“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?
I can’t believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner! This day truly is one of my favorite holidays, even though I gave up eating meat decades ago. That’s because Thanksgiving really isn’t about a specific menu; the day represents enjoying the company of friends, family and loved ones. But how can we celebrate animals next week when we are surrounded by well-intentioned meat-eaters? Here are a few tips to help you not just survive the day, but even enjoy it (and make it as animal-friendly as possible):
1. Show off your bounty. If you are the one hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, lucky you! Move over, Tofurkey: There are so many wonderful options for a Thanksgiving feast, how does one choose? This article rounds up awesome recipes, such as Squash and Apple Puree (which looks delish!) and Whole Roasted Cauliflower With Chimichurri and Almonds. Oh She Glows, one of my favorite sites, shares a whole host of inspiring dishes, including Crispy Smashed Potatoes With Avocado Garlic Aioli and Gooey Pumpkin Spice Latte Pudding Cake. And don’t miss One Green Planet’s “25 Soups, Salads and Starters for Your Vegan Thanksgiving.” (The Buffalo Sweet Potato Stuffed Mushrooms look amazing!) Of course, if cooking’s not your thing, consider catering a few courses from Whole Foods or your local vegetarian restaurant. I promise you: No one is even going to miss the meat.
Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. – John Chardin
It’s not always easy to be patient. Who among us wants to wait in a long line or sit in a mess of traffic? Or perhaps we’re on a diet, and we see two options: feeling fit in the future, or eating the piece of chocolate cake right now. In this scenario, it’s really hard to turn down the immediate reward, the chocolate cake, especially if it’s sitting right in front of us. But we all know intellectually that good things come to those who wait—an ideal that is even supported by research.
The same holds true when we spend time with animals who are struggling with health issues. Sometimes when we approach to connect and support a dog or cat, we come on way too strong and scare them away. Or perhaps while sharing a Reiki treatment, we feel compelled to hold our hands on their bodies, focusing on areas of discomfort. Humans love a “quick fix.”
Of course, when we do such things, we fail miserably. Focusing on what’s “wrong” only creates a negative feeling in our energy that animals will shy away from. Trying to “fix” often creates an energy of rushing and pushing that makes animals disconnect. Putting our hands on top of areas that are sensitive can make animals run away. Although we may mean well, if we approach our ailing animals without patience, we will only create obstacles to healing.
There is so much we can learn about healing from animals, who are so much more in tune with the healing that naturally manifests when we get in touch with our inner space of peace and compassion. Everyone’s journey to healing looks different, and when we cultivate patience, we will see this very clearly. We just need to relax, get back in touch with our inner still point and remember that each of us has an amazing capacity to self-heal! Meditation can help us to uncover our inner self-healing power.
So what happens when we throw away our desire for “the instant fix” and instead just sit silently and meditate without expectation with our animals?
A few amazing results begin to unfold:
We start to notice and observe behaviors of the animal we may not have noticed before. We might notice health issues in the early stages when they are much easier to resolve—perhaps our cat isn’t eating the way he usually does or maybe our horse seems out of sorts emotionally. This is a time to stop, relax, breathe and share Reiki with them. We might also become familiar with the complex social system between animals—such as our horse’s herd or our dog’s pack. Noticing little changes in this social structure can indicate something is “off” and needs support way before most people would become aware that anything has changed.
In addition to what we sense with our animals, being patient and quiet helps us begin to notice our “monkey mind,” as Buddhists like to call it, and how busy it is. It’s not so easy just to sit and breathe, is it? The busyness of our minds is simply a distraction from being here, right now in this present moment, for our animals. Reiki meditation can help us to come back to the now, and focus and quiet the mind. And in so doing, we are also developing our patience.
When we are patient, we will begin to see our animals coming forward to connect with us to relax and heal. Because we waited, instead of rushing in, they are able to wait until they are truly ready to connect with us in a beautiful space of peace and compassion. It is so amazing to experience when animals make this conscious choice to come forward and connect, especially when it happens with a fearful animal that normally may not trust humans. If we are always “doing” this or that to fix animals, we never get the opportunity to see an animal take the lead in her own healing. Patience also means we have to let go of our own timeline for “fixing” issues and allow animals time to process healing in their own way.
Are you ready to achieve a higher level of patience? In addition to meditating on a regular basis, try these tricks.
How has patience strengthened your connection to animals?
Forbes recently did an article on the seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude—among them, feeling healthier, a boost in self-esteem and sleeping better. I know for myself, I’ve tried to live more mindfully and cultivate more gratitude in my life ever since fighting breast cancer, twice. But because living mindfully and embracing gratitude into our everyday lives doesn’t always happen seamlessly, here are six tips that really work for me:
1. Set your intention—choose gratitude. Because we have good days and not-so-good days, gratitude must be a choice. Make a point daily to acknowledge all that you are grateful for. Focus on the things you do have and that are going right. There is always something, even if it’s small. When the hard times come (and they will), this important life skill can help you cope.
2. Watch this TED Talk on nature’s boundless beauty and the importance of being grateful every day. This wonderful lecture, featuring cinematographer Louie Schwartzberg’s beautiful images and wise words, is absolutely inspiring and riveting. I especially love this part, where the narrator says: “You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day; it’s the one day that is given to you, today. It’s given to you; it’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness.”
3. Remember and hold close your favorite heartful quotes on gratitude. Here are a few of mine:
“Joy is the simplest form of gratitude.” –Karl Barth
“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” –Aesop
“Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” –Epicurus
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” –Alphonse Karr, A Tour Round My Garden
4. Help animals. Volunteering at a rescue will always help to inspire gratitude. First, it redirects your focus from “me” toward a sentient being in need of love and care. Second, spending time with gentle creatures naturally just opens your heart, which will help you to see things in a more positive light. And third, helping an animal that is sick, neglected or homeless can remind you to feel grateful for the basics we often take for granted: food, shelter, our health.
5. Start a gratitude journal. Or, if you already have one, commit to writing in it regularly. Your gratitude journal then becomes a lifeline you can cling to again and again when you need to remember all the abundances in your life you may otherwise have forgotten.
6. Practice patience. Yes, it’s annoying that you’re running late and the woman in front of you in line at the market has 20 coupons and is writing a check (if only she could find her checkbook). Or perhaps it’s a person driving too slow in front of you. Identify your hot buttons and next time, instead of reacting impatiently (or steaming on the inside), be mindful. Breathe, step back and use those precious extra moments to see the big picture. Count your blessings and revel in the beautiful gift that is right now.