Who Blesses Whom?

YNYANG3Animals bless us by their presence in our lives. They are compassionate teachers, if sometimes full of mischief. Every being is traveling a path of unfoldment, and we get to witness animals’ unfolding as they help us with ours.

They remind us to honor the being, not the body or appearance. And they remind us to play and laugh—who hasn’t laughed when a dog does that play-bow invitation and looks up at you with a gleam in its eyes, or when a kitten tumbles over a ball of yarn?

My cat Paddy Paws taught me about compassion. Curling in my lap or nearby, purring her healing purr, she always knew when I was sad or upset and put aside her own pursuits to comfort me. As she grew old and frail, she invariably got me out of my gloom through concern for her.

A dog showed me absence of judgment and how to honor the being. Sina was very much a wild child a when we first adopted her. One afternoon I was trying to train her to walk nicely on a leash. We drew closer to a neighbor boy with multiple disabilities, and his caretaker. Not knowing what Sina dog would do around the wheel chair, I crossed to the other side of the street. The dog had other ideas. She dragged me back across the street to the boy’s side. When he saw her, he couldn’t speak but his hands flapped wildly. Sina laid her chin on his knee and looked up at him with her brown and blue eyes. He looked at her. His hand-flapping slowed, then stopped, and a huge grin spread across his face. When whatever it was had passed between them, Sina turned and resumed our walk. She had reached him in a nonverbal way, one being to another.

Another cat—the Tyson of my book—reminded me about integrity. Integrity is doing what you have committed to do, and doing it with your full self. When I was trying to exit my previous employment, one obstacle after another delayed my departure. I came home after a particularly trying day, plopped down on the floor in the dark living room and wailed, “I can’t do this anymore!” Tyson the cat looked at me, turned his back, and with a flip of his tail said: Of course you can. Pull yourself together. And so I did. I stayed on for another year and a half, finishing projects and preparing the agency for transition.

It was Tyson who first slipped through a crack in my defenses and planted an awareness of communicating with other species. A turkey vulture and a hawk showed me that each being has things that come easily, and others that take more work. A snapping turtle was the first animal in the wild who showed me she could understand when I communicated with her. She also reminded me that a turtle must stick its neck out to move forward.

Another dog, a remarkable Akita we named Buki, adopted us and showed me what it was like to be completely grounded, present, and comfortable in your own skin. She brought my attention to the cycles of nature, and how those flow through the cycles of a human life like the energies flow around the Medicine Wheel—from sprouting to growth to harvesting to resting and then starting all over again. And even she had teachers. She once told me: When the red-tail hawk calls, I go.

It was the animals, as well as my human teachers, who taught me to have confidence in my own intuition, my own internal compass. A lot of that story—which is an ongoing journey—is told in my book, Hand in Paw, a Journey of Trust and Discovery.

The core of the message, though, is that we are but one element in a web that encompasses all life. Every piece of that web has essence, and ebbs and flows in cycles. The cycles work together when we let them, and try their best when we interfere. Trees breathe, taking in carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen. We breathe in oxygen thanks to trees. An untended rose bush blooms because that’s what rose bushes do. Each part of nature has its own purpose, its own cycles, and follows those cycles whether or not people are watching.

Pause and observe what’s going on around you in nature and with the animals, and you’ll gain a sense of time and place. Where are you in your own cycles? What teachers are around who can demonstrate for you how to move from one cycle to the next? The animals in your life are there for a reason, as well as for their own growth. What is it you are to do together, and how can you help your companion animals grow into their full potential? These are thoughts for further contemplation.

Who blesses whom? We do it together. We acknowledge the animals’ gifts and recognize them as beings who also are on a journey. They bless us by their presence in our lives. For this I am grateful.

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"Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms." - George Eliot
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." - Gandhi
"There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings – we all feel pain, we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and live freely, and we all share this planet together." - attributed to Gandhi
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