I was able to join a yearly meditation retreat with my Sangha and teacher, Anam Thubten https://www.dharmata.org/teachers/ again this past weekend.
This one was silent, and in the same place that we have had prior silent retreats, a Hindu temple Radha Madhav Dham https://radhamadhavdham.org/ . This temple was made around 1990, and looks like it was built on a small national guard facility, by a guru later convicted of 20 cases of child molestation, and still on the run. They changed to the current name after that.
It's on a nice 200 acres with good hiking trails for walking meditation, a hill, a creek and lots of deer.
I did about 3 hours of walking meditation per day for three days, and an hour the fourth day. I did personal walking meditation for one or two of the sitting meditation sessions per day. All my sitting stuff and knees and back were uncomfortable a lot, starting early and staying late.
I spent a lot of time around groups of does, at least two, and often three groups per hour walk. A large, strong buck crossed the trail about 20 feet in front of me, mostly interested in a doe in the bushes on the other side.
I whistle to deer to be nice. I start whistling a tune when I notice them, and keep whistling until I am well past them. I'm saying that I mean them no harm. The deer show a lot of curiosity about me. Sometimes they start and run, or a couple out of a group of twelve might move to the back of the group. Sometimes small groups of three to four will move back twenty or thirty feet behind some bushes and watch me quietly. They like to have their bodies facing away, and heads craned to look at me, probably to flee quickly if needed.
Sometimes deer emotionally connect with me. I can feel it. You might have felt it, or felt something like it from other non-human beings. Lots of people feel love from pets, or irritation from pet cats. I feel two things from deer. Most often I feel sort of a tingly excitement, with little sparklies dusted all over the top of it. Often I feel that when a deer seems to notice me, looking up to make eye contact. It doesn't last long.
Sunday afternoon I got totally immersed in a big warm, funky wave of deer love, which I've felt a few times before, but this wave was really engulfing. There was a group of about a dozen does of various ages about 150 yards ahead of me when I started whistling, and a large doe was watching me as long as I was looking at them. I started whistling, maybe "This Land Is Your Land" or the Dr Who theme, or my usual theme song from "Bridge On The River Kwai" ("Winners, fill up with Malt-O-Meal..."). This wave was really a total immersion experience, a flood of full, funky, earthy, warm deer love with all the exciting little sparklies dusted on and through it, too, and it lasted a good ten or twelve seconds. It felt like a welcome-home love.
A female deer reached out over 100 yards to completely engulf me with emotional and visceral love groove experience. That's really a remarkable feat, and I'm remarking on it. I had a chance to reflect and meditate on it, because I was at a silent meditation retreat for four days. This doe may well have recognized me, the whistling human, from my previous two retreats there. I'm about the same. I open up my personal space bubble a lot at meditation retreats, sometimes pretty big. I can't measure it, but it feels like it gets big out in the open spaces, and completely gets around in the meditation room.
I'm pretty sure I can't do what that deer did. In February 1991, when my friend, Guy took me to hear the Dalai Lama, under a tent top in Santa Fe, and he looked in my eyes and smiled as he walked in, I felt an explosion of light and energy from within myself. WOW! I had no reality framework in which to integrate that experience. I was flabbergasted. I have never experienced it before or since, but it was clearly from His Holiness looking into my eyes and smiling from about 15 feet away. I tried really hard to understand his talk about the non-existence of the self. I couldn't. I really could not grok it at all.
Many people consider His Holiness to be a Living Buddha. Where are the goal lines on that? Beats me.
Deer do this thing in a deer way from over 100 yards, or at least one does, to me, once. It was a different thing from the Dalai Lama, but it was almost as total of an experience, and from a much longer distance.
You don't have to believe this. I'm not asking that. You might or might not ever experience anything like this. It did get me thinking that the first and probably hardest thing humans do with meditation is getting past the "monkey mind" chatter and story-telling and craving and hating and stuff. My understanding is that deer don't have those impediments to deal with at all. Unfettered. Completely unfettered by ego and concepts. As far as I know...
I can't escape the conclusion that it must be vastly easier for deer to be their spiritual nature than it is for humans, like falling off a log easier.
Human Buddhas are rare and wondrous.
I think we may really be missing the big picture here.
We humans talk to each other about how we are the whole party. It's our world to ruin and save. It's all up to us.
We need to become enlightened and save all the other animals. This is how we think things are.
We may actually be the lame latecomers to this enlightenment party.