Whales and Peace

by Elizabeth Asch

Elizabeth Asch is an artist and animal communicator who has been working with Earth’s ancient species—the whales, elephants, and horses, among others in the animal kingdom—studied with the highly regarded animal communicator, Anna Breytenbach. According to Breytenbach, human and animal communication is not only possible, but also ought to be encouraged as a method of reestablishing the bonds between humanity and other living beings. If people would approach animals to confer with them from a position of respect and mutual acknowledgement as beings who share in this state of existence and in this place (Earth) as a home, perhaps we could reconnect, mend, and cooperate in the fundamental ties between all diverse life.

Below, Elizabeth Asch shares a written reflection from an expedition to the waters of the Caribbean island of Dominica where she swam with the largest mammals in the worldwhales.

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Picture a battered, 30’ motorboat on a vast, flat sea, hot sun and blue sky overhead.  Several miles distant is the small Caribbean island of Dominica, whose mountains hold the only visible clouds at their peaks.  Motor turned off, all six men aboard hold one hand up to shade their eyes while scanning the horizon for the white spouts of water which signal a surfacing whale.  Not knowing if I will recognize such a plume, never having seen one in person anyhow, I instead use my internal body radar; while tuning in to my instincts, I slowly turn my body to see if I can feel a pull in any particular direction.  A feeling in the pit of my gut tells me to stop and I too raise my hand to my eyes to see, and sure enough there it is.  Two of the men see it too and, pointing arm extended, shout “Blow!”

 

Today is Day 3 of our nine-day expedition.  I am accompanying three researchers whose life mission is to decode the clicking language of dolphins and whales.   These three passionate men travel the world to record and film sperm whales, or as they are known in French cachalots, the largest of the hunting whales.  The size of a city bus, or even a double-bus, the cachalot swims from the surface down to eight thousand foot depth.  I learned to free dive in order to take this trip and the deepest I have gone is a mere 65 feet.

 

Before leaving I offered to write an article telling what the cachalots have to say about peace for my friends at GPIW.  The last couple of days though, I have just been getting to know the whales and their beautiful home.  Until this trip, elephants were the largest animal I have played with and I remain impressed by their size and the vastness of the landscape in which they live.  The endless, blue ocean home of the cachalot is a whole new world for me and I’m still adapting.

 

I connect with a large male I call Bruno.  One good place to start a conversation with a fellow predator mammal is eating, so he has been showing me food and hunting.  He shows me a nearby ledge in a cold, mostly dark part of the ocean where giant squid and other large fish hang out.  While one or two sperm whales churn the water with their powerful tails, others swim along and scoop out the animals to eat.  Still others swim open-mouthed, and in fact at one point while I am in the water swimming about thirty feet down, Bruno silently appears directly behind me.  I can feel some Presence and although I believe I am alone in the water with my human friends, when that body radar tells me to look back all I see at first are big, white things which turn out to be the teeth in his open jaw.  I laugh aloud because I know this is the whale who has been explaining cachalot hunting to me, and here he is to demonstrate.  I am certain he isn’t planning to eat me, he’s just showing me how it’s done.  After I notice he dives as silently as he appeared.

 

When I ask Bruno about peace he shows me more scenes of living in the water.  When I ask other whales, they show me the same thing.  I think maybe they are dodging the question, or maybe I didn’t ask it clearly – – he thinks we are still on the mundane.

 

I ask about war and they show me scenes of individual whales fighting, like Moby Dick.  This is warfare maybe but not war.  They say they don’t make war.  They did something like it millions of years ago in their evolution, but they don’t do it anymore.  As a species they have forgiven us for driving them close to extinction back when whale oil was humans’ main fuel, although there are always some humans who find ways to provoke some individual whales and get killed for it.  But retribution as a species?  Not their concern.

AC Dominica wwhale

Finding no answer from the whales about peace I ask the elephants.  They seem to sidestep the question too.  Elephants and whales are the largest mammals of their two elements, land and water, and some people say the most evolved.  Perhaps they just don’t know about peace, perhaps it is so natural to them that they can’t address how it is done.  They both seem to evade and avoid us humans as best they can, and especially when we aim to make war with them.  In response to my query, my elephant friends show themselves out on the savannah like they are every day, aware of each other’s presence, and grazing, grazing, grazing and dozing, enjoying the beauty and bounty of their home.

