biologists and physicists and mathematicians who to me are new mystics, and they are bringing in a unified principals and resonate fields and the living connection. And so science is kind of bringing in the spiritual aspect, and they’re blending, they’re coming together and yet many of us have come from this old-school of reductionist thinking and separation, and we use language about the things attaching as if their mechanical. The psoas attaches to your 12th thoracic vertebrae and I say and then who attached it, because nobody attached it, it grew out of the midline because were spine-based organisms, and as a spine-based organism, everything comes from this very center of our being, our primitive streak or the access. So one of my, it’s so wonderful to hear you talk about it because one of the things that I’m very aware of is the need for nourishment, that when we’re connected to other species, we do tap into this broader, deeper nourishing experience that is such a gift, it’s such an incredible gift, and it’s so humbling and yet so exciting, so I would love to have you talk about how did you learn to connect with all beings on their own terms.
S: The answer isn’t really very interesting, I just always felt it. I don’t think it was a learning. But it has been in my life a deepening, but I can’t really tell you how I learned it. There was, I think it is an immediate connection that every child has—
L: An affinity?
S: Yes. I mean, any living thing I would crawl toward and I think every child does that. For some reason, I didn’t lose it. The draw was always very powerful. I mean I’m living out here now, I live in a tiny cabin surrounded by a lot of wilderness and very few of the amenities of civilization. I also lived in the depths of New York City and enjoyed it. But even as a young child I would be going to visit the city or be in the city and I’d say there’s nothing green anywhere and that I would feel a sense of loneliness. Because I was surrounded by things that weren’t living. So it was an affinity for life that I always just felt and I chose so I have very few amenities there’s no library, there’s no movie place here, I have to travel far for the human culture, which I adore. I think human culture is just really one of the richest things we have, but even more important there’s a connection to life, and in a sense my life here is extremely stressful. I have to raise incredible amounts of money myself for something that nobody really understands in terms of traditional fundraising. Like animals have souls, how do you raise money for that? And the enormous responsibility of all of these lives here in the demands are enormous. And yet, the land supports me. I feel supported. I’m energetic and I can handle it all because I am, maybe for lack of a better word, cradled. That awareness has come over time, but it’s mostly by following, I guess if I answered anything, it would be that I listened and followed. I call it following my nose to what nourished me, to what seemed vibrant and alive.
L: What do the animals want us to understand?
S: I asked this of a really interesting woman called Linda Bender a few weeks ago and she said, and she’s even more connected than myself because she spends almost all of her time with them as a wild like that, and she said that we’re disconnected. Everything is just really so simple. My partner Jean here says they’re confused, why don’t we connect with them? What’s the matter with us, that we’re not connecting. Sometime ago I had a wonderful woman called Penelope Smith and she’s sort of like a grandmother of animal communication, and she was having a class sitting with some of the animals. I wasn’t there at the moment and she came running out, she was just so excited to find me and tell me “the animals are just beside themselves, beside themselves, because humans are listening to them and it’s gone around the world twice with the birds,” but the idea that we don’t listen to them. Those two things, the listening and the idea that they are confused, and when someone is quiet with them and goes, I think, to the level that you’re talking about beneath the human nervous system, they are ecstatic to connect. They want to connect. My own sense is that life wants to connect with us, that we would be welcome if we enter a forest with the trees and the life there and connected the way you talked about, and in a respectful welcoming way, that we are welcomed. I think that we are wanted, we are part of life and we add our unique thing to life. It’s that we go in oblivious, throwing stones, chopping down trees, picking flowers and then casting them aside, oblivious. But if we would go in with a sense of respect and connecting, we would be very, very welcome. The other part I didn’t say earlier when I talked about the idea that the earth said include me, because we do so much spiritual thinking that often it’s in our heads and it’s in the universe and we’re not connected to the earth and the ground and the animals, we’re not connected to our very source of life. And after that I was thinking if I could summarize it, it’s that the animals and the earth are lonely for us.
