Sacred spaces

Seeking Sacred Space: Where’s Your Natural Cathedral?

Sacred spaces

“The place seemed holy, where one might hope to see God.”
— John Muir, “My First Summer in the Sierra,” 1911

Conservationist John Muir was known for his ability to find spiritual connection in the natural world. Yosemite Valley was sacred space for him, and he called it “the grandest of all the special temples of Nature….” Is there a place in nature that makes your spirit sing? Maybe you love to be in the mountains, at the beach, or in a quiet garden filled with roses. Summer is underway as the solstice ushered in the season of greatest warmth and light. Summer brings more opportunities for us to get out and connect with the natural world and grow in spirit. Contact with Nature renews and refreshes us and gives us the comfort of knowing we belong to something much larger than our small selves.

It’s our nature to seek spiritual joy in the natural world. From ancient times, people have gravitated toward places on Earth that are graced with high-vibration spiritual energy. There are many such places around the world, and people often built their holiest institutions over such power spots, vortexes or places of spiraling spiritual energy. They recognized that bathing in these elevated vibrations was beneficial to raising consciousness and facilitating spiritual development. Ojai, California, my home, is a beautiful natural setting known for this kind of spiritual energy. Many visitors feel recharged and uplifted after visiting there. North America is brimming with places that have been held sacred by Native Americans for thousands of years. Some research may reveal a number of sacred spaces in your locale.

Sacred spaces

What Makes a Sacred Space?

Beyond natural places that communities of people have found sacred over time, each one of us has a personal sacred space in nature that we love. We know it by the joy it brings. So many of us love the peace we find swimming in the waters off the western shore of Maui. Here in the silent blue world of the ocean, we delight in meeting sea turtles and sharing swim space with them. My friend, Louise Hay, loved San Diego’s mid-city urban garden, Balboa Park, with its vast array of trees and flowers from around the world as well as her own backyard garden where she grew vegetables, fruits, and flowers.

Novelist Susan Straight finds beauty in her seemingly stark hometown landscape in Southern California. For her, the date palm trees of the desert city of Indio, standing in stately rows and catching the golden sunlight and silver moonlight, are beautiful. Lines of trees that make up the date farm landscape are “like a cathedral” she says. For many people, forests of any kind, whether palm trees or giant redwoods, are a natural temple. Our eyes are drawn upward by the great height towering above us. Looking at the sky our hearts open.

Great mountain peaks also draw our eyes toward heaven. Photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams was another admirer of the Yosemite Valley and its “vast edifice of stone and space.” President Theodore Roosevelt said of camping in Yosemite, “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

Sacred spaces

Maybe the desert is a landscape you love. The desert has always been a place of spiritual connection and reflection, a place of open space and silence and starry nights.

Artist Georgia O’Keeffe loved the northern New Mexico desert for the pure light, the clear air, and the astonishing colors of the hills and the sky. The Grand Canyon is a place of pilgrimage for millions. Sunrise and sunset paint the desert cliffs for anyone who would like to watch.

Sacred spaces

If water is your love, Crater Lake in Oregon, the deepest lake in the U.S., is an especially beautiful site considered sacred by Native Americans of the region. The lake is used as a site for vision quests and other ceremonies. Lakes, rivers, and waterfalls may be part of your vision of a spiritual home.

How to Enjoy Your Sacred Space

From early childhood, I’ve had a special connection with Lake Tahoe, one of the deepest lakes in the world. The energy there is profound, and when I visit there, I sense that its water is sacred, coming from the original source. Maybe your beloved natural place is your traditional family vacation spot. Take a moment and picture your sacred space.

If you have a chance to visit a sacred space of your own this summer, intend to connect with your heart, mind, and soul. Experience the place with all your senses. Feel the ground beneath you (or the water surrounding you). Look up at the sky, the clouds, the stars, the mountain peaks and the treetops and give thanks for the beauty and the peace. Give thanks for the gift of life and the field of loving energy that all of us share.