AC headshot Nkarsis

I ask birds, insects, and fish, and any wild animals I can think of, and still no answer.  Can it be that, as folks always tell me, “You ascribe too much intelligence to the animals.  They don’t think like we do.  They don’t have the mental capacity” for big questions?  I am intrigued.  I know this isn’t true, and yet all I get in response is the feeling inside of how it feels to be one of their kind, living in awareness of the other ones nearby, and in their beautiful homes.  Over and over, in the water, in the sky, on the land, underground, my only answer is scenes of life, of family, of just being.

 

Finally I ask my horse friend.  Ginger has been my guide for thirteen years.  I tell her my dilemma.  About how I arrogantly offered to write about whales and peace, and how I am completely stuck.  No whale nor any other species has answered my question, “How do you keep peace, what can my people do to find peace?”  I show her the responses I have and she laughs at me.

AC Ginger sleeping

“You have your answer.  That is peace,” Ginger tells me.  Peace comes from within and only from within.  It comes from each and every one of us, at every moment.  Look for the awareness of peace within yourselves, and feel it in those around you.  From there it spreads and spreads and spreads.  First you feel it in yourself.  Then you feel it in those closest to you and you begin to feel it in other the individuals from other species who are also nearby.  Inner peace for yourself connects you to all humans.  Then feeling it in other species connects you and your species to your fellow beings, and to the planet.  This is how it spreads and spreads.

 

Find the silence within.  Connect with the peace in others.  Moment by moment by moment, now and now and now.

Nkarsis Photo

The Rabbi Who Loved the Earth

By Marianne Marstrand

Rabbi Zalman Schacter and GPIW Co-Chair Sister Joan Chittister
Rabbi Zalman Schacter-Shalomi (1924-2014) with GPIW Co-Chair, Sister Joan Chittister, Aspen Institute, 2008

 

 

The Rabbi Who Love the Earth

We first met Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in Boulder, Colorado in 2008. We sat with him in warm and cozy surroundings, a home filled with books and handmade things, a place unfettered by excess. We had come to convince the Rabbi to participate in a think tank of America’s spiritual teachers that would meet at the Aspen Institute. “What is your agenda and what outcome do you hope for?” he asked with serious and kind eyes. “Well…, we have no agenda and we have no idea what will be the outcome.” I imagined by his expression that he was thinking we were very naive. “Ah, I see. You will leave space for divine spirit to enter the room,” he replied. “Then I will come!”

Reb Zalman had lived a spiritual life with a gusto and love for people and their beliefs that is uncommon in even the most open of religious leaders. He believed that the many streams of worship were each a unique flavor belonging to a “region” of the world, to the soil and the people that inhabit a specific place. For Reb Zalman, spiritual life was anything but boring. He could recite Sufi poetry without a halt or a stutter, and was even initiated into a Sufi lineage. He chanted with Hindus in Sanskrit. He knew history and politics, ways of indigenous peoples and sweat lodges, the beliefs of the Buddhists, Christians, and the Muslims. From the way he lived, it was clear that he cared, with all the patience of a loving grandfather.

He longed for the day when we would tell our religious stories a little differently, not in a triumphalist way, but each finding a cosmology and way to understand reality that our “Mother the Earth” would want us to have, a story that would see to the needs of the Earth as more important than the growth of our business. He compared each tradition to a vital organ of one body. If we want to contribute to the healing of the planet, each tradition had to make sure they were healthy in order to heal the Earth.

When he was young and waiting for his “papa” to come eat at the table, he tells, he would observe the tiny droplets of schmaltz that floated on top of his chicken soup. With his spoon, he would pull them together into one big circle of glistening fat. “The only way we are going to get it together, is together,” was his expression.

Last year, at a gathering at Naropa University, he spoke to a room of spiritual teachers: a colorful variety of characters that could only be found in America. We did not know that we had come to listen to parting words of this wisdom-keeper, who was now almost 90. Serious meditators, we listened with ears wide open, hoping for secrets of “truth,” or at least, a few reassuring words from this honored elder. “Our mother the Earth is calling to us. The spiritual tank upon which she was nourished is empty, it’s running on fumes,” he said. This tank was once fed by our songs and chants, the rituals and prayers that marked our day, that we have forgotten as we speed through life. These particular words stirred the room. He had difficulty breathing, but whatever the air was that sustained him, it was pure. It was the oxygen of another atmosphere, a unified ground of being where there is so much love.

This post was originally published by Creator at We Work June 2015