L: It feels to me that one of the ways to get out of our heads is to go into the intelligence of the heart but actually, literally, sensing the field of my heart, which slows me down, which takes me out of imagination and centers me right in to an energy that feels able to organize my nervous system into some kind of coherency that allows me to receive the messages, and otherwise I am too chaotic, there’s too much chaos going on to actually hear those messages. And Steven Brunner was one of the people who first, one of the books he wrote on plants and how to hear what the plant is telling you had to do with actually going into the heart, and I ended up using his book and just saying to people if you change the word plant to psoas you also access yourself that way, through the heart of the matter. The heart of the matter. And it feels like to me that that is the field of energy that brings us able to listen.
S: Yes. The heart math does wonderful work on that, the Heart Math Institute if anyone wants to research that, and the heart field. And the comment you made about coherence exactly, the animals are coherent. We are somewhat incoherent. And my own feeling is it has something to do, among about other things, with the incredibly rapid expansion of our brains that we’re not quite balanced or coordinated yet. That makes it hard for us. But then we have the civilization that is massively incoherent and fosters incoherence with constant, constant input, more than we can listen to and there’s no sense of quietness. It’s connected to technology and business and not connected to roots and the earth and the pace of living things. It makes us stressed, lonely, lost, ill and it’s such a shame because I think we as humans have the most incredible potential to look after the earth in a loving way, and I don’t mean in a patriarchal way, but to take care of it in a loving way, to express our creativity and are brilliance and our kindness and I hope we find our way.
L: What would you suggest to people listening, where would you recommend that they begin, wherever they are in the city or the suburbs or a small town or out in the country?
S: Sitting quietly with any living thing. Someone did research on a leaf recently, they took a leaf and sadly, they took a razor blade and sliced it and then looked at what was in it. The leaf was an entire community; it only looks like a leaf. It’s got bacteria and fungi and small amoeba type things in it that make up the leaf, and that’s just a leaf, so the miracle of life and the miracles are everywhere. And it’s easier where I live here, because there’s a sense of peace and the wind and all that, but it can be done absolutely anywhere. It can be done with the blade of grass; it can be done with a goldfish. There was a gentleman who wrote once, who was a scientist and was lonely, and he was sort of a hard-core scientist and he said he swore that when he came home, the goldfish moved to the side of the bowl where he was, and he began testing it out and it did. It sensed the energy and wanted the communication. It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is what you said, is that you quiet down, become more coherent so their energy doesn’t have to cut through the incoherence, and you can begin to connect. So sitting quietly, even if it’s five minutes, ideally you would do it a few times during the day so it begins to be more of your way of being, not just a practice you do in the morning, though that’s a whole lot better than nothing. So being quiet with some form of life. Being quiet with yourself is good, too, but another species broadens us. So a form of meditation.
L: I have experience of working with a horse in which we were just there to be together and knowing that the horse had great experience with the heart and with the field of energy, that larger field of energy, and in being present to the horse, the horse came—her name was Noodle—and she came very close to me and she put her face next to mine and we exchanged breaths until I couldn’t take it anymore. I was sobbing. Just the amount of love and the exchange of breath, it was like I didn’t have the capacity to absorb, and I feel like that’s part of what is missing for humans, it’s almost like I need the internal space to be able to absorb the amount of nourishment that is available. So sitting quiet is one of the pieces that I can understand, because that can slow us down and I feel like it can, and I work a lot with grounding, how to we ground how do we actually connect to the earth and feel our bones on the earth, so I work a lot with bones. But I am also curious about this idea of capacity. To develop the capacity to actually absorb, because to me it’s like nutrition, you can take food in and digest it, but that doesn’t mean you have assimilated it. And so this kind of longing, I work a lot with longing because when someone accesses their longing, it seems like we are very active organisms so we kind of, like the slime mold kind of, reach out for this new relationship, but we have to have the capacity to absorb it and I’m wondering how you work with that, or how you see that as both a psychologist and a biologist. Developing a capacity to actually absorb the wealth of nourishment that is available to each and every living organism.