2021 Thanksgiving Gratitude Holidays

7 Reasons to Embrace Gratitude

Thanksgiving is, quite literally, a holiday of giving thanks, so most people have some tradition of gratitude. Whether it is making a list of the things you’ve been grateful for this year, or sitting down at the family table piled with turkey and all the fixin’s with each person expressing thanks for one thing in their life, you probably consider gratitude as important a part of the Thanksgiving festivities as the turkey and pumpkin pie. But what about practicing gratitude the rest of the year?

Gratitude Is Not Just for Thanksgiving

Study after study has shown that gratitude is good for your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health, so the more often you do it, the better you’ll feel! Gratitude has been shown to have numerous benefits, from increased life satisfaction and happiness to more compassion to better rest. And in energy healing, gratitude goes a long way toward keeping your chakras clear and balanced.

The best way to practice gratitude is to add it to your spiritual routine. Just as you set time aside each day for meditation, set time aside each day for a gratitude session. Journaling right before bed about what you are thankful for is ideal, but any time of the day will work, and if you would prefer to speak your list, that’s fine, too. The most important thing is to keep it up. Here’s why:

  1. Gratitude can help you through tough times.
    Listing what you are grateful for seems like a small thing, but it carries so much weight. It’s so easy to forget how lucky you are, how much there is to appreciate even when things are rough. Think about how often someone who goes through a trauma comes out the other side with a new zest for life—this is the power of gratitude in action. When you are aware of and thankful for the small joys of being a body on this planet as well as a soul born out of light, you create a reserve of happiness that boosts you through tough times.
  1. Gratitude is a natural sleep aid.
    If you’re worried and anxious as you drift off—or toss and turn trying to drift off—the level of stress hormones in your body wreak havoc with your sleep quality, which results in you waking up feeling like you need another night of sleep. And a worried mind is restless, making it difficult to drift off. Gratitude improves your sleep quality and duration by keeping you calmer and less stressed, and having a positive attitude when you get into bed helps you fall asleep faster.
  1. It lowers your stress.
    Stress is responsible for so much damage to your mind, body, and soul that you should do whatever you can to help combat its negative effects. Just as energy healing is a natural stress buster, so is gratitude. When you are being thankful, you are in a positive frame of mind and you are focusing not on your troubles, but on a little piece of happiness. This moment of respite increases your ability to cope with the stressors in your life.
  1. Gratitude deepens your relationships.
    As part of your nightly gratitude list, try recognizing the qualities and behaviors of the people you are thankful for. Maybe your best friend always sends you birthday flowers or your partner makes you coffee before you get up each morning. Being thankful for the little things your family and friends do makes you appreciate them more, and improves your interactions with them. This shift in focus also helps train you to see the best in people, and the best in yourself, which makes you warmer, kinder, and better liked, because you are a better friend, spouse, sibling, etc. 
  2. It speeds up your spiritual progress.
    In my healing courses I often talk about the importance of service to others. It’s one of the best ways to increase your chances of an initiation by providing a solid base for the new energy. Gratitude makes you more compassionate and empathetic to others, which means you are more likely to engage in random acts of kindness and help others in need. Thinking of others also brings you out of thinking about yourself, which makes you happier and speeds up the process of processing old wounds and traumas, an essential part of energy medicine.
  1. Gratitude helps you live longer.
    Grateful people are usually more optimistic, and optimism has been linked to longer life spans, greater immune function, and lowered blood pressure. Studies have shown that people who are grateful and optimistic are also more likely to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. Being thankful for all the small things makes you feel inspired, which turns into a desire to take better care of yourself, which can add years to your life.
  1. Gratitude begets gratitude.
    When you begin to notice all the little things there are to be grateful for each day: the unconditional love of a pet, your health, the sun in the sky, a thoughtful email from a friend, the smell of freshly brewed coffee—whatever small and large things make you smile—you begin to feel even more grateful to be alive and experiencing all this world has to offer. Your happiness makes you more appreciative, which makes you happier and kinder to others, which then rubs off and makes them grateful and happier. Gratitude is a win-win, a vital part of increasing the love on this planet.

