Dynamic Emergence: What I Learned From Sea Otters

The English word emerge comes from the Latin root emergere which means “to rise out or up, bring forth, bring to light.” This word carries implications of revelation, prior concealment, and significance, and points toward the growth and development of something new.

While watching wild sea otters in California’s Monterey Bay, I noticed some parallels between the animals’ behavior and my quest for re-birth. As the otters rose repeatedly out of rolling surf bringing forth their daily nourishment, they showed me that emergence can be a dynamic process with wide-ranging effects… and, of course, they made the whole process look fun and easy.

Have you ever watched an otter eat? Here is what I saw. When he emerges onto the water’s surface after diving for food, the otter’s whiskered nose breaks through the water first, the rest of his head follows, and then his belly and back flippers rise up to form a buoyant platform on which he supports his shellfish meal. He floats easily on his back, unperturbed by the ebbs and swells of ocean surf, while using rocks as tools to crack open the clams, crabs and mussels that sustain him. Water birds circle and float nearby, vying for leftovers. Upon finishing his meal, the otter dives again. He soon emerges in a different spot, with a different clam, and repeats the process.

The otter’s emergence makes me ponder my own: What am I rising from and toward? What tools am I gathering and how will they nourish me? Who will benefit from my efforts? And, how many times will I repeat the process?

What am I rising from and toward?
The otter rises from watery depths toward the air he needs to breathe. My quest for a personal renaissance is moves me from a perception of separateness toward a state of integration, unity and wholeness. It follows then that I am rising from a lower vibrational frequency to a higher vibrational frequency in my daily existence.

Holding this higher frequency adds a buoyancy to my being and helps me navigate the ebbs and swells of life in much the same way the sea otter floats on surf. The higher frequency also moves me toward a realization that the whole of my life is greater than the sum of its parts.* Awareness of the interconnectedness of all the seemingly separate aspects of my life brings an increased sense of clarity and ease to my existence. The power of these seemingly separate components, when considered together, is magnified. This intensity also contributes to the increased vibrational frequency of my being and sets the stage for the (multiple) ah-ha shifts that are needed in any transformational healing or re-birth.

What tools am I gathering?
Otters use tools (like rocks) to extract nourishment from the shellfish they bring forth from the sea. Similarly, I use tools (from coaching and other disciplines) to extract the richness and meaning from my life’s experiences. Each isolated event of my life does nothing by itself, but the combined information from all my life’s events plus the memories and meanings I assign to them, forms the fabric of my personality and character and feeds the intangible nature of my soul and spirit.

Exercises like journaling, constructing timelines, telling stories about life events and envisioning a magic wand that can be used to change them, are valuable tools for gaining new perspectives on the whole. By using appropriate tools for noticing the “more than” aspects of my life, I can glimpse my life’s overall significance, and begin to understand how the whole really is greater than I ever imagined. This allows me to grow beyond what I once was and emerge as my authentic self.

Who benefits?
A single otter’s emergence from the surf is significant beyond the immediate benefits to himself and the waterbirds who follow seeking leftovers: The otter’s activities are linked to the welfare of all the other species in the kelp forest ecosystem. Similarly, as I rise into a higher vibrational frequency, and emerge as my authentic self, the ripple effect of my efforts expands ever wider, affecting numerous others on the planet. Every individual thought and action makes a difference.

The otter rises to the surface of his watery environment effortlessly and with what appears to be great joy and vigor. Each often-repeated occasion for emergence in the otter’s day is significant because it represents an opportunity for obtaining nourishment. It’s how he sustains his life. And all the while, the otter makes his life look fun and easy.

The otter’s dynamic pattern of emergence is repeated until his ravenous appetite is satisfied. I have a similarly ravenous appetite for self-growth. Over the years, I developed an idea that there is one big re-birth event that I’m building toward. The otter showed me that my personal renaissance does not have to be a one-time life event. My emergence as my authentic self is a part of an ongoing process of obtaining nourishment for my soul. It is repeatable and dynamic.

This realization made my activities of inner work feel a whole lot more fun and easy: I don’t have to worry about “getting it right the first time” as I continue raising my vibrational frequency, gathering my tools, and nourishing my soul. I just have to emerge periodically, enjoy what I bring forth, and be willing to share. And that is how my emergence benefits others.

* Aristotle is credited with originating the concept of holism, by expanding on the idea that the whole could be greater than the sum of the parts. Today, in numerous fields of intellectual inquiry including biology, history, and complexity theory, emergence is said to occur whenever the whole is recognized as being greater than the sum of its parts.

About lanetherrell

Lane Therrell is a freelance writer, family nurse practitioner and holistic health coach dedicated to helping others achieve whole-person wellness. She has a background in agriculture and a passion for the great outdoors.
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5 Responses to Dynamic Emergence: What I Learned From Sea Otters

  1. Pingback: Emergence - Kaleidoscope of Creative Connections - Blog Roundup - Follow Your Light

  2. Lorraine says:

    I love how the simple observance of what is combined with curiosity leads to such incredible insights. Your three questions could easily be explored multiple times a years to reveal where we are in that moment, and hopefully see a progression from where we were at the last asking. I don’t think I’ll watch the birds in the backyard in the same way again.

    • lanetherrell says:

      Thank you for pointing out that these questions can be explored periodically. My own personal progress is definitely a non-linear spiral.

  3. This is so beautiful, Lane!

    I love the way you’ve woven the otter’s tale into one of self-discovery and healing. I’ve always found otters so enchanting 🙂

    One thing I also noticed is that emergence into the higher vibrations is what gives you the strength to make the forays into the lower vibrations where you find the gifts that bring nourishment… and the cycle continues. Each time you dive deep into the ocean (emotions) you discover new gifts.

    Big Love ❤

  4. lanetherrell says:

    Jenny, thank you for your kind words. When we’re in the act of diving deep, it can be difficult to remember the promise of emerging with new gifts. But, holding that promise close within our hearts can give us the strength we need to continue the journey.

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