S: I was pretty frozen as a child for most of—most of us haven’t had wonderful childhoods, and I didn’t either. I was pretty frozen to protect myself. And then I was teaching and the woman I was teaching with was talking about energy work, this was many years ago. And she was a scientist, so I listened but she was teaching energy work, Reiki and all that stuff, and it seemed really weird, and I had a dog. And I lived with her while I was teaching and she had a Reiki session and my dog went over there and basically said “me.” And I said oh, maybe there something there. And I had a couple of Reiki sessions and began to, and I don’t know how many years ago that was, a lot, and that first Reiki session—not that I haven’t had many more—from a very talented woman is still working on me, and it’s like releasing the blocks so that there is a flow. And if there’s no blocks then the energy can enter and flow through and nourish and flow out without getting blocked in and getting too intense. So it’s a matter of breathing and letting it flow through. That is what I try to do.
L: That’s great. So I wanted to read something that you had said and maybe you want to comment on it. “But it’s the mindful interaction with wild animals that can shift human perception and thinking about the value of all life and the imperative is to take responsible measures to preserve it.” And I know that’s what you’re doing at Earthfire Institute, so why don’t you tell people, I’ll give the details of how to connect with Earthfire, you’re in Idaho, but tell people a little bit about how did that become your life. You said you lived in New York.
S: Yes my parents were very cultured Europeans, and I grew up in a home that was very highly cultured, music and books and stuff. But the connection with nature was just always there. I guess there are many places to start, but one of them is pure luck in the sense that I met someone who had trained wild animals for movies, who is now my partner here at Earthfire, and he had some wolf puppies and he invited me to help raise them. They were needing to be bottle fed and all got really ill and required intense
care, there were seven puppies, and they were really, really ill and required intravenous fluids every couple of hours, so by the time you finished with all seven, you’d start all over again. It was like five days of intense care. They all lived and the bond was so intense and the beauty of feeling theses living beings and their passion to live, I said my God, I’ve got to share this. It was way beyond the love of the wolves, which was intense and I had a lifelong passionate deep relationships with these seven wolves, but I needed to share it. I guess in a sense, let it flow through me and out to others. So they could see and share in the wonder. That was my first response. Not so much to save wolves, so that would be a very, very close second. The first thing was the sheer wonder, and this goes back to you asked me what I would recommend people do, one is to be quiet, another is to take the time to look at the wonder around you, it’s a terrific way in. How the grass is blowing in the wind and the sound of the wind in the trees or the wonder of a leaf. Or the wonder of a bird singing. I think we close ourselves off from the wonder, we’re so busy and we’re so distracted, so to make a point of seeing the incredible wonder and beauty everywhere, it’s just everywhere. I had a deer who had three legs. And it was just one of my favorite articles I ever wrote, it was called The Beauty of A Deer. And it was just a little whitetail deer; there are millions of them. But there was just something about that deer. And it wasn’t special. It was that he’d been found by a roadside with a broken leg when he was only like a couple of days old, and the woman had rescued him and then realized she couldn’t raise him, brought him to us. But he’d bonded to humans. And when people came to the property and saw the deer, I swear he would begin to glow
And people would glow back. And I thought ha, I wonder if that’s what it’s like to live in a herd, just this glow back-and-forth, and I think he emanated the glow because it was like an invitation to others to join his herd. And this is what people shoot, you know it’s just another deer in the road, but no every single one, every single being, every single living thing is, in my mind, a being with its own qualities and there’s magic everywhere and that just takes you right out of yourself.
L: Beautiful. You can hear my Jack Russell terrier, he’s very old and can’t climb the stairs anymore, he’s joining the conversation downstairs he says don’t forget me, I’m down here and I can’t get up the stairs anymore.
S: I think all live says don’t forget me.
L: Don’t forget me. He’s chiming in on our conversation. Tell people about your changemaking circles.
