Finding the Peace

A Lesson from the Pelicans

It has been a rough week with the terror of the Boston Marathon and watching the terror continue to play out over the days following. The whole event seemed to require me to go within and reevaluate life, which mostly brought up more questions such as what do we need to be doing differently in this country, and how do we maintain peace in spite of the chaos around us? For me, when pain is too great, I have to move above the scene and observe it more from a spiritual perspective.  Although, I doubt that any of us will be able to find any way to make peace with it, we do have to find ways to move through it and manage life again.

I awoke this a.m., slumbered out into the kitchen ready to turn the light on, when my attention was caught by the flock of large white pelicans on the lake by our beach.  As I stood still in the moment, I was awed by the beauty and splendor in front of me as the pelicans elegantly swam through the water.  They were working together to push the fish into the shallow of our beach.  And as if they knew I was there, after a few minutes, the flock ascended into the air as it congregated to a spot further from our beach.  I was awed by the birds’ huge wingspan and the elegance of their stature as they easily made their way, as a group, to gather their food at a different locale on the lake.

The sighting prompted me to revisit my Animal Speaksbook by Ted Andrews. Pelicans are known for their renewed buoyancy and unselfishness. Both of these messages seemed to be Sauvé for the soul in light of the heaviness of this week. Pelicans display buoyancy.  Despite the fact that pelicans are a massive bird, they are still able to rest on top of the lake – symbolizing that in spite of the heaviness of life circumstances, you can still pop back up to the top. This is just what we saw this week with the people of Boston, buoyancy. Pelican’s are thought to hold the knowledge of how to rise above life’s circumstances and trials. The sighting of these birds brought to mind how Bostonians lived this out for the world to see.   (Andrews, 1995)

Pelicans can have difficulty taking off from the water as well, which brings another message to us, as pelicans do take off from the water – – reminding us of the need to free oneself from that which weighs us down.  Water symbolizes emotions which can often weigh us down.  The Pelican reminds us not to let our emotions weigh us down but rather observe the feelings and then let them go, reminding us to not to let emotions overcome us. 

And lastly, Pelicans are unselfish.  They work as a group to drive the fish into the shallow areas.  They avoid nesting competition with their neighbors as they make room for more of their kind.  And so as I look at the message from our pelican friends I am reminded that we can be buoyant and rise above the trials helping to hold Bostonians as they work to find footing again and make their way through this time, especially those that have been most impacted by this destructive act. As humans, we can practice compassionate acts, live without destructiveness, be unselfish in our ways with each other, put the competitiveness away, and embrace each other. Practicing this in our own life has a ripple effect into the world.  It might seem small in the grand scheme of this week, but it is where each act starts, with our self – and then spreads out into the world.  So make a ripple in the water today – one that you want to send out into the world.

Works Cited

Andrews, T. (1995). Animal Speaks. St Paul: Llewellyn Publications.


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  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


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