Anne Archer Butcher finds that, by going along with an inner nudge, she is given an unexpected and beautiful experience of an elephant’s love.
We were standing in the principal’s office – four teachers who all knew that one of us was about to be asked to volunteer. “So who’s it going to be?” the principal demanded. No extra pay and give up a Saturday. Not a great idea, I thought. He was asking for a volunteer to escort a small group of top students to a scholarship competition.
The test was over an hour’s drive away, on a Saturday just before summer vacation was due to begin. Nope, not me, I inwardly responded as I turned to step away.
Then I heard the still, quiet voice, more like a nudge than a direct inner guidance. But it was there.
Oh, no! I was being guided to volunteer? Give up a whole day off for students I worked with all week?
Actually, I felt as if I were being pushed from behind – shoved, ever so gently – by the Inner Master. Could such a moment be worthy of the attention of the Mahanta, my inner guide?
“I’ll do it,” I replied quietly.
In even the smallest things, as we learn to follow the lead of our inner guidance, we find the wisdom and gifts of the universe waiting for us.
The students and I had a bit of free time before testing was to begin, so we explored the school. I quietly pondered my options as we checked out the place. The students asked me what I would be doing all day. The school library and classrooms were locked up tightly. I had not brought a book to read. Yet I was asked not to leave the campus.
I started to express a regret – to say I wish I’d known and at least brought a book with me. Instead, I stopped myself and corrected my thoughts before they were expressed. I’d been talking with my students about the principle of expecting the best and selecting our thoughts wisely. This looked like a good time to make a conscious choice in the direction I was being guided – away from regret and toward trust and service, with a happy attitude. I told the students I was delighted at the prospect of a long walk.
As we waited for the testing to begin, we saw a vending machine outside the cafeteria and descended upon it. I decided to buy a snack to take on my walk. There was the usual assortment of candy, with only one healthy exception: in the bottom row of the machine, there were plain brown bags of peanuts in the shell.
After depositing my coins and grabbing up a large bag of peanuts, I giggled and shared with the students the whimsical thought that popped into my mind.
“Now if only I had an elephant to share all these peanuts,” I said, “life would be perfect!”
We all laughed.
I wished them well and watched as the students were ushered into the testing room.
Wandering outside into the fresh air and bright day, I took my treat to the back of the school. The widest pathway was off to the left.
As I turned to set off in that direction, my eyes grew wide in amazement.
There, not far from me, stood an elephant!
Looking all around, I saw no one else. This elephant could not be a school mascot, so why was it here? It was loose and just standing there. Someone responsible for this lovely animal had to be close by.
He was swaying gently under the trees, moving from foot to foot. As I looked at him, his trunk went up as if in a greeting.
I stood perfectly still for a moment or so, convincing myself this elephant was real. No reasonable explanations offered themselves. I looked in all directions; no one else was around. This elephant was just standing there, looking as if he were waiting for me.
Hadn’t I just asked for an elephant to share my peanuts?
Our task, at all times, is to do all we can to stay in tune with our inner guidance. Yet sometimes it is amazing where Divine Spirit may lead.
At this stage in my spiritual growth, I was asking god to help me learn the spiritual laws – how the inner and outer laws of the universe worked via inner guidance. One particular spiritual law I was learning in Eckankar was the Law of Cause and Effect – how we manifest what we focus our attention on, positively or negatively. But this seemed far too direct and immediate to be a lesson in cause and effect. I was beginning to wonder if Divine Spirit or the Inner Master had quiet a quirky sense of humor.
Yet the fact remained that I was standing on the grounds of this rural Indiana campus, with a bag of peanuts in my hand, right in front of an elephant.
When things occur that are quite out of the ordinary, there is always an important lesson. But what could be the lesson in stumbling upon an elephant on these school grounds?
Unversed in elephant etiquette, I very cautiously approached this enormous creature – a male elephant, an immense animal with feet the size of large buckets. Staying alert to any possible danger, I stepped a little closer.
