“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Humans are embracing animals with love, respect, and curiosity
today more than ever before in modern Western culture. Rather
than as nonsentient possessions, tools, trophies and consumable
resources, more and more people are recognizing them as family,
brethren, teachers, healers, and guides.
As we shift from being “pets” and
“owners” to being animal “companions”
and “guardians”, we’re living more closely
with our animal friends. They’re joining us at work, cafés,
beaches and on vacation, so animal-friendly accommodations are
multiplying. We’re sharing our healthy lifestyles with
them, so natural products, services, publications and
alternative health care for animals are fast entering the mainstream.
Our heightened consciousness is making compassionate training
methods the current standard, and bringing new breadth and success
to animal advocacy of all types.
changes are in many ways a return to our earliest, most natural
mode of coexisting with the animals. In renewing our relations
with our pawed, hoofed, feathered, scaled and finned fellow
residents of Earth, we are reconnecting with ancient wisdom
that is embedded in our individual and collective memories.
Much as indigenous people have always done, we’re exploring
the soul lives of animals and working with totem and power animals
to deepen self-understanding and personal growth. Interspecies
communication and after-life spirit contacts are becoming increasingly
understood and popular practices.
Acknowledgment of the profound healing power
of the human-animal bond has generated numerous animal-assisted
therapies for terminally ill and autistic children, elderly
shut-ins, at-risk youth, and battered women. Service animals
allow disabled people to remain independent, search and rescue
dogs perform heroic feats, and animals of all kinds have displayed
an ability and willingness to protect human children from harm.
All animals are service animals, in one way or
another. Their unconditional love and acceptance comfort us
in ways that nothing else can. Wild animals stir cellular memories
of freedom that we can barely glimpse in any other way, reminding
us to breathe more deeply. Animals open our hearts, restore
our self-esteem, encourage us to be the best we can be, and
convince us life is good. People who have never known an open
heart, sense of empathy, or spiritual inspiration find these
gifts for the first time through the eyes of an animal. Those
whose hearts have been shut down by trauma or abuse safely experience
healing and renewed trust and hope in their presence.
What animal guardian has not been uplifted by
the warm greeting of their animal at the door or consoled by
them when they’re sad? Who has never been inspired by
the sight of a wild animal reveling in nature? How many of us
greet animals on the sidewalk before
we greet the people who are with them? Whose childhood animal
friend is ever forgotten?
As an animal communicator and therapist, I meet
many animals and people seeking to enhance their mutual understanding
and resolve problems for one another. In my work I am privileged
to see miracles enacted daily. We may feel we choose our animal
companions … yet in time we frequently find it is they
who chose us. We may feel we are their caretakers.…yet
eventually we often come to understand that they arrived in
our lives precisely when we ourselves needed saving. We may
feel we are teaching them how
to live in our households … yet their life lessons generally
prove to be much more important than ours (not to mention loftier).
I’ve met cats acting as muses for artists
and assistants to healers, dogs persuading their
people to leave bad relationships, and birds demonstrating how
to release self-destructive
behaviors. Animals with whom we have soul connections usually
hold the blueprints for our life missions – just as whales
and elephants are record keepers for Mother Earth – and
they diligently nudge us back onto our paths when we go astray.
As we progress through our lives, animals come
to us and also depart from us, in concert with our needs and
their purposes. If we pay attention, they guide us through learning
curves, comfort us when we’re down, and light the way
for us when we’re lost. Then
when their work with us is done, they may move on. If we allow
them to, they offer us parting lessons on death and dying which
can ease our other losses and help us in our own final passage.
They show us that the circle of life is unbroken, and highlight
threads we need to see that truth.
Animals offer us group lessons, too. They are
masters of judging character, letting go, releasing what is
done, forgiving and forgetting, accepting change, living in
the present moment, and remembering the importance of play.
They shed accumulated stresses and traumas much more readily
than we do, wholeheartedly embrace life, and exemplify living
with integrity and joy. All of which is not to say that animals
lead carefree lives and don’t need our help in kind.
domestic animals show us how to love unconditionally and mirror
our imbalances to
bring them into the light of our awareness. Some even absorb
those imbalances in their
efforts to help us. When our animals behave in inexplicable
ways or suffer mysterious health challenges, sometimes they
are trying to show us what we need to examine and heal within
Wild animals transmute imbalanced Earth energies,
help anchor energies in the wilderness,
and serve as incarnate symbols of life’s greatest mysteries.
When threatened with species extinction and shrinking habitats,
they show understandable signs of desperation.
All animals expand our compassionate natures
and act as messengers for the Divine. So, how can we return
such magnanimous gifts to the beloved companion animals in our
lives and the wild animals in our hearts? We can assist them
with their emotional needs,
conscious awareness and soul progression, just as they do for
us. We can make amends for centuries of abuse and neglect and
enter a new state of grace alongside the Animal Kingdom, if
we choose wisely.
At home, we can start by creating a peaceful
environment with our own peaceful minds and hearts; this is
what best ensures the wellbeing and growth of awareness that
our animal companions seek from us. Wholesome diets and good
medicine, safety and
protection, and daily affection and attention are minimum requirements.
Time and time again, animals whose basic needs are met tell
me that what they want most is for their people to be content.
They hold visions of us entering zen states of feline reflection
canine aplomb by establishing harmonious habits of thought and
deed. (I suspect that current trends touting meditation with
our cats and yoga with our dogs were inspired by human-animal
teams on a mission!)
With the wild animals we share birthrights to
a healthy Earth, and we can honor their planetary work by living
lightly on the globe and working for change that benefits everyone.
Many of us feel the burden of past injustices and ecological
that seem too huge to address, but there is much cause for hope.
Recently, saving wild
mustangs from slaughter brought activists, conservationists,
spiritually-oriented people and the general public together
in support and celebration of equine nobility and our national
heritage. Finding common ground makes the world a safer and
more harmonious place for all animals – including the
Out of unity arises true peace and joy. When
we begin by communing with the animals we know and love, in
time we find ourselves able and willing to seek greater understanding
with others — other animals, other humans, other forms
of life — and
learn to understand ourselves better in the process.
Listening to the animals is simpler than we might
think, and more rewarding than we might imagine. And it is in
seeing through the animals’ hearts, and acting accordingly,
that we can most truly honor them, heal our sacred bonds, and
strengthen the interspecies bridge for us all.