Real Leaders

Don’t Run With Wolves, Swim With Dolphins

“Women who run with the wolves” is a book written in the seventies by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. Dismissed copies rot away on many women’s shelves as an uncomfortable symbol of the untamed female soul. Forty years after its publication we’ve come to the era of women who swim with dolphins. Here’s why.

One of the earliest dolphin myths in human history involves Greek sun god Apollo, the killing of goddess Gaia – also known as Mother Nature or Earth – and the mysterious but very prosperous Oracle of Delphi. The Greek word Delphi, in fact, is said to mean womb. Among Eastern myths and carvings dolphins are often associated to Atargatis, goddess of vegetation, nourisher of life and supernatural guide of the dead to be reborn again.

Dolphins appear in our stories at a time when men became a lot braver about going out to sea, the primal womb from which all life on Earth emerged. They were greeted by curious dolphins who swam alongside their boats. It was a time when writing things down became important, overthrowing previous oral traditions who believed wisdom was too sacred to put into writing. A huge revolution was taking place. The masculine energy of intellect, effort and centralized power was rebelling violently against traditional rule of feminine instincts, wild emotion and life nourishing wombs among nomadic peoples. As always history is told, and recorded, by winners.

This explains why you won’t find many stories about ancient female warriors or wise women shamans. They were too busy fighting for their lives to sit down and write about it. They were too powerful to be ignored. Everywhere around the planet we beheaded each and every woman who led tribes in order to submit her peoples, and we made sure no written trace was left of such warrior queens’ existence. Several thousand years later, however, Lara Croft or Uma Thurman’s Kill Bill bride, among other sexually alluring warrior queens, are increasing popular in adult comics. Such tastes are also kind of concealed on our book shelves. Just as wild untamed women remain hidden somewhere in our collective unconscious, slowly but surely coming back to life.

I spent all last week at a dolphin facility whose name I won’t mention to save them harassment from verbally violent so-called animal lovers. I encountered a charming social group of ten dolphins led by a senior female, as is often the case among mammal packs or, in this case, pods. Officially I was training in dolphin therapy for disabled kids. Unofficially I was researching the realities of dolphins in human care as part of my plan to engage them in leadership training. Passionate male scientists, researchers and trainers pushed their certainties and knowledge at me. I, in turn, mystified them with provocative questions, earthy feminine humor and moving reflections bathed in emotional wisdom. I felt my new dolphin friends silently laughing with me as certainties melted away and poses lost balance.

As the week came to its end I realized all those dolphins knew a lot more about each of the humans in our group than we suspected. They see very well above water. They don’t waste time gossiping about unimportant details between lessons. They don’t only use eco-location to sense obstacles around them. It’s like a very special sense of smell, or an intuitive curiosity to identify who they can trust. My colleagues sat around the pool chatting with each other, whatsapping on cell phones or intelligently discussing dolphin facts and research conclusions. I sat there in silence admiring the dolphins at play. I worked with my inner sensations and feelings whenever I could. I gave the animals all my available attention when I was not attending the autistic child whose careful social development I supported in the water. Complicity grew among us all as the week advanced. The dolphins began swimming beside me as I walked past the pool, or coming up to the underwater glass to touch it with their heads as if I could pet them. My heart thumped. My emotions expanded. My mind wondered if I was imagining all these timid gestures of friendship and warmth. My guts knew this was a lot more real than all our elevated intellectual analysis.

I chuckled when I heard trainers speak of fish as primary motivation and loving cuddles as secondary reinforcement: only we over-intellectualized idiots could come up with such a back at the front understanding of life! I couldn’t help wondering if dolphins just take the fish from trainers to play along with our adult games of rationale. Bribery is always effective in the short term with subordinates – human or animal – …it’s irrelevant in the long run when true deep trust is alive among us. But well, let’s not take dolphin parks too far out of their current comfort zones, shall we?

Don’t agree with me please. I’d rather you thought long and hard about it. Felt deeply and strongly about all this for a while. Women who swim with dolphins don’t need to convince you instantly. We just want you to let go of your intellectual security and dive down into your emotional doubts: What if dolphins are not what we think they are? What if all animals and Nature are simply trying to help us remember where we came from? What if dolphins in parks and in the wild are sending us subtle waves of warmth, complicity and untamed wisdom?

That most men don’t get it is no surprise. Most women are used to that. But that women don’t get it is more worrying. It means we’ve lost contact with the part of ourselves that loved running with wolves. We’ve lost faith in the goddesses of abundance and wisdom that inhabit our instincts, passions and especially our legitimate anger. We’ve believed all those stupid written stories about how intellect killed instinct to make the world a better place. And we question all those moments in which we feel connections that can’t be explained with – honestly! — very limited scientific thinking.

Have I unsettled you? Good. That means you’re a little bit wiser than you were a thousand words ago.

Don’t be shy. Fall into your mysteries. Throw light on your obscured shelves. Stop thinking so much and start believing your feelings, however dark or conflicted they may be. Find that ancient female wisdom inside your heart and relish the animal instincts that mobilize your gut.

Rebirth the wild feminine in your life all round. Our oceans await her reappearance among men and women today. We have a lot of trash to clean up. A lot of pain to let go. A lot of joy to release. And a new conception of untamed leadership wisdom to unveil.

What if dolphins are unintentionally teasing us forward? Next time you see one ask yourself what he’s trying to share with you. Embrace the wild within you!

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