The elephant stroked my face gently with his trunk. He was friendly!
I touched his body in response and felt his rough skin with its ridges and creases. He looked well cared-for and was in beautiful shape. He had clear, sparkling eyes and was grayish-black in colour with a light dusting of dirt all over.
Overjoyed by the potential lessons inherent in this unusual encounter, I could not wait to tell the students. I was learning to keep my heart and mind open, to expect the best. I was also learning that we are never alone, and I sensed that in this very moment, the elephant and I were being carefully watched over by the Divine.
Expect the best; get it, and then some! But was there even more going on that that, more than just learning about cause and effect and the spiritual laws that govern all life?
I knew I was being carefully guided at all times; inner guidance had become second nature to me by this point in my life. So I was listening attentively to all the possibly clues and inner messages that I knew were coming my way.
Yet, standing here with this elephant was outrageous. I imagined those in the heavenly worlds looking down at me with amusement, saying, “This will be fun to watch!”
It was a hot summer’s day. I became concerned that the elephant might actually be lost, thirsty, and hungry. How long had he been here?
I asked the elephant to wait right where he was while I located a drink of water for him. Inside the school janitor’s closet, I found a bucket. I rinsed it out, filled it with cool water, and headed back to the elephant. He drank with gusto. Then he looked at me, apparently asking for more. I repeated the process of fetching water, all the while congratulating myself. I had pleased the elephant and helped care for my new charge.
Then his trunk began to explore my pockets as if he were looking for something. Ah, the peanuts! I reached into the bag and too out a few. Now a new dilemma presented itself: How do you feed an elephant?
Holding the elephant’s trunk in one hand, I carefully pushed a peanut gently into the opening at the end. I repeated this procedure with several other peanuts. I thought the elephant would then place the peanuts in his mouth and chew them.
I stood there, smiling in anticipation of the elephant’s gratitude, but he was quick to let me know that my efforts at feeding him were misguided.
The elephant raised his trunk, pulled it back slightly, aimed at my face, and fired. A juicy peanut hit me on the forehead! My large friend was clearly offended by my ignorance of elephant peanut protocol. I’d received a quick lesson: do not stick peanuts up an elephant’s nose.
“You didn’t have to do that,” I chastised. “I was only trying to help.”
His trunk began to sway again around the pocket where the peanuts were stowed, so I bravely decided to try again. I took out the bag, opened it up, and offered all the contents to the elephant. He delicately took one peanut from the bag with his trunk, placed it in his mouth, and then reached for another. I began to offer the peanuts, one by one, on the open palm of my hand.
Ah, success! My elephant was happy once again.
Then I returned to the vending machine for several more bags of peanuts. I used up all my change buying lunch for the elephant and continued to feed him.
Next, I asked if he would like to join me for a walk. I turned to the path and set off into the woods. He seemed to understand me perfectly and began to saunter down the wide path, walking right beside me.
The elephant was about eight or nine feet tall at the shoulder. I was dwarfed next to him. For safety’s sake I leaned into him with my left shoulder as we moved along. He didn’t mind the contact, and as I grew more relaxed with the situation, I rested my left arm comfortably against his leg. He lumbered along, swaying from side to side as we continued down the path.
I was experiencing something else as well. It was quite a surprise to me. The elephant seemed to have a very big heart, and it was filled with love, which he was generously sharing with me. The love was so enormous, so all-encompassing, that I felt enveloped in it.
Everything about this adventure might have seemed fanciful, but I knew something much more was going on. I was being given a special gift of love – gentle, sweet, and huge all at the same time. I was brimming over with love and gratitude.
Suddenly, I felt strong inner guidance. I was being directed inwardly to speak to this elephant in pictures.
At first I wondered if this was just my imagination, but it seemed very clear. I had the sense that I should think in word pictures. I would imagine a picture and get another picture in return, and we two would communicate in quite an easy and natural way. It was extraordinarily effective.