Do you see how gratitude affects all areas of your life and builds on itself? Thankfulness is an upward spiral. Being grateful makes you happier, which makes you kinder and more compassionate, which means others respond to you with more compassion and kindness, which makes you even more grateful. As an energy healer and spiritual teacher who has seen the power of gratitude, I’d love for Thanksgiving to be a spring board for you to begin your daily routine of giving thanks. Try it for a year, and I guarantee that next Thanksgiving, gratitude is what you’ll be most thankful for.

Yantra mantra meditation

A Yantra in the Snow

Yantra mantra meditation
Artist: Simon Beck

It was a cold, bitter day, many years ago, that I found myself walking through New York City during a snowfall. For those of you who haven’t seen New York in a snowfall, it’s beautiful for about ten minutes. Then it melts into a mudslide. Suddenly, there’s brown and black mud-snow everywhere. Cars whoosh it up onto the sidewalks. Slurries pool at crosswalks, threatening to engulf any pair of shoes (and half of your pants) as you foolishly plunge in.

I didn’t know this. But I quickly learned when a pair of my jeans went from indigo to khaki thanks to a speeding cab. And I was not happy. My energy field, in retrospect, became muddied, as I repressed these feelings of irritation. As I walked through the streets of New York, I found myself becoming more frustrated. Colder, wetter, dirtier. Not a hot chocolate or caroler in sight.

Fran Lebowitz on her new Netflix special said, “it would only take one subway ride to turn the Dalai Lama into a raving lunatic.” Friends, I’m not proud to say it only took a few blocks walking to make me feel the same.

That is, until I happened upon Lincoln Center. I was walking up Broadway, battling the muck, when I looked to my left and saw a scene practically out of a snow globe. A perfectly framed plaza, covered in sugary snow, flanked by the ballet on one side, Juilliard on the other. Holding the whole scene together: The Metropolitan Opera, gleaming with its modernist arches and welcoming glass.

I didn’t know where I was. I looked to my right, and all I saw was a streaming line of cabs, brown snow, and palpable anxiety. To my left: a pristine palace. I meandered on over, kicking my way through the snow, across the plaza and into a grove of trees, bereft of leaves. I looked down: where my feet had not yet stepped, the snow lay as pure as pristine powder. I looked behind: where my feet once were, the snow had been compressed. Compressed, but still pure and white.

I don’t know what energy came over me, but I put my foot out, and began moving it across the snow. Slowly. Slowly in deliberate lines, I found myself weaving a geometric picture underneath the trees. A picture of a few interlocking triangles, then a star.

The drawings didn’t stem from my conscious mind; rather, it was the pull of my unconscious that manifested onto the snow.

You’ve heard of the term mantra. Mantra refers to a word or sound that is repeated in meditation. What you may not have heard of is yantra. Yantra is a mystical diagram used as an aid in worship, ritual, or meditation. While the term comes from India, we certainly could use “yantra” to describe mystical symbols we create all the time. A drawing of the cross. The Star and Crescent. The Star of David. Magic Circles. When we focus our energy through these drawings, we augment our own energy as well, as tap into sacred energies beyond ourselves. The act of drawing and ruminating upon the drawing is ritual. It is meditation. Connection.

And that is what I was doing, moving my feet in the snow. I was drawing upon that clean, unvarnished energy to clear, charge, and balance my energy field that had been contaminated by my unprocessed emotions. I was channeling myself into this subconscious yantra: blessing myself, blessing the land, and giving thanks to this respite in the middle of Manhattan.

The snowfall quickened as I finished my design, and even the prettiness of Lincoln Center couldn’t thaw my frozen fingers, so I bid adieu to the plaza, and headed back uptown to my hotel.

As I walked away, with the snow quickening, I couldn’t help but wonder, “would anyone happen upon my drawing?” If they did, would they appreciate it? Would this design grant them the same serenity that it had granted me?

Or, perhaps, would it be best that it be covered with new snow and washed clean again? Would it be best that it be returned to a blank slate so that another weary traveler could marvel at the unexpected grace of an undisturbed block of New York in snowfall?

Give thanks for the unexpected. Embrace the energy of a gift freely given. Plant the seeds of another for a stranger.

