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Living Instinctively

I had another river experience over the weekend. If you live in the Bitterroot Valley you know the Bitterroot River. It seems fairly benign if you observe it from the banks. No stretches of big white water, nobody photographing the “carnage” of rafts upending. What the river does possess is a steady supply of downed trees with lots of branches and root balls. These are the hazards of the Bitterroot.

On this particular Saturday I took my pups on a walk. I had my trusty terrier Birdie and the new addition to the pack, Rocky the Brittany. At 4 months of age she is learning everyday what it means to be a pack member. It was a sunny but chilly day, chillier than most July’s where I live. We took our walk at an area called Bell Crossing. There are a few trails available and this day I chose to stay to more inland, parallel to the river. Rocky was just getting comfortable with swimming in water that had a current. My husband and I had taken her rafting a few weeks prior, keeping her on a leash inside the raft. When we would get to a good “learning to swim” spot we would let the dogs out to jump and play in the safer, quiet waters. Rocky proved to be a natural dog paddler. I was filled with awe as she used her natural instincts to navigate the currents of the river.

Our weekend walk was lovely. My sense of sight was wide awake, enjoying purple and white wildflowers. My cells and tissues were being nourished with the songs of birds who play and hunt along the river. I was relaxed and peaceful, watching the dogs interact with the natural world. I had put a significant amount of time into training Rocky and the fruits of my labor were evident. She came to me when called, sat down at my feet to receive her treat and was acting natural and free.

I also felt natural and free, taking this time to be with what I love.  


We were coming to the end of the river trail, which dumps out at the waters edge. Rocky and Birdie were ahead of me. I had an eyeball on Birdie but Rocky was not in sight.

I ran to the water’s edge and there she was, in the strong current with a fallen tree 3 feet from where she was!

I threw off my backpack and jumped in to rescue her. I slipped a couple of fingers under her collar and gently pulled her into shore. Safe! She was non-plussed, rolling around in the sand, warming herself with her wriggling and writhing. I walked out and up the bank, picked up my backpack and off we went. I always love those moments when I can feel the adrenaline flowing through my body and then quickly returning to the rest and relax phase of my nervous system. Thank you meditation!! I have a healthy nervous system and that is a bold statement after years of anxiety and fear!

Reflecting now, days later, I was curious about my natural instincts, in particular the protecting instinct. I had a gut instinct to jump in and rescue Rocky. No question about it. If I had denied the feeling she may well have been sucked under the tree, swirling around the roots and branches, with the possibility of being spit out the other side, or not. I wanted more of this type of surety in my day to day life. I knew exactly what to do. Gradually, due to a daily meditation practice I am learning that the instincts are innate, natural, and have been with me since birth.

As my teachers Lorin Roche and Camille Maurine say “The instincts are the wise motions of life!” img_3331


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