“We all are so deeply interconnected; we have no option but to love all. Be kind and do good for any one and that will be reflected. The ripples of the kind heart are the highest blessings of the Universe.”
– Amit Ray, author and spiritual master
As an animal lover with a very soft heart, I sometimes feel the world is a very cruel place, especially for the innocents of the planet, like animals and children. As a Reiki teacher, I find meditating on the Reiki precept “be compassionate to yourself and others” helps me to be mindful in difficult moments.
When emotions run high, compassion can be an unlikely choice, as anger and worry come much more easily. I think it’s often much easier to be kind to the animals we love than we are to ourselves—if only we afforded ourselves the same kindnesses we offer them. In other times, it can become very difficult to get past our worry and anger over what has happened to the animal so that we can be full of compassion and kindness for them in the present moment.
I remember a dog that I volunteered with who had to be walked with a harness because someone had allowed her collar to grow into her neck. Although it had been surgically removed by the shelter veterinarian, the wound and stitches were fresh, and it caused me great angst to see them. By meditating on compassion as I walked her, by seeing the joy in her face at exploring the world through all the sights and smells on our walk, and by focusing my actions in kindness for her in this moment (letting go of what “was”), I was able to have a beautiful walk with her. I was so inspired by her sweetness and joy—in spite of her injuries. After the walk, she enjoyed lots of pets, eventually crawling into my lap and placing her neck right into my hands and then falling asleep. Sitting there with her in that peaceful moment, letting go of everything except “being” together with an open heart, was such a profound experience. As I left her, I knew we had both been healed by each other.
I was so inspired by her sweetness and joy—in spite of her injuries.
On the other hand, when we allow emotions to overwhelm us, it can be almost impossible to think, speak and act in the best ways to help the animal to move forward into healing. Had I spent the walk feeling angry at the person who had done this to her, or being worried about any lasting scars she would have (physical or mental), I would not have been able to enjoy even a moment of it, or to experience her kind nature and connect in such a place of peace. In fact I would have missed the healing potential of our time together!
Meditating on compassion can help us to stay mindful. When times get tough, we can remember to place the filter of compassion over every situation we encounter. We can practice filling each moment with kindness and love.
By practicing compassion in this way, we will be clearer in our thoughts, more balanced in our emotions, and wiser in our actions, for the good of animals. In addition, the animals we want to help will sense and feel our compassion, and this will deepen our bonds with them. The ripple effect of our compassionate thoughts, emotions and actions will create healing shifts—not only for us and for the animals, but also for everyone who crosses our path. Being able to leave a healing trace wherever we go is the ultimate blessing we can offer to our world!
What acts of service will you offer to animals today?
One cannot be humble and aware of oneself at the same time. —Madeleine L’Engle
Humility, as a human character trait, is a virtue sorely lacking in the modern world. If human beings learned to practice humility more often, it would heal and elevate the place of animals in the world. We would realize that animals are not just products for us to use as we wish. We would realize that we, too, are animals. We would awaken the joy of service, to be a steward—rather than a consumer—on the planet.
Meditating on the Reiki precept “be humble” is a wonderful way to let go of the ego and honor animals in a deeper spiritual way. When we learn to be humble and see animals as our teachers, we can soften the edges that separate us from other species and remember that we are all connected. Sometimes we think—well, I am the human and my animal can’t possibly understand things as deeply as I can. What I have learned over the years is that animals actually understand connectedness even more deeply than we do.
I remember sitting with my dog Dakota, while he was in hospice from lung cancer, and feeling all my sadness and grief overwhelming me. This was a problem that all my human reasoning, actions and money could not solve. The more upset I became, the more agitated he was. The only time he could relax in peace was when I would let go of all my worries and just meditate. Through meditation, I could remember that we would always be connected by our hearts, no matter what happened. To be humble in the face of death required surrender to the flow and wisdom of the universe, and this was something my dog could model for me.
Because dogs and cats still live in the original state of connectedness with Being, they can help us regain it. —Eckhart Tolle
By practicing humility, we can become more open to receive the wisdom of our animals. We can become better listeners and contemplators, able to discern the subtle aspects of right action. If we take time to meditate with our animals, learning to just “be” with them—then we can cultivate a heart-to-heart connection that will nurture a deeper awareness of the Oneness of the universe.
This might seem at first something very difficult to understand—and, yes, if we are trying to understand it intellectually then it might seem impossible to grasp. But we just need to drop our minds into our hearts and it all becomes very simple. Because our animals inspire us to open our hearts and LOVE to our fullest, they are the best partners to us to help us to explore the deep wisdom of Oneness of all things. The Oneness of the heart.
Humility is a simple practice that can heal ourselves, our animals and the world.
How has your animal been your teacher?
We all have bad days. Some of us have bad weeks or even months. Recently, I went through a tough period of time—twice—during treatments for breast cancer. One thing I’ve learned over the years is the importance of learning how to ground myself so I can stay strong, especially on my down days, the days I need it most. Here are three rock-solid techniques for staying grounded (even on your worst days):
1. Connect with nature. One of the best things you can do for your well-being every single day is to go outside. So … ditch the treadmill and make a point to connect with nature. Breathe in fresh air. Feel the sun on your skin. Take in the beauty of the natural environment all around you. Do some gardening if that’s your thing. This simple step (which also happens to be supported by science) instantly helps us to feel better and is known to lower stress, reduce depression and even boost your immune system. Sunshine, too, also has its share of health benefits, including a wonderful endorphin surge. If you’re like me and you love the sounds of water—crashing waves, trickling streams—it could be you’re feeling positive vibes from all the negative ions being released. (For more, read up on forest bathing.)
2. Meditate. I like to sit with my animals and meditate, but you can meditate any way you wish. It also doesn’t have to take a lot of time, though daily practice definitely provides positive effects on our bodies and minds. The best part is, according to various studies, meditation helps us manage anxiety, depression, stress and the like, all the while improving blood pressure, cellular health, our immune system and more. Next time you find yourself stressed, try these tips for achieving peace through meditation.
3. Work up a sweat. When you’re feeling down, finding the motivation to exercise can be really hard! But sometimes we just have to force ourselves. Find your motivation (perhaps cute new jogging sneakers or the excited tail wags of your pooch) and make it happen. Keep in mind exercise is most likely to happen if you’re doing something you enjoy. So take your dog for a walk, do some yoga poses, go jogging, join a Pilates class, ride your bike to the store or coach your kid’s softball team. Just get those endorphins flowing!
These techniques work great for me. But please share: What are your secrets for staying grounded when times get tough?