I saw an inner image of a small circus tent. It wasn’t a picture of my own making, so I sensed the elephant was telling me this was his home. The circus tent was where he needed to go, but I could not leave the school until the testing was over.
For now, we would just enjoy our walk together. We moved slowly along the path, and the elephant put his trunk around the back of my shoulders. I felt that he was expressing affection as his trunk gently and repeatedly caressed my cheek and the back of my neck. I was being embraced – freely given an enormous gift of affection and sweetness. I smiled and laughed as we walked and talked, and I felt bathed in the affection of this awesome creature.
Grinning to myself while gently rubbing the elephant’s neck, I marvelled at the orchestration of the day’s far-fetched events.
It was as if my inner guidance had softly pushed me through an opening in life’s veil of illusion, and now suddenly the highly improbable was perfectly reasonable.
When it got close to the time the student’s testing session would end, the elephant and I ambled back to the school. I reluctantly left my friend on the path and asked him to please wait for me.
Soon I found the students, who began to tell me about the difficult test. I listened to them for only a moment. Bursting with excitement of my own, I asked them to come to the back of the school because I had something to show them – a surprise. As we passed the vending machine, I teased them by saying that indeed the peanuts in the machine were for an elephant.
The students let me know they were not that gullible.
They followed me outside, and I pointed immediately to my new companion. “Here he is,” I announced, and I stretched to give him a big hug.
The students frozen in their tracks. “Where did you get that elephant?” they demanded. “What’s going on here?”
Rolling with laughter, I managed to tell them it was just a mysterious blessing from the universe. I really had no concrete answers. Guidance had opened me up to this experience. It was wonderful, wacky, wild, and fun – yet inner guidance, pure and simple.
This big, friendly fellow liked seeing the students and waved his trunk gently to touch each one of them. They loved being acknowledged in this way. Leaving the students with the elephant, I drove in search of his circus family.
The closest town was miles down the road. As I approached, I spotted the iconic striped circus tent with Ferris wheel and roller coaster – a small carnival, recently assembled. I parked and went around to the back, where there were large trucks and people milling about.
An aging, silver-haired man approached me. I asked, “Is this circus missing an elephant?”
He practically jumped at me! “Do you have him? You know where he is? I’ve been worried sick!”
When I saw how upset the man was, I quickly reassured him. “Yes, I found the elephant at a high school several miles down the road. We spent the day together, “ I admitted, “and he’s with a group of my students now, having a good time.”
I learned what a fine gentleman my elephant friend was and how he had never disappeared before. I couldn’t help but be grateful that he had walked away from the circus this one time and visited me at the school.
The elephant greeted his owner with great affection. Their reunion was emotional. It was clear this elephant had been given a lot of love. And although we had enjoyed only a short time together, he had certainly shared his love, touching my life and uplifting it.
When I returned to my school on Monday morning, the students had already shared the elephant story far and wide. Smiles greeted me as I walked through the hallways. People were touched by the mystery of the experience, the serendipity of it, that magical quality we all want to uncover in our own lives.
And in my heart, I now held the great love of an elephant – love easily shared, mysteriously given, and gratefully received.
Divine Spirit works in seemingly mysterious ways, and there are endless little blessings all around. And sometimes there are really big ones too!
Later, as I reflected on the events of that day, I saw new meaning in how inner guidance works in all aspects of our lives at all times. Our job is to stay open, listen to event he subtle nudges, and follow the directions of our heart. I was learning and growing, grateful for the love and guidance in every moment.
Inner guidance brought me to this very small act of service, and through service, it also gave me a huge gift. I expanded in my understanding of love through this simple experience.
We are all here to grow in love. Opportunities to blossom are all around us. As we love, serve others, and expect the best in all things, every day, Divine Spirit guides us very precisely to our greatest good. A simple but extraordinary approach to life, it is available to us all.
The above article has been extracted with permission from Inner Guidance: Our Divine Birthright by Anne Archer Butcher.
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