Be the snowfall in a forest. Be radiant. Be peace.

2020 Thanksgiving

Perpetual Thanksgiving

“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” –Marcel Proust


2020 has been a hard year, I know. You have been affected, to a greater or lesser degree, by powerful forces, including a pandemic, sweeping the globe. However difficult this year has been for you, is exactly why it’s so important to reflect on all you still have to be grateful for.

You are most likely not gathering this year for a traditional Thanksgiving feast, complete with a raucous game of touch football during half time. Here at home, how about we all go back to the true meaning of Thanksgiving . . . and give thanks.

Gratitude is more than a quick thumbs up for the pumpkin pie; true gratitude is a path to the divine. Henry Ward Beecher, the 19th century clergyman and social reformer who always focused on Christ’s love, said: “The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.”

The ancient root of the word gratitude, gwere, means “to be in contact with the Divine.” Gratitude is a way to unleash a flow of positive energy in and out of your heart, and to open to the love of the universe that is available to fill you. Gratitude can transform your mood, shift you into your Higher Self, and connect you to Spirit.

So what do you have to be grateful for amidst the fears and worries that travel through the air as surely as droplets of the virus?

Start with your health. It may not be perfect, but you’re alive and breathing on your own (unlike so many of our fellow citizens on this planet today, who are on ventilators). Thank you, thank you for the chance to still be here, to appreciate the stark beauty of a winter sunset, the smile of a happy child, the ability to give praise.

Maybe you’re grateful for having a week or a month or, thank God, a year of sobriety under your belt. Being thankful for one day at a time is a good practice for everyone.

Your pets may be providing the companionship you can’t enjoy with other humans during this trying time. Their unconditional love (in the case of dogs) and noble tolerance (cats) of your perceived flaws are certainly worthy of thanks (and treats). Being grateful for their safe and non-judgmental love opens your heart effortlessly.

Gratitude is how you make your heart sing. When you are occupied with remembering those who have helped you along the way during this past year, your heart is happy. It’s interesting to note that you can’t be feeling grateful and unhappy at the same time. And as Piglet long ago noticed (thanks to A.A. Milne), “…even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”

Just last evening, I reconnected with an old friend and spent an hour doing something utterly frivolous: singing! Seriously, just the two us, singing to each other over Zoom, doing hilarious, impromptu duets, and laughing at our mistakes and off-key moments. Let’s all be grateful for Zoom!

Like everything else, there is a spectrum of gratitude, ranging from being thankful the sun is shining to down-on-your-knees, head-bowed gratefulness when your life or that of a loved one is spared. It includes your attempts to be grateful for those who have made your life more difficult; that challenge can humble your ego and give you the opportunity to raise your own vibration.

When you are filled with gratitude, you are connected to everyone and everything in the web of love that sustains the universe. Giving thanks for all that you yourself are, for those in your Covid bubble, for the people, plants, and animals in your environment, and around the world, brings you into the present moment and into the presence of spirit. In the words of Shakespeare, “O Lord that lends me life, lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.”

Above all, dear student, my heart is full of gratitude for you, for generously sharing your spiritual journey with me. We are one in Spirit, and I am grateful for your companionship and support as, together, we walk toward home.


How To Make The Most Of This Autumn Equinox

On overwhelm, with a few complications in your personal life, not to mention the impact of the nightly news? When life feels confusing, exhausting, even downright scary, you know you need to rebalance, that your wellbeing depends on it. Fortunately, a powerful occasion of celestial balance is coming your way; you will want to take advantage of it.

Tuesday morning, September 22, 2020 (9:31 a.m. EDT) the Autumn Equinox arrives, officially marking the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

As a spiritual teacher, I’ve long been moved by this annual event, as it is a representation of the balance of the natural world and recognition of its link to the spiritual. Each year, between September 21st and 24th, the Sun crosses the celestial equator as it moves southward. It marks the end of summer, and the beginning of autumn.

In contrast, for the residents of the Southern Hemisphere, it is for them their Vernal Equinox, and time to celebrate the end of winter and the beginning of Spring.

