What a sad world we live in, where parental negligence and human error and misjudgment can result in the killing of an innocent.
I’m talking about Harambe, the majestic 17-year-old western lowland gorilla shot to death at the Cincinnati Zoo over the weekend after a child slipped into his enclosure. Many in the public are outraged, questioning whether his death was even warranted. But there’s actually a larger issue here, one that most people aren’t talking about, as so eloquently stated by Steven M. Wise of the New York Daily News:
“The major problem is that the Cincinnati Zoo is legally permitted to treat such extraordinarily cognitively complex and gentle animals as slaves in order to sell tickets to gawkers, and that Harambe, like every other nonhuman animal, was a legal ‘thing’ that lacked the capacity for any legal rights, even the fundamental rights to his life and liberty.”
“With love and patience, nothing is impossible.” –Daisaku Ikeda
The animals of the world face many challenges these days. As much as I try to keep my focus on the good things, sometimes I can’t help but feel angry and helpless to make a difference. In times like these, my Reiki meditation practice helps me to find my balance again. One meditation I like to do is to meditate on the Reiki precept, “do not anger.” As I meditate on this, allowing my thoughts to come and go, my mind eventually comes to rest on the healing power of patience. Patience is quiet and calm. Patience is accepting. Patience is a profound state of “being” in the world. In many ways, patience is the opposite of anger. If we can remember patience when we feel angry, perhaps we can find healing.
To empower patience, we must also love. Animals are wonderful teachers of this, as it is often our love for them that helps us to be patient through difficult times. When animals are facing illness or healing from past trauma or abuse, patience can also serve us well. It helps us to open our hearts and “be” in a loving space with them when they are sick or suffering. To be patient and loving with animals, we must let go of the anger we might feel at their situations or anger at ourselves that we can’t change the situations to be better. Shifting out of anger, we can bring ourselves back to patience, and empower the patience with love from our hearts. This will create a space of trust and connection with the animals we love. In this space, we can see miracles of healing happen!
The story of Shirley the elephant is a wonderful example of the power of patience and love to heal. As you know, elephants live very long lives. Captured as a baby in the wild, she performed in circuses for 24 years (being terribly wounded there by another elephant who crippled her back leg, and then losing part of her ear in a fire) and then lived in complete isolation at a zoo for another 22 years. (Elephants are social creatures, so this must have been so difficult.) In 1999, she was brought to The Elephant Sanctuary to live in peace and contentment—and immediately became matriarch of the other elephants. She is such a wise and gentle elephant. She never lost her love and patience, even through all those years. When she arrived, she was reunited with Jenny after 22 years of separation—Jenny already lived at the sanctuary when Shirley arrived, and she hadn’t seen Shirley since she was a baby! It was an amazing and emotional reunion you can watch in this video:
Her story touched me very deeply, inspiring me to travel there in 2002 to teach Carol Buckley and two other staff members Reiki 1. I hoped to support them in helping to heal the elephants in their care. Believing I was there to help the elephants, how surprising it was to find that Shirley actually helped me. Seeing her living peacefully and contentedly at the sanctuary was wonderful. Realizing how she made it through all her years of difficulty with such patience and love was a wonderful spiritual example for me to emulate.
If she can do it, I can do it!
Who are the animals in your life that teach you the power of patience and love?
Last week, the hashtag #SaveThePlanetIn4Words was trending on Twitter—and the Twitterverse came up with so many wonderful, insightful and often hilarious ideas! It got me thinking: What four words would I choose to save the planet? Here’s what I came up with:
It’s easy to get really down about the future of this planet when you read the news: polluted water, oceans and air. Genetically modified food. Animal testing. Lost biodiversity. Climate change. But then I see teens and kids already working passionately to make our planet a better place—and I see a ray of hope. Check out these amazing youth advocates, who have already dedicated a good portion of their young lives to educating others and enacting change:
1. As a child, Birke Baehr started reading food labels and researching the ingredients of everything his family was eating. “I discovered the dark side of the industrialized food system,” he said in his popular TEDx Talk at age 11 (he’s now 15), which covered the topics of factory farms, GMOs, pesticides and herbicides. He soon turned his passions for natural food into a website (www.birkeonthefarm.com), a children’s book, speaking appearances and a solid foundation for a future in organic farming. His tips for other kids (and adults): “Think local. Choose organic. Know your farmer. Know your food.”
Elephants are amazing, beautiful creatures. This is something I’ve always felt deep inside my heart, but I never truly understood it until I spent some time bringing animal Reiki to rescued circus elephants at a preserve. Wow! My life was forever changed, and I continue to be in awe of these magnificent pachyderms.
But the world’s elephants are in desperate need of saving. Despite the ban on international trade in ivory, a thriving black market worth an estimated $19 billion continues to exist. Here are seven startling facts about the ivory trade, along with some examples of what is being done right to help save the elephants:
1. Craigslist has become a safe haven of sorts for ivory products. A March 2015 report conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) found that a heart-stopping $15 million worth of ivory objects are sold on the site each year. Though Craigslist states online it does indeed “ban” the sale of ivory products, one wonders whether the site should do more to enforce it. Feel compelled to take action? The IFAW offers this convenient template so you can send a letter of concern directly to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster.
2. Slash (love him!) has entered the fray to help IFAW save the elephants from slaughter. He co-wrote a song and made a powerful video to educate people about the brutal realities of poaching. It’s a difficult but important video to watch, and I applaud Slash, a self-professed animal lover, for bringing attention to this important topic! Proceeds from the sale of this song are donated directly to IFAW.
3. The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposes President Obama’s proposed ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory in the U.S. As stated on the NRA’s website, “the effects of the ivory ban would be disastrous for American gun owners and sportsmen.” I guess I’m not surprised the NRA feels gun ornamentation is more important than animals’ lives.
5. New Jersey, New York and Vermont are among the states leading the way to prohibit interstate ivory sales. Click here for more details on citizen-driven grassroots efforts spurring various states to act. Make sure to scroll down to see National Geographic’s handy graphic showing just how well your state stacks up.
6. A powerful new documentary funded in part by Microsoft’s Paul Allen will highlight the poaching/trafficking crisis. Called “Ivory Rising,” the film will feature undercover footage, aim to educate viewers about how the ivory trade connects to terrorism, and hopefully help shut down the ivory trade and save African elephants from extinction.
7. Ninety-six elephants are killed by poachers every day in Africa. Take a moment to let that number sink in. Then visit the 96 Elephants website for info on how you can help stop it.
Please share your thoughts here about this important issue.