S: So we are very small, and the most I can do to try to make change is reach out on the Internet and reach out through speaking, but I like to think of ourselves as a seed center for a new way for seeing things the way we’ve been talking about, how do I spread this and multiply the effect of it, when we’re small? So I thought a nice way to do that would be to have people, whoever they are, they can either invite me personally so that we can have I can do a short presentation with some beautiful videos and stories and slides and have an intimate conversation in people’s homes, but it would be a rich, deep conversation of all of us deeply trying to understand, connect to ourselves, connect with nature, and then what can we do about it, there’s always the end line for me. Not just help us grow, which is important, but what can we do to take the responsibility as you said earlier, that’s the inevitable end of it, to take responsibility. Or else we can have an online video conversation with people gathered together in someone’s home, in an intimate, deep fashion to really discuss and explore, and then ideally, that would spread out through the people who are there to do it themselves elsewhere. So it would spread out, the seed, and it feels to me like I’m being nurtured from the earth to do this so it’s from the earth, through me, out to others, and through those others out to others. In a ripple effect, and I know I’m not the only one, I mean there are millions of us who connect deeply. So to try and activate that more.
L: Before I opened it up to questions, I know you’re encouraging people to go to your site and have an extensive look, and as I told you before we began, I think I found you about six years ago and I have no idea how, but I was very touched by the energy that I was feeling from the newsletter. I read your blogs and I’m inspired by your blogs, and sometimes like I said the slime mold one I posted at least three or four times, because working with the somatic organism, the human being that is me, I have discovered that the more I can dissolve the construct of being human and just simply be, the more I have access to this incredible, lush nourishment on so many levels. That it’s deeply, deeply supportive, so to just kind of put it in perspective in my work, for example, there’s a lot of focus right now on trauma release and doing something to not be traumatized, and I take a very different perspective, because I feel like even if you got rid of all of your trauma, you know, who would you be. That what human beings need right now is nourishment and that as we become more and more nourished, we flourish. The capacity of our creativity, that creative intelligence to think of new ways, to have spontaneous moments of creation and epiphanies and realizations, and that we become alive ourselves, we become less thinking of ourselves as somehow mechanical and mechanistic and rejoin the living, and as you so poetically said, the earth is longing for us, the animals are longing for that, they are confused why we don’t connect. So I feel like my work is very much on that, but I found an affinity on your website, so the website is Earthfire Institute.org. And to tell you the truth, I was absolutely shocked when you told me your working budget and it was $35,000 a month and I know what my working budget is and it’s nowhere near that, and I thought wow. Is that because you are literally a sanctuary, a wildlife sanctuary and you’ve got a lot of critters to care for that have been injured or need care, but they’re also now part of your teaching staff, right?
S: They totally are.
L: So in that way you are a nonprofit, which is great to hear, and so I do encourage people to check out your website, because it is a rich, rich resource and I love your blogs they’re always so perceptive and aware and nourishing in and of themselves.
S: That’s wonderful.
L: Yes it’s really great to have that connection. So is there anything else you would like to tell people about your work? I love the fact that you called it the animals are calling us to council. And I feel like here we are, we’re gathering and what’s next. I think of all the childhood stories that talk about all of the animals coming to council to have a moment to connect and talk, and the trees are invited and the river and the rocks. So anything else you want to say before we turn it over to opening it up to questions?
S: A quick comment about deconstructing our humanness. There’s another wonderful book I can’t think of the title but something like we’re multicellular organisms, that 90% or so isn’t even us, its other organisms, we in ourselves are a living community with the consciousness, so we can deconstruct all the way back to the mitochondria in our cells and the other beings that are making our cells up. It’s just a thought that I had when you were talking about deconstructing ourselves.
L: Absolutely. In fact, we have it’s something like we have more bacteria than we have human cells.
S: So we are community.
L: Yes we are a community.
