The Caring Heart

with Dr. Joyce

Spiritual Companionship With Animals

April 2014

"And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good."  Genesis 1:25
 
"Heaven is the final and complete resting place God has prepared for us – and if animals are necessary to make us happy in heaven you can be sure God will have them there."  - Rev. Billy Graham
 
There exists a widespread and profound schism in the relationship of humans to other animals.  Although there are (thank heavens) marvelous exceptions, most humans do not really know animals, and they have never known animals, and the animals do not know them either.  In the insightful words of DVM Michael J. Fox, Vice President of The Humane Society Of The United States, “Every day I see in one form or another animal abuse.  Because we have become so emotionally disconnected from animals, we treat them as though they are unfeeling machines and disposable commodities.  This reality reflects what seems to be a serious and growing human malady.  Our lack of respect for animals and nature reflects a deep spiritual disorder in our species.  I believe this is the primary cause of many physical and psychological diseases that afflict us today, and which no amount of animal experimentation will prevent.”  (McElroy, p. 10)
 
It is relatively easy for humans to be indifferent and outright mean to those they really do not know.  One concerned doctor wrote, “Now as a practicing physician, I continue to be puzzled by the resistance to compassion that I see so commonly in others and that I, too, experienced for so long.  Cruelty to animals is diagnosed as a psychiatric symptom predictive of antisocial personality, yet we fail to recognize the cruelties we perpetuate so casually in our own lives” (author unknown).  Most of us also fail to recognize that we do not know the animals, or that they are any real animal persons to know, and to actually have mutual, reciprocal, living interpersonal relationships with. 
 
Countless examples of superficial, task-oriented, care giving-only relationships abound between humans and many species.  Dogs tied up outside year after year.  Horse trainers and riding instructors who mechanically groom their horses, put the saddles on and off, make the horses perform well during lessons, or at shows, or whatever, and then put them away in their stalls, with never a glimmer that the horses are feeling, thinking persons and very relatable in a deep interpersonal way.  Whole lifetimes, human and animal, can be, and are often spent that way, like barren wildernesses. 
 
SPIRITUAL CONNECTEDNESS AND COMPANIONSHIP
 
Now, however, there are more and more people very interested in having authentic, vital relationships with the animals in their lives.  They are finding real soul mates in their dogs, cats, horses, birds, and other species.  They are learning that their animal friends repeatedly send them understandable messages about how they are feeling, what they want and need, what hurts them, what they don’t like, and how they feel about their humans, as well as other topics.  They learn the routines of their lives with us, and demonstrate an incredible amount of ongoing cooperativeness.  For example, I have been lunging my two horses over a hump in our front yard, to build strength in their hindquarters.  They seemed quite tired after a few sessions, and did not want to trot over the hump.  So, I ceased the activity for a couple of weeks, which allowed rest.  Yesterday, I tried lunging them over the hump again, and after walking over it quite a few times to warm up, both horses started spontaneously trotting over it, with no cue from me.  It was like they were communicating “We know what you want us to do, and we feel like we can do it now, so we will do it for you.”  I felt such connection with them, my heart warmed inside, and, of course they received immediate loves and treats!! 
 
Although I have had animals for years and I have learned a lot about their persons and how to relate genuinely to them, I feel I am still a mere beginner.  There are many people who are accomplished animal communicators, and who can offer us instruction so we can include the marvelous richness of close animal relationships in our lives.  First of all, we need to take the time to pay attention, to focus on our animal friends and their body positions and movements, their sounds, their eye expressions, their responses to all sorts of stimuli out there, and their efforts to engage our attention.  Then, we need to respond back to them, countless times, with touch and voices of gentleness, kindness, interest, and need fulfillment.  Our eye contact and facial expressions should be warm also, except maybe when having to express a firm “No” in correction.   Then, we need to especially remember episodes in which interactions have been meaningful and we have learned something more.
 
As we build upon experiences and our insights and skills grow, we find that our animal relationships seem to reach into the spiritual dimension, deeply satisfying and treasured.  A depth of awareness in us seems to “hook onto” a depth of awareness in them.  They can heal us and change our lives for the better.  I know I feel very flattered that my animals offer me endless unconditional love.  My horses are so careful to keep me safe when I ride or otherwise work with them.  Awesome!!  At those times, especially, I think that maybe this life makes sense after all!!  In an anxiety-ridden, conflict ridden world, they make greater peace possible.  “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living beings man himself will not find peace,” expressed Albert Schweitzer.  Another deep thinker, Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen expressed similar thoughts, “In a time of crises or self-doubt, should you need to know what the true value of your life is, to feel the unconditional love and support of the Creator, look into the eyes of an animal.  They have been put there, close to you, for you to see.”  My adorable terrier Lucy has given me marvelous comfort and love countless times, and I have given to her, too.  She sure is a soul mate, as are the others. 
 
To really know them, we need to approach them with empathy and receptiveness, which involve the ability to sense what another creature is feeling.  We need to realize that they feel like we do in so many ways.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama said, “Different forms of life in different aspects of existence make up the teeming denizens of this earth of ours…and all beings primarily seek peace, comfort, and security.  Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man.  Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not to die, so do other creatures.” 
 
In summary, I offer you observations by Margrit Coates, author of Horses Talking: How to Share Healing Messages With The Horses In Your Life.

When our voices, touch, and looks express the love for them that we boundlessly feel inside, they will get the message!  It may take some time, but they will send their love message back!
 
Copyright 2014 The Caring Heart 


Coates, Margrit.  Horses Talking: How to Share Healing Messages With The Horses In Your
Lives. Rider, London, 2005.
 
McElroy, Susan Chernak.  Animals As Teachers And Healers.  New Sage Press, Troutdale, OR., 1996.