You can view this as not only a celestial event, but a spiritual one, because it signals transitions, and for this reason it is observed and universally embraced worldwide. Whatever and however the event may be observed, this is inarguably nature’s way of defining the seasons and is our way of staying in harmony with them.

It is a time of balance, with, for the briefest of moments, night and day of precise equal length, before introducing the shorter and cooler days that lay ahead. It is fitting that astrologers mark the Sun entering Libra, showcasing it rising and setting in balance. Perhaps you can mark the event by receiving (or giving) a little energy healing to bring you back into your best balance. If that’s not available, think of your favorite acupuncturist, as that’s another way to get rebalanced. And then there’s your meditation practice – that too inspires your best balance.

The Autumn Equinox is properly blind to cultural differences, and is viewed differently, and celebrated in unique ways around the globe.

In Asia, the Equinox has a special place in Iran, but also at the Great Pyramid of Egypt, in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Japan.

It is said that in the Pacific, the mysterious giant statues on Easter Island are aligned to recognize the equinox.

Among countless examples in Europe is the celebration of a harvest festival in the UK, while the French called the Autumn Equinox “New Year’s Day” on their calendar.

In the Americas, it has been marked by a wealth of rituals observed by indigenous peoples since ancient times: in America at Cahokia, and throughout Mexico at the El Castillo pyramid at Chechen Itza and the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, and the nine terraces of the Mayan underworld.

Nowhere, however, is its observance more profound and in many ways more dramatically fitting than in South America, at Machu Picchu in Peru. For those ancient peoples, the sky was their calendar. They built observatories, such as the Intihuatana high in the Andes, that provide an elevated and experiential viewing platform like no other on earth.

The observatory precisely indicates the four equinoxes and solstices, a timeless monument created to observe ancient rituals aligned to life’s highest and truest purpose. That site remains ever faithful to the principles along the path to spiritual enlightenment.

Most remarkable, however, is in its significance for us today: we are living in a time where too many have riveted their focus upon our differences, intent upon deepening what divides us, instead of bringing us together.

We know better, and we honor the truth of this annual Celestial event, that unites us worldwide. Bringing the people of the earth and different cultures together is no small and unimportant thing.

It is, miraculously, truly another cause for hope and celebration.

Full moon in August

Full Moon in August: Celebrate the Gift of Plenty

Full moon in August

Looking for a sign to guide you toward greater spiritual awakening and growth? This coming Sunday, August 26, the night sky will present you with a powerful opportunity to be awed, inspired, and taken to the next level! The full moon this week is capturing your attention reminding you of the eternal cycle of change and transformation that you are a part of. Ancient cultures used the moon’s movement to mark the seasons and guide their activities. You can use this same celestial energy to connect to your 8th chakra and above and to shine a light on your path.

Sit outside with as much skin uncovered to the moon as possible this week, to absorb its light. Then, this weekend, grab a blanket or sleeping bag and join me on your deck or in your back yard; this is THE month to sleep outside. Watch for falling stars, frequent in August!

What the August Full Moon Tells You

In Native American tradition, the August full moon is called “the Sturgeon Moon,” “the Green Corn Moon,” “the Grain Moon,” or, for the Dakota Sioux, “the Moon When All Things Ripen.” For tribes near the Great Lakes, the “Sturgeon Moon” marks the time when the large, prehistoric sturgeon fish is most plentiful and most easily caught. For all of us, the meaning of the August full moon is “plenty,” a time when the life-giving essentials of the Earth come forth.

There are questions you can ask in this time “when all things ripen” to help you heal and grow in mind, body, and spirit. The concept of “plenty” has important spiritual significance. It has brought life to humankind from the beginning and defined our relationship with the Universe. What does faith in the “plenty” of our world mean? What we believe about the Source of our plenty and our relationship to Source and to one another guides our lives. Now is the perfect time to explore what seeds have ripened in your life this season, what is plentiful, and how you have responded.