S: Each one of our bodies as a living community and as you do your work, I think, that would help people get into contact with that reality, which is very complementary to what I do. The other thing I would want to say is what if, what if everything I was talking about is really true, that the earth is lonely for us, that the animals want to connect, that we would be welcomed into the forest, what is that’s true, how would we live our lives then? And for me, from the gorgeousness of that feeling of being completely surrounded by connection and communication comes if life is really sacred, what does that mean for how we live? It’s a radical idea if all life is sacred, because of what it means about how we live. It means we don’t build big houses, with use much less, we consume much lesson, we become very careful about what we eat, we’re careful about everything we do. Our life becomes full of care. Caring for and thinking. If we purchase things, we purchase it with care; we’re putting care into how we’re taking that money and using it to buy an apple that was raised organically in a particular area, and then how we’re going to sue the remains of the apple. And so all of that is an element of caring and what that does for us. So there’s the magic of the what if it’s really true and what is it like to live a life that is full of deep care.
L: Tell us about her some of your neighbors are and who is your clan, the clan you live with.
S: Well I don’t think of them as neighbors, I think of them as family.
L: Yes that’s what I realized. That’s why I said the clan.
S: Who do I talk about? They are full-blooded beings, meaning if I choose one then the others will be jealous.
L: Yes, I can kind of feel them gathering around energetically.
S: It’s hard to say. There are lots of animal stories up on the website.
L: There are and they’re great.
S: There’s fairytale, I called her Fairytale because she was so ethereal she was barely here on the earth, she was a coyote. There’s Huckleberry Bear Bear, a very, very, very slow black bear. And the quick, quick, quickness of the wolves, quick intelligence and quick energy. The even quicker energy of the foxes, they’re so light, they barely touch the ground. There’s not time to really go into one story of one animal and do it honor, so I’m just trying to give a quick glimpse, but one of the interesting things is, like we had six bears and now we have five. How dramatically different each one is. And those seven wolf puppies that I first talked about from one mother. Dramatic personalities. So you have wolfness and then you have the individual wolf, then you have bearness, then you have the individual bears, then you have coyoteness, then you have the individual coyotes. And it’s a magical thing, the back and forth. What is it that makes a coyote a coyote, what is that coyoteness? And then there’s a specific coyote, where one is such a shy, delicate being and another is just out there like a movie star.
L: Good story. You have a retreat center. Tell people a little bit about what that means to have a retreat center?
S: We don’t do too many because they’re very intensive for us, but we have a beautiful yurt, a 30-foot diameter yurt that looks out on the Tetons, and we don’t have regular visits because we’re not a zoo, we don’t want people to come and look at the animals, we want them to spend time with them and meet them as fellow beings, so the retreats are all based on spending time on the land and spending time with the animals. And they might have different focuses, they might be more spiritual, then maybe more artistic, well they’re always spiritual. Shamanic or communication with animals or writing, but it’s with a deep respect and I ask people to read certain materials before they come so they’re prepared. And another major factor of it is you’re not coming to be healed. There are lots and lots and lots of places for humans to go and get healed. This place is – I couldn’t say it’s just for the animals – but the focus is the animals, because we’ve taken enough from them and it’s time to give back, but in the process of coming here to meet them and give back you do get healed, but it’s a different focus. So you’re not coming to take, you coming to gift. And then make a commitment to do whatever it is you can to help save space for them on earth.
L: Well I think that’s the perfect place to end our conversation. And I want to thank you very much for taking your precious time to, and your energy, I can feel the potency in your words, and your voice, and your presence, and it’s very nourishing itself so thank you very much, Susan.
S: It’s my pleasure. This is what I need to do.
L: And I look forward to sharing the conversation with everyone out there, thank you for those of you who came in and listened live and I will be sending out a copy of this for everyone to share with their friends and then it will be a podcast on the Core Awareness website. So thanks everybody and thank you, Susan.
S: Yes, it was a delight to chat with you.
L: Good night everyone.
S: Good night.
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.