Man’s penchant for getting drunk is much older than keeping himself clean. I mean the use of alcohol and other substances obtained from plants which give high is much older than the invention of soap for cleaning the body. But it is not only the humans who feel the need to get a high but many animals also are similar. Johann Hari, who is the author of book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” has spent 25 years observing the behaviour of animals when in they are alarmed or in grief. He began his research after going through the findings on this subject from Ronald Siegel. For example, Siegel had planted “Silver Morning Glory” a plant containing powerful hallucinating chemicals in the pen of Hawaiian mongoose. The animals tasted it leaves felt disoriented and avoided the plant altogether. But there happened a tropical storm which destroyed the den, filled it with mud and female dead. The male returned to the plant and ate its leaves to get blasted out of mind. After that Hari began his research and found more evidence. For example, in Vietnam, he found that prior to bombings in the Vietnam war with America, the buffaloes never chewed on opium plants. But when the bombings began, the water buffaloes ate the opium plants. They became dull and dizzy to escape their thoughts like mongoose. Similarly, bees bees fell to ground in a temporary stupor after sampling the numbing nectar of certain orchids. Birds gorge themselves on inebriating berries, then fly with reckless abandon. His more observations are given below : “Cats eagerly sniff aromatic “pleasure” plants, then play with imaginary objects. Cows that browse special range weeds will twitch, shake, and stumble back to the plants for more. Elephants purposely get drunk off fermented fruits. Snacks of “magic mushrooms” cause monkeys to sit with their heads in their hands in a posture reminiscent of Rodin’s Thinker. The pursuit of intoxication by animals seems as purposeless as it is passionate”
Breathing is our life. It goes on unnoticed until we are having some problem with our body. It is our constant companion from the time we are born and till the time we leave this world. Following our body breathing can calm our mind.
One of the best known and most respected Zen masters in the world today, poet, and peace and human rights activist, Thich Nhat Hanh has led an extraordinary life. Born in central Vietnam in 1926 he joined the monkshood at the age of sixteen.
He tells us about breathing like this. The breathing is a stable solid ground that we can take refuge in. Regardless of our internal weather- our thoughts, emotions and perceptions- our breathing is always with us like a faithful friend. Whenever we feel carried away, or sunken in a deep emotion, or scattered in worries and projects, we return to our breathing to collect and anchor our mind.
We feel the flow of air coming in and going out of our nose. We feel how light and natural, how calm and peaceful our breathing functions. At any time, while we are walking, gardening, or typing, we can return to this peaceful source of life.
We may like to recite:
“Breathing in I know that I am breathing in.
Breathing out I know that I am breathing out.”
We do not need to control our breath. Feel the breath as it actually is. It may be long or short, deep or shallow. With our awareness it will naturally become slower and deeper. Conscious breathing is the key to uniting body and mind and bringing the energy of mindfulness into each moment of our life.