Full Moon Beams Power

You can use the illumination of the full moon to cast light on inner things, to help you look at your inner world of emotions, worries and anxieties, dreams, and unconscious beliefs. You can draw on full moon energy to explore and evaluate your goals and your ambitions in the window of moonlight. Remember that full moon energy amplifies your emotions and magnifies what is going on within. Look closely and learn. You can use the following questions to discover what the August moon’s promise of plenty means to you:

How do you define plenty?

For the Native fishermen of the Great Lakes, a bountiful catch of sturgeon signified plenty. Life depended on the gifts of the waters, the land, and the sky. What does plenty look like for you? Is it health, attractiveness, money, friends, career opportunities, achievements, faith? How does plenty make you feel and why?

What seems to be lacking in your life?

It may be that a sense of plenty escapes you. If you have a feeling of lack, try to determine what you think is missing. Do you see plenty somewhere other than where you are right now? See if you can find the origins of lack in your life. What exactly do you feel is “not enough”?

What has ripened for you in the current season?

Have you achieved a goal you were working toward? Did you set out to achieve something that has now come to you? If you have, how has it affected your feelings of plenty and/or lack in your life? 

How does it feel to be on your present path?

Your present life has grown from your past choices, hopes, dreams, and actions. Do you feel like your current path is the right one for you? Do you feel confident and inspired? If not, why not? How would it feel to revisit your choices? 

How have you shown gratitude for the plenty in your life?

Whether your heart swells with a feeling of plenty or you feel you could be on firmer ground, you have grounds for gratitude. The freedom, the energy, and the willingness to examine your inner self is something to be grateful for. Nothing empowers you like taking time to look within and seeing the gift that is your life. Make a gratitude list and be sure to include your power to recognize plenty and share it with the world.

Spending time with these questions brings comforting knowledge of who you really are and why you are here. Self-discovery brings peace, joy, and a sense of what is possible for you in the new span of days opening before you.

May the full Sturgeon Moon bring you a new sense of plenty and a new awareness of the miracle that is you. And may you be blessed with the radiance of healing moonlight on the evening of Sunday, August 26. See you outside next Sunday!

Happy energetic group

Your energy matters

Happy energetic group

Have you ever noticed the power of your smile? How different does it feel when you walk onto a crowded elevator with a smile instead of a look of irritation? Your smile is evidence of positive energy shining forth—sending waves of peace, tolerance, hope, and comfort into the world. Does it really matter whether you cultivate positive energy and project it forth? Nothing could be more important. Our world’s wellness depends on the kind of energy you contribute.

Energy Matters

In an energy-driven universe, we are givers and receivers. We are conduits of energy and we can decide what kind of energy we take in and give out. The news tells us the world is hurting. Too much hatred, anger, fear, greed, mistrust, incivility, rudeness, and selfishness have been going unchecked. And the greatest of these is fear—fear of not being enough, not having enough, fear that there isn’t enough.The good news is that individually and together we can use our positive energy to counter this absence of love.

I think of Rumi’s call to action: “Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.” Ask yourself what energy you are you sending forth into the world. Do you bring light? Do you focus on love and unity? How do you present yourself to the world—your face, your body language, your words? What are your rules of engagement—-kindness, courtesy, laughter, openness, curiosity, respect, love?

You have the power to heal the world with your energy. You can change your energy, grow it, cleanse it, clear it! Here are five essential healing energies you can work with:

Compassionate Energy

The power to love and care for one another may seem to come naturally, but actually it is a learned behavior that is modeled for us. We love because we are loved and we know how love feels. Each day you can model compassion by consciously sending loving energy to the people you meet.

Creative Energy

Did you know you are a creative genius? The power to dream, imagine, invent, and build is part of who you are. With our creative gifts, we humans can envision a hopeful, sustainable future and travel there together. You bring joy to the world each day that you work, play, dance, sing, play music, write, paint, design, have fun, or teach someone else to do the same.

Courageous Energy

Every day that you spend living in faith rather than wringing your hands in fear is a great day for the world. Believing in a benevolent universe and a positive future takes courage. Being a role model for faith in the ever-present goodness can help heal the world. Be one of those who appreciates the good, who smells the rose, pets the dog, and shares a laugh at every opportunity.

