This quote reminded me of our Winter trip to Crystal River, FL to Stand Up Paddle and passively observe the Florida Manatees that gather by the hundreds to rest and keep warm in the clear springs of King Bay*. Here they lie as still as possible, coming up only for a breath, sometimes staying underwater for 20 minutes at a time. I have a fascination with these humble and huge creatures that can weigh up to 1200 lbs, but yet move very slowly and gently in the water. I feel compassion for these animals and find them to be kindred spirits.
I used to think that Manatees were bulky looking because of fat, but interestingly they are thin skinned which makes them vulnerable to cold weather and injury from boats and their propellers. These guys are closely related to elephants and even have remnants of their land-dwelling ancestors such as fingernails. It seems that 50 to 60 Million years ago the urge to return to the sea was so strong that these animals evolved into what we see now. I too am drawn strongly to water and get depressed if I’m away from it for even a short time. The Manatee brain is also the smallest in proportion to its size of any mammal (much like mine sometimes – LOL) and is smooth in structure (unlike our human brain with its many folds). So why did their brain develop this way? Was it because they didn’t have the need for complex social skills (they swim alone or in pairs) or was it because they didn’t have to develop special skills to hunt for food (they only eat sea grass and algae)? I have a romantic desire to believe that the ancient Manatee found peace and serenity in the sea, and found a niche in the world that allowed it to be forever calm, quiet and to humbly migrate undisturbed in the world’s waters. In other words, they evolved to be STILL – without thoughts of fear, or without motivation or desire produced by the ego. I want to believe that they found an existence in the this world that allowed them to just BE, driven seemingly only by the urges to feed, breed and stay safe and comfortable. I too desire to BE STILL and JUST BE. I can become overwhelmed at times by the world’s chaos and drama (No more breeding for me. I have two teenagers!). How nice it would be to go through life without fear and ego. Author Eckhart Tolle writes “Most people’s lives are run by desire and fear. Desire is the need to add something to yourself in order to be yourself more fully. All fear is the fear of losing something and thereby becoming diminished and being less”. This quote and the one above remind me that being still and quieting the mind allows one to help clear the mind of things such as fear, desire and ego which allows the essence of the present moment to manifest itself. The power of present moment brings about a positive vibration that many say can be experienced as a “radiance” (seen/felt as an aura, strong “good” energy, and even joy). Being present without distraction is what brings awareness and consciousness to our busied minds. Its what allows focus on things in the world that really should matter to us. Isn’t this what mystics, sages, and religious/spiritual leaders have said for millennia? The Manatee has come to symbolize this for me. Here is an animal that has returned to the sea (the source of life) and given up its ego and desires in exchange for a life of stillness and quiet, with no care in the world except to eat, reproduce and stay comfortable. Deep down thats all we really need and want and this is what unifies ALL of us. Maybe we are designed to be discontented and are driven by an internal desire to challenge our limits and do great things, but my hope is that we can all be still at times, and become guided towards a bigger and better human existence beyond empty desires and wants driven by our inborn egos (e.g. an unchecked quest for power, money and material items). Next time you see a Manatee, I hope you too can experience it’s stillness and somehow also learn to become quiet.
* Dr Peters leads Stand Up Paddling trips to Crystal River in the winter months. If you want more info, please contact the office.