Live like Dolphins
Anne Gordon de Barrigon often finds it easier to get along with animals than people. She grew up watching whales swimming by her childhood home on the beach at Olympia, Washington. Her fondest memories are weekends spent on the family boat out in nature.
So it was only natural that Anne would study Zoology at college and become a keeper at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, in charge of popular attractions like sea lions, big cats and giraffes. Next was a quick stint working for a company teaching people how to train wild animals until she learned enough to go it alone.
For the next five years, Anne raised her own animals including tigers, lions, wolves, racoons on twenty acres just outside Seattle, taking them to school assemblies to educate children.
By now a talented animal whisperer, Anne realized there was no one in the Pacific North West providing animals for movies and TV. “It was WC Fields who said ‘don’t work with animals or children’. That was because he had an ego and the kids and the animals would always steal the scene from the actor”, explains Anne, adding that when a professional animal trainer knows what they’re doing, the animal is always going to be much more reliable than the actor!
Anne loved her job on movie sets so much she built a successful business that lasted eighteen years, training the animals on hit shows like Northern Exposure (including the moose!), Homeward Bound and training the dogs in the movie that launched Brad Pitt, Legends of the Fall. She would get the script, select the animals and then spend months training before filming.
Anne’s success came down to applying the skills she used for training animals, to humans. “With the animals, you learn everything you need to know by watching them, how they move, how they respond. It was the same with humans: I’d watch everyone first on set, learning about their drives and their egos. From that, I knew how to motivate everyone and disarm them so we could get along”.
A perfect life in so many ways, but she had zero life balance. It was all work, work work. “I was always the busiest and dirtiest person on the set”, she muses when asked if there was time for a life partner in all this. “And to be a successful animal trainer you have to be in control at all times and that can be intimidating for a partner”.
Anne realized that she needed to make some changes or burn out. It was 1999, she was forty-two. She felt the call of spirituality and she felt the call of the oceans. She started searching for wild dolphin swims on the internet, still in its infancy, and that was the first time she discovered WildQuest. She put it on her bucket list.
In the meantime, she satisfied her craving for wild ocean adventures by taking a whale-watching tour where she was lucky enough to witness a superpod of Orcas. “It was like watching a massive family reunion and I loved every second of it”. It just left her wanting more, so she sold her animal movie business and decided to go freelance to free up time for a new kind of life.
Isn’t it amazing how when you let go of something, the next bit of magic has space to land. Anne got a call for a movie job in Panama, starring the local tribe of indigenous people living in a remote part of the rainforest. “I was so touched by how warm, friendly and happy these people were”, she remembers. “I love how family and community for them is number one, and it so reminded me of how the dolphins are”.
She completely fell in love with the indigenous peoples. Literally. She ended up marrying one. “We didn’t speak each other’s language”, she reminisces when asked about meeting her husband Otniel, “But I fell in love with the light in his eyes, his true heart and the soul connection I know we share”.
The stuff of movies indeed! Anne moved to Panama a few months later to be with him. She’s been there ever since, living with her husband, a member of the Embera tribe. The villagers have no electricity, no internet or cell phone. But they have a whole lot of love and a community spirit Anne adores.
Anne has been instrumental in organizing tours to the village, which allows them to stay on the land and keep their traditions, culture and language alive. Instilled with such a strong sense of pride in their roots, very few have been tempted by the lures of the city, preferring the simple life of connectivity and communion.
So here Anne was, living in a country sandwiched between two massive oceans, the Caribbean to the North and Pacific to the South. The only place in the world where Humpback whales pass by, from both the northern AND southern hemispheres. The Southern Humpback migration happens July-October with over 2,000 whales who come to Panama to breed and give birth. The Northern Humpbacks arrive December-March. With that kind of beauty in your new backyard, what do you do? Anne basically pioneered a whole new industry, organizing whale watching tours.
Because she loved all things cetacean, Anne took a year and a half-long course at ‘dolphin school’ with Linda Shay, where she learned all about dolphins, their abilities to heal and their spiritual significance.
Then at last in 2007 she ticked off the WildQuest bucket list wish and went on a retreat hosted by facilitator Megan Leopold. They had a fabulous time and Anne got hooked on the healing power of her new-found dolphin friends.
So, when the chance came to run her own retreat at WildQuest, Anne jumped at it. “The dolphins at WildQuest have been swimming with people for many years so that connectivity is established. Also, the visibility is pretty much the best in the world to for swimming with them in the wild,” Anne offers.
Her retreat, Living the Dolphin Way, June 3 – 9th 2018 is designed to teach humans to live like dolphins. “We can learn to surf through our challenges with joy, to play and really learn how to go with the flow”, Anne explains. Her focus is to live in true unity and community, just like the dolphins do. The week is packed full of guided meditations, channelling group energy sessions, healing messages and insights from the dolphins. Anne also offers informal teachings while you’re out on the open ocean on the boat and how to apply those lessons in daily life.
Book your spot with the extraordinary Anne Gordon de Barrigon and dolphins in the wild.