If We Learn to Read Hearts

There is one gift appropriate in any season or on any occasion. It is the gift of relationship. After all, we are always in relationship, one of the many miracles we experience every day.

Most miracles have a certain sparkle, and relationship is no exception. Eckhart Tolle says in this amazing miracle “ultimately, you are not a person but a focal point where the universe is becoming conscious of itself.”

Here we are, having this remarkable experience as human beings, born with this and without that but physically each of us travels the life cycle from two major states, birth and death. What happens in-between those two events is the unique, individual experience of you and me.

It is not as if we reside in existence, it is that we are existence having these individual experiences. And it is not just about humans, either. It’s everything we can imagine and all we cannot.

The flower is aware of the fact that it contains everything within it, the whole cosmos, and it does not try to become something else.

Thich Nhat Hanh

No matter how many ways I write about relationship or how many quotes I find, I am astounded by the reality of always being in relationship. Often, its immensity is beyond my grasp.

I look to the elephant as the creature that most embodies relationship.

Elephants define family beyond any words we have ever written. For elephants, relationship is forever, absolutely essential to life and not broken with death. Elephants remember their dead, travelling miles to visit graveyards.

It seems a miracle that elephants maintain this richness of relationship as they come closer and closer to extinction. Yet, these loving and compassionate beings know what we have not learned: they are always in relationship for everywhere they go, there they are.

“They can read your heart” are the words of Daphne Sheldrick, a woman who has, for 50 years, given love and created family for orphaned elephants. It is the kind of story that always opens our hearts—giving season or no—sometimes, we donate to such a cause but what of learning to read hearts?

Not living as separate from existence but as existence experiencing itself is learning to read each other’s heart. Like the elephants, we must have the physical touch, comfort, and compassion of family—no matter how family is defined.

We must learn to read hearts so that when family is lost, family is created again, and we are not orphans. We have role models such as Daphne Sheldrick. We need not be orphans. We need only to read hearts.

Note: This writer and this blog thank Zen Flash for the post and video on Daphne Sheldrick and the orphan elephants.

13 thoughts on “If We Learn to Read Hearts

  1. “..No matter how many ways I write about relationship or how many quotes I find, I am astounded by the reality of always being in relationship. Often, its immensity is beyond my grasp.”

    It seems… the more conscious of my environment I become, the more I encounter the environment’s already immense awareness of me. And sometimes, I feel such surprise. I looked up from washing dishes this morning to see a squirrel on the fencepost watching me as he chewed away at an acorn. I doubt this is new, but I am… involved. Engaged. I never thought I was observed. I just “served.” (a dream in my head) Consciousness is a very different than we imagine, but wow… who knew?

    Love this post. It’s such good company over morning coffee. 🙂


    1. Exactly, Meredith, “the environment’s already immense awareness of me” is an awareness ever present. As you say, you, me, and anyone are always observed. In those few moments that I am aware of being aware, relationship is seamless. Later, when I remember those moments, I wonder why we ever separate. Thanks so much for your words and for your moment, Meredith.


  2. I have resisted relationship (at least of the romantic sort) after being hurt. And this post reminds me that relationship is really such a beautiful place to be. Thank you for the wise words.


    1. In one of her workshops, Pema Chodron said we’re always in relationship even if it is only with the insect in the room. That really helped broaden my perspective regarding relationship. As you say, it really is such a beautiful place to be. Thanks, Kay!


  3. Another wonderful post, Karen and a lovely reminder about our hearts. As I read, I just kept thinking what a better place the world could be if we lived, and loved, like animals. I’ve always been amazed by the stories regarding elephants and their deep connection to family. I really needed to read this one today so thank you for sharing. The video was a bonus treat. 🙂 Best to you.


    1. Thanks, Stephanie! Your words are what I needed to read today: remember to live and love like animals. I found myself thinking of the elephants earlier today. Theirs is such an example.



  4. Elephants are astonishing creatures – not least because of their sense of family. I’m convinced they are self-aware, like we are. Twice, in South East Asia, I had the opportunity to ride them – a remarkable experience (not least because of the incredible slopes they can tackle). I felt it was not going to allow me to fall off – I was there by its permission. In some ways it was sad that these magnificent beasts had been turned into working animals by the Thais; but the ones I saw were well looked after, and had they not been under human care there is a high chance they would not have been alive at all. We can certainly learn from them, if we allow ourselves to do so.


    1. I, too, believe that elephants are self-aware and, I suspect, more aware than we are, at times. Their lot is a sad one, I agree, yet they live completely. Perhaps they are the greatest example of living in the moment as their numbers dwindle and their lives undergo incredible changes. Interesting that the elephant would not allow you to fall off. That supports everything I have read. Thanks, Matthew.


  5. Beautiful thoughts and writing as always, Karen! I, too, consider elephants exemplary in so many ways. And my foster elephant from Sheldrick’s Trust is one of my very favorite “possessions” (for lack of a better word). Such a remarkable organization.


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