The Soft Animal of your Body

The Soft Animal of your Body

“You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.”


This is a line from Mary Oliver’s poem, Wild Geese. I’ve been savouring it because it reminds me of embodied presence. It’s easy for us humans to get so caught up in compulsive busyness that we forget our animal nature. But putting attention into the animal of our body brings us into closer relationship with Life. It reminds us to enjoy the moment.


She calls it “soft”. Opening to our physical softness and sensitivity we feel the vital life-force within. When we feel the vital life-force within we’re more able to sense it around us – in other people, beings and in Nature. We come into deeper relationship with self, life and others. We come to feel our belonging, and a sense of belonging is beyond value in this age of alienation.


I’ve come to take for granted the realization that I belong to the Earth. But it was not always so. As a young man my reality was coloured by feeling separate, alone and lonely. I was stuck in the brain and felt alienated, not understanding I was a filament in the delicate fabric of life. Like a hungry ghost I went seeking for something to fill the hole, and as my quest unfolded I gradually realized a sense of kinship with all life.


There is increasing scientific evidence that nature has a positive impact on our health – on longevity, medical recovery, PTSD, pain reduction, stress, anxiety, depression, dementia and spiritual wellbeing. The benefit is not only from spending time in nature but from feeling connected with the natural world. And it’s through the body that we experience that connection.


It brings us in touch with with our inner nature.  Through that we come to know that we are nature, and nature becomes less easy to abuse. We feel more fulfiled and trusting, so there’s less need to over-consume.


Medicine Practice: Letting the soft animal love.


  1. Incline your thinking towards your body in this moment and look out for what the soft animal loves. Ask, “Is there anything I can love right here and now?


  1. It could be something obviously loveable: tasty food, the fragrance of a flower, a baby’s smile or a hug with a friend. When you notice something, linger with it. Take your time. Don’t just hurry on.


  1. If nothing shows up straight away, stay present and open. It could be the vastness of sky, the luminosity of water, tactility of texture, the sounds or silence around you.


  1. Allow yourself to feel love towards it, and feel its love coming back to you. Take this in. You could take a deep breath and draw that feeling in.


  1. Let this energy feed you and add fuel to your spirit-fire.


I wish you ‘Good Medicine’ with trying this practice.

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