Cooperative Energy

Can you imagine a world where cooperation—not competition—is the rule of the day? There is too much emphasis on who wins and who loses. Cooperation allows everyone to bring their gifts to the table. We can begin by choosing cooperation over competition at every opportunity.

Connective Energy

Quantum physics has confirmed what traditional wisdom has always told us. We are one unified energy field. When a tree falls in the forest, not only is there a sound but the air quality on the other side of the globe is diminished. We are connected and what affects one, affects us all. Unity is our foundation. Whatever you can do to strengthen your connection—to Source, to the natural world, to your fellow humans—do it today. Smiling at those people in the elevator blesses us all!

Deborah's Elephant

A Baby Elephant – Just What I Always Wanted!

Deborah's Elephant

At a retreat last week, my advanced students presented me with the most amazing, loving, and life-affirming gift. On my behalf, they made a donation to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya. I am now fostering an orphaned baby elephant! I received a certificate from the orphan rescue program and will be able to follow my foster child’s growth and development in an online diary. His name is “Maktao” and he is three months old. I’m so thrilled and I hope I will be able to go to Africa soon to bond with him!

The Work of the DSWT

Best known for their work to protect elephants, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) operates the most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world. They embrace all measures that complement the conservation, preservation and protection of wildlife including anti-poaching, safe guarding the natural environment, enhancing community awareness and providing veterinary assistance to animals in need. Born from one family’s passionate love for Kenya and its wilderness, the trust is one of the pioneering conservation organizations for wildlife and habitat protection in East Africa.

DSWT was founded in 1977 by Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldrick, to honor the memory of her late husband, famous naturalist and founding Warden of Tsavo East National Park, David Leslie William Sheldrick. For over 25 years Kenya-born Daphne Sheldrick lived and worked alongside David, during which time they raised and successfully rehabilitated many wild species. At the heart of the DSWT’s conservation activities today is the Orphans’ Project, which has achieved world-wide acclaim through its hugely successful elephant and rhino rescue and rehabilitation program.

Orphans Welcome Here

The Orphans’ Project exists to offer hope for the future of Kenya’s threatened elephant and rhino populations as they struggle against the threat of poaching for their ivory and horn, and the loss of habitat due to human population pressures and conflict, deforestation and drought. When a tiny new-born elephant like my charge is orphaned, it is often because its mother and family have been killed to serve the brutal ivory trade. For an elephant, family is all important; a calf’s very existence depends upon its mother’s milk for the first two years of life. An Elephant Nursery now exists nestled within Nairobi National Park under the auspices of the DSWT. The nursery offers hope for any orphaned elephant fortunate enough to be found alive. They rescue and hand-rear elephant and rhino orphans, along with many other species.

Daphne Sheldrick worked for nearly three decades of trial and error to perfect the milk formula and complex husbandry necessary to rear an orphaned infant African elephant. Today, with support from many caring people world-wide, the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is proud to have saved over 150 orphaned infant calves, which would otherwise have perished. More importantly, every one of these orphans can look forward to a quality of life in the wild, living free in Tsavo East National Park protected by their new extended orphaned family and friends among the wild herds.

Welcome, Maktao!

So my wonderful gift from my students of a chance to foster baby elephant orphan, Maktao, comes via The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’s digital foster program. This program allows individuals across the world to support the trust’s field projects by fostering an orphaned elephant, rhino or giraffe in their care. All elephant, rhino and giraffe orphans rescued by the trust are available to foster, including those orphans living back in the wild. The DSWT’s Elephant Orphanage is open to the public for one hour every day, from 11 am to noon. During this time the orphans arrive for their midday mud bath and feeding. Baby elephants love their mud baths!

Welcome, Maktao, to the sponsorship of a caring human family—all of us here at the Deborah King Center. The Trust likes to name its orphaned elephants in a way that can identify them with their origin. The orphans come from all corners of Kenya and from many different elephant populations, so they are usually given place or ethnic tribal names, as was Maktao, where he was found.

The most precious gift is the gift of life. Thank you, my beloved students, for giving me this gift of life!

If you’d like to help a baby elephant, click here.