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What elephants can teach us

Elephants have always fascinated me. They're big and they're strong and they are led by females!

Humans often think we're the most important species on the planet, and all the other beautiful creatures on the earth can just fuck off. But mammoths, the ancestors of elephants, have been around for half-a-million years, so they must know something about living with other species in a changing world. Here are a few things the elephants are trying to teach us:

We need community. Led by the eldest female elephant, the herd is focused on helping each other survive. They communicate, they teach, they pass wisdom down to the next generation and they all take part in raising the newest additions to the elephant family. Our isolation could be our downfall. We need caring people around us to remind us we matter and that we are necessary and loved.

Have fun. Elephants love to play. They splash at waterholes, they chase each other and if they're in captivity, they play with balls and ropes and other toys. They're not just surviving, they're living their best damn lives.

Tread lightly. Male elephants can weigh up to 15,000 pounds! That's a lot of elephant. But if you watch an elephant walk, they step very carefully. They don't usually stomp and destroy the landscape (unless they're angry), their footsteps are gentle and intentional. We could spend more time intentionally walking on the planet, noticing how our actions help or hurt the world around us.

Practice Empathy. Elephants have compassion and empathy for members of their tribe. They use their trunks to stroke each other, to hug and to hold, and they grieve when a loved one passes away. They even have burial practices to honor their dead. We can practice empathy by listening, being present and holding those we love. It's a practice that pays off in big ways.

Build resilience. Elephants can live a long time and, just like us, they experience lots of trials along the way. They endure drought, lack of food, disease, poachers or attacks by other animals. But they maintain a love for life and have demonstrated a sense of humor. They continue on because there is no other choice, so they build a community of love and strength that helps them keep going.

Do you have a tribe that nourishes you, sustains you, supports you and helps you carry on? If you don't, start looking for opportunities to connect with others who believe what you do and have the same values as you. You could join a meet-up group or visit a new church or a new dance class. You could talk to your neighbors, spend time with extended family or work with an underserved population.

Get out there and be a giant, majestic creature on this planet.

Peri Kinder is the owner of Life & Laughter Coaching. She's a laughter coach, yoga and meditation instructor, and award-winning freelance writer. She is the host of the Life & Laughter podcast.

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