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Finding Your Being: An Elk Encounter

Picture a time when you saw a big animal in the wild. How did it make you feel? At Rocky Mountain National Park, I came very close to a massive bull elk while hiking. Not too far from the trail, the bull was roaming free about the woodland. Sensing me, the elk slowly raised his neck and held his head high to reveal his formidable antlers with strands of peeling velvet. We paused. And as I stood there in admiration, the bull continued roaming and eventually moved on—brushing away freely into the forest. I was impressed. A bit later, I was wondering why I had experienced such excitement. What’s behind this feeling when we see a magnificent animal like an elk? Something about the elk resonates deep inside of us and provokes us to feel profoundly alive. Perhaps it’s how they wander freely, or how they pose confidently, or maybe it’s just how they seem to be. Certainly, what we can learn from an elk is what it beautifully portrays:

  • Being present
  • Being whole
  • Being resourceful 

What I first noticed was how synchronized the elk seemed to be in the present. He looked so poised and trusting of himself. In contrast, we tend to get lost in our thoughts of continuous rehearsals only to get stressed and anxious. Fortunately, we can learn from the elk by practicing how we engage in the present. Just as we see the elk—naked and exposed—so can we engage in the present by being fully in our body. Pause for a moment—and look at the palm of your right hand. Very slowly open and close your grip. Notice how you become aware of your hand as it unfolds in the present. This simple yet mindful gesture shows how we can be grounded in awareness. Our hands, our bodies, like the antlers, are fully functioning and capable. Being present means we set our thoughts aside by learning to trust our being, our own massive elk.

What I was truly thrilled to see was the elk himself, his being. I realized then that the elk is already successful being an elk—and so are we! We are already achieved human beingsI wouldn’t want the elk to be anything other than an elk, and neither should we. Freed from our worries and anxieties of what we should do or become, we can start to open up to what we find meaningful. As we recognize our wholeness, that I am enough, we begin to feel energized to show up complete. We enjoy and explore our woodland, not from a place of need, but from a place of wholeness. Choosing to do your art in wholeness enables energy to flow towards creativity.

I also appreciated how instinctively attuned the elk was with the environment. I could feel how grounded he was in his senses. This is why the elk is resourceful and stands so confident. This magnetic connectedness is what we feel when we encounter an animal in the wild. We inadvertently become fully aware of ourselves and nature as one. And in that moment, we are inspired to experience the world itself, and not our thoughts about the world. There is nothing to pretend and gratitude to express. The elk invites us to be more synchronized with our senses in the now where we find our resourcefulness. How? When preoccupied, deliberately slow down and notice your breathing. Acknowledge your thoughts, and gently let them go. Ask yourself: do I really need to know all the answers and outcomes? Of course not. 

Encountering the elk was an incredible reminder that we are fully functioning and capable beings! I learned that from a place of wholeness, we can feel complete at our core. Stop pursuing things to improve yourself. Instead, pursue learning that you care about and that you can useIt’s relieving, isn’t it? No wonder it is so thrilling to see animals in the wild: it is our core longing to be whole. We want to feel grounded, connected with life, and engaged in the present. It’s certainly worthwhile. When you feel anxious and begin to think a little too much, find your elk. Let it guide you to feel massive and whole! Let this spark your resourcefulness by trusting that you can be fully present. How will you be more like an elk today?

Juan F. Diaz

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Wonderful article Juan! Enjoyed reading about your encounter with this amazing animal and your discussion of its admirable qualities. I thought more about the concept of wholeness. It may be a uniquely human to feel a sense of incompleteness in being. I doubt we are born with this insecurity but rather that it is created by societal and cultural pressures to conform to certain values which perpetuate those societies and cultures. And a trillion dollar advertising and marketing industry is there to tell you that you are not whole unless you have this fabulous new product. Thanks for the reminder that we are enough. We are the product of ~4 billion years of evolutionary success! And a product of 10 billion years of cosmic evolution which proceeded that. We are incredibly fortunate and incredibly capable to be successful in our environment.

Juan F. Diaz

Hi Ted!
I think you are spot-on about the societal and cultural pressures to conform. It seems like we’re always doing something to “catch up”. Of course we never do. Instead, I find it organic to pursue learning and work from a stand point of wholeness. We are a product of 10 billion years of cosmic evolution!!
Thank you Ted!

alex frentz


This is wonderful! Thank you, and I am going to leave it up and read it again tomorrow. I like the notion of wholeness, and, … showing up complete.

Many of us are stressed and anxious … but I think, well, partly we have gotten far away from our true-er selves, and (maybe I am being too literal here, with the Elk) our animal selves, as well.

Is it normal for a primate to stop, pull out a cell phone, and check text messages or facebook, just because the light is red?



Juan F. Diaz

Hi Alex,
I’m glad you found it useful! I agree. We have been way too cognitive about life (which is not a bad thing) but have been disconnecting from our animal selves–which is after all–what happens to move us.
Thanks for the comment!

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