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How to Connect With a Wild Animal? The Answer May Not Be What You Think - Musings and Meditations

Updated: May 10

The Secret To a Relationship with a Wild Animal, a short video of six minutes by renowned environmental educator Steve Karlin .

Last week I was musing about my close encounter with a humpback whale in a fjord in the far north of Norway. It was an encounter that made a huge impression on me, and one that I think back on very often.

During that encounter I also clearly felt a clear sense of connection, a connection with this creature that is so intelligent and sensitive and sentient.

This is also what I felt in other encounters with animals in the wild, and of course in our relationship with our dog Cheddar. Anyone who has a dog will be able to attest to the special bond and communication that is possible between humans and animals. Ditto with cats, or horses, or other animals that humans have formed a close bond with. But this is also true in the case of animals with which modern man has not (yet) created such an intense bond (there undoubtedly was such a bond in ancient times and up to this day in indigenous cultures), such as whales or orcas or wolves or bears. There is always the possibility of connection with these other forms of consciousness and these other ways of existing in our biosphere, other ways from which we can learn so much.

Our culture tends to view animal consciousness as ‘less’ or ‘lower’ than our own, but based on what can we argue such a thing? Because we are much more advanced technologically and therefore can (think we can) exert more power over our environment?

How relative that is, after all. We are desperately looking for ways to remove CO2 from the air with new technology, while whales are doing it playfully on a truly planetary scale, simply by doing what whales love to do. Not to mention trees (which, according to the latest findings in biology, also appear to manifest a form of consciousness) or grasses or even bacteria.

How much could we not learn from animals, if only we would pay attention.

That is exactly what Steve Karlin tries to make clear to us in this short video of about six minutes.

Steve Karlin is a former park ranger with the National Park Service in the United States. He is also a renowned environmental educator and award-winning environmental reporter, has appeared on local and national news stations in the U.S., such as PBS, CNN, Discovery, National Geographic Explorer and on his own nationally syndicated environmental news segment, Earth Journal.

Steve Karlin is also the founder of WILDMIND, a sanctuary for wild animals that for one reason or another can not be released into the wild.

WILDMIND is also an education center that brings science and environmental knowledge to life in schools and for groups of at-risk youth. Wildlife plays an important role in this learning process, and young people learn a lot about themselves ànd wildlife in WILDMIND's programs.

In this short film, Steve Karlin muses on what it takes to make a connection with a wild animal, something we might think is impossible. Fear is often the first reflex in an encounter with a wild animal (if it’s a large animal), or the desire to somehow dominate the situation.

But Steve Karlin offers some special advice from his decades of experience: if you want to make a connection with a wild animal, you must first and foremost make a connection with yourself.

You must first and foremost know yourself. The ancient Greeks already knew, of course, "gnothi seauton," "know thyself”. It is truly a desirable first step for just about everything we want to accomplish in the world.

Animals sense us perfectly, and they feel whether we are pure on the inside or not. And Steve Karlin indicates that when we have done our inner work, animals naturally become curious about us, and often want to make that contact themselves. If we first cleanse our own consciousness and are in a place of inner stillness and pure presence.

Steve tells how a wolf he had a lot of contact with (possibly one of the animals at the shelter) always reacted strongly if she felt Steve was not fully present with her. If the wolf sensed that Steve's attention was wandering, she would bare her teeth and start growling each time, as if to say, "hey, you're here with me now, be here really then!” The wolf was helping Steve to meditate and purify his attention, as it were. So the wolf wanted to connect also, and found Steve's lack of attention irritating.

Wild animals that can help us meditate and connect with our own essence in a new way, it may seem unlikely or romantic, but that is only because we are so lost in a few stories about ourselves that are not true. And meditating is a very much recommended  step for everyone in our collective journey right now. I started meditating daily in 2010, and it amazes me every time I find out how many people don't meditate at all. But that's for another ‘musing and meditation’. In any case it seems so true to me that if we want to connect with what we usually call ‘nature’, we must first and foremost reconnect with ourselves.

When we think of the incredible diversity of life and forms of consciousness in our biosphere, how much is there that we are barely conscious of?

And isn't that the true challenge in the convergence of all the ecological crises we are in the midst of: not so much to find the ‘quick techno-fix’ to all problems, and to strive for even more control through technology, but to start defining our connection to our biosphere and all the beings in it completely differently? To step out of our millennia-old story of control and domination, and to start seeing and experiencing our relationship with ourselves and all beings with whom we share the biosphere in a completely different way? To thoroughly revise our story about ourselves, as Steven Karlin also suggests in this beautiful short video?

Food for further musings...

In any case, I am enormously grateful for all the encounters I have had with wildlife, large and small. I will, on occasion, recount some other encounters, most of them not so spectacular but each one unforgettable and mysterious. Through our connection with the other living things in our biosphere, we may begin to find the key to the seemingly unsolvable problems we face.

Thanks for reading and watching,

Until the next installment,

All the best to you,


Hedgehog visiting near our old farmhouse in Hungary, July 2023. Photo: Filip Van Kerckhoven


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