A while back, I was hiking with my dogs when they both simultaneously dove their faces into a bush on the side of the trail. They were a few yards ahead of me, tails wagging with enthusiasm as they looked to satisfy their curiosity. As I approached I shouted, “Leave it,” a command that normally gets them to back away instantly, even from super tempting treats. But they stayed put, sniffing away.
Thinking it was a rabbit or other furry critter that had scurried under the bush, I walked up and pulled both dogs away by their collars. Peeking into the bush to see what was so interesting, I was shocked to see a nervous, coiled rattlesnake staring back at me piercingly. It was seriously annoyed. It rattled as if to make sure I knew it was not happy and wasn’t afraid to strike, but for some reason it didn’t.
I stood there, listening to its rattle, both stunned and fascinated that it had resisted the urge to bite one of the dogs that had been inches from its face. It was a major close call. The snake held its gaze for a few moments, and then calmly took the opportunity to slip away. It must have been aggravated, scared, and unsure of what might occur. Yet, somehow it remained composed and discerning. Had the snake been hastier in those moments, it would have been a very bad day for all involved.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it! Why on earth didn’t the snake strike? I called my brother, who happens to be a well-known expert on reptiles. I told him what happened and that I was mystified by the fact that both dogs, who were in the snake’s face for several long seconds, had escaped unscathed. He explained that a rattlesnake is inclined to hold on to its venom until it is absolutely positive there is no other choice but to use it. This conserves precious energy and resources the snake may need to catch prey. So, the rattlesnake remains calm and aware, observing the situation and following its instinct, being exceptionally careful not to allow fear, anger, or assumptions to take over. In this case, no one was hurt and the snake was able to go find his next meal.
I was fascinated. It makes such perfect sense. I thought, what if we applied this mindful logic when presented with important decisions or facing a conflict? What if we could by instinct remain calm, rational, and hold off on making a move until we’re able to truly understand all sides of a situation, and then take the time to move forward with the best possible solution? Could thinking like a rattlesnake help us more carefully consider consequences and make better choices that are in line with our best interest?
A great example of where this would apply is when we’re tempted to lash out and say or do something we don’t mean (and regret soon after). When this happens, we miss out on creating love, progress, and solutions through peaceful and more productive means. Words and actions brought on by misunderstandings, judgment, and anger are venomous to our life and our relationships. It all leads to emotional pain and damage that could be avoided with a more objective, thoughtful approach to challenging situations.
The place to begin creating a shift is by truly knowing and being honest with yourself. Learn to recognize, understand, and acknowledge the emotional triggers that make you feel angry, pressured, or fearful when faced with a challenge or decision. Once you’re raw and honest with yourself about these triggers, you can then work to teach yourself to stay calm, objective, and peaceful as you move forward.
For me, another area where I know I’ll be keeping this approach in mind when it comes to taking on new projects. I can remember a time when I would jump on most any interesting project that came my way without examining whether it was right for me or would add too much to my plate. Taking the time to assess each new situation and make an educated, conscious decision will honor my time and creative energy.
Where in your life can you be more like the rattlesnake? Making small shifts based in this idea can create positive change and make a great difference for you and the people in your life. It’s about being true to yourself, keeping your cool, and owning your power. It’s about pausing mindfully before moving forward with purpose. And, in the end, it’s about making love-based choices that use your energy wisely and empower your life.