In Honor of the Interspecies Bridge
"It is only with the heart that one
can see rightly;
Humans are embracing animals with love, respect, and curiosity today more than ever before in modern Western culture. More and more people are recognizing them as family, brethren, teachers, healers, and guides rather than considering animals to be nonsentient possessions, tools, trophies and consumable resources.
As we shift from being “pets” and “owners” to being animal “companions” and “guardians”, we’re living more closely with our animal friends. They’re joining us at work, cafes, parks, beaches and on vacation, so animal-friendly accommodations are multiplying. We’re sharing our healthy lifestyles with them, so natural products, services, publications and alternative health care for animals are fast entering the mainstream. Our heightened consciousness is making compassionate training methods the current standard, and bringing new breadth and success to animal advocacy of all types.
These changes are in many ways a return to our earliest, most natural mode of coexisting with the animals. In renewing our relations with our pawed, hoofed, feathered, scaled and finned fellow residents of Earth, we are reconnecting with ancient wisdom that is embedded in our individual and collective memories. Much as indigenous people have always done, we’re exploring the soul lives of animals and working with totem and power animals to deepen self-understanding and personal growth. Interspecies communication and after-life spirit contacts are becoming increasingly understood and popular practices.
Acknowledgment of the profound healing power of the human-animal bond has generated numerous animal-assisted therapies for terminally ill and autistic children, elderly shut-ins, at-risk youth, and battered women. Service animals allow disabled people to remain independent, search and rescue dogs perform heroic feats, and animals of all kinds have displayed an ability and willingness to protect human children from harm.
All animals are service animals, in one way or another. Their unconditional love and acceptance comfort us in ways that nothing else can. Wild animals stir cellular memories of freedom that we can barely glimpse in any other way, reminding us to breathe more deeply. Animals open our hearts, restore our self-esteem, encourage us to be the best we can be, and convince us life is good. People who have never known an open heart, sense of empathy, or spiritual inspiration find these gifts for the first time through the eyes of an animal. Those whose hearts have been shut down by trauma or abuse safely experience healing and renewed trust and hope in their presence.
What animal guardian has not been uplifted by the warm greeting of their animal at the door or consoled by them when they’re sad? Who has never been inspired by the sight of a wild animal reveling in nature? How many of us greet animals on the sidewalk before we greet the people who are with them? Whose childhood animal friend is ever forgotten?
As an animal communicator and therapist, I meet many animals and people seeking to enhance their mutual understanding and resolve problems for one another. In my work I am privileged to see miracles enacted daily. We may feel we choose our animal companions … yet in time we frequently find it is they who chose us. We may feel we are their caretakers.… yet eventually we often come to understand that they arrived in our lives precisely when we ourselves needed saving. We may feel we are teaching them how to live in our households … yet their life lessons generally prove to be much more important than ours (not to mention loftier).
I’ve met cats acting as muses for artists and assistants to healers, dogs persuading their people to leave bad relationships, and birds demonstrating how to release self-destructive behaviors. Animals with whom we have soul connections usually hold the blueprints for our life missions — just as whales and elephants are record keepers for Mother Earth — and they diligently nudge us back onto our paths when we go astray.
As we progress through our lives, animals come to us and also depart from us,
in concert with our needs and their purposes. If we pay attention, they guide us
through learning curves, comfort us when we’re down, and light the way for us when
we’re lost. Then when their work with us is done, they may move on. If we allow them
to, they offer us parting lessons on death and dying which can ease our other losses
and help us in our own final passage. They show us that the circle of life is unbroken,
and highlight the threads we need to see that truth.
Animals offer us group lessons, too. They are masters of judging character, letting go, releasing what is done, forgiving and forgetting, accepting change, living in the present moment, and remembering the importance of play. They shed accumulated stresses and traumas much more readily than we do, wholeheartedly embrace life, and exemplify living with integrity and joy. All of which is not to say that animals lead carefree lives and don’t need our help in kind.
Our domestic animals show us how to love unconditionally and mirror our imbalances to bring them into the light of our awareness. Some even absorb those imbalances in their efforts to help us. When our animals behave in inexplicable ways or suffer mysterious health challenges, sometimes they are trying to show us what we need to examine and heal within ourselves.
Wild animals transmute imbalanced Earth energies, help anchor energies in the wilderness, and serve as incarnate symbols of life’s greatest mysteries. When threatened with species extinction and shrinking habitats, they show understandable signs of desperation.
All animals expand our compassionate natures and act as messengers for the Divine. So, how can we return such magnanimous gifts to the beloved companion animals in our lives and the wild animals in our hearts? We can assist them with their emotional needs, conscious awareness and soul progression, just as they do for us. We can make amends for centuries of abuse and neglect and enter a new state of grace alongside the Animal Kingdom, if we choose wisely.
At home, we can start by creating a peaceful environment with our own peaceful minds and hearts; this is what best ensures the wellbeing and growth of awareness that our animal companions seek from us. Wholesome diets and good medicine, safety and protection, and daily affection and attention are minimum requirements. Time and time again, animals whose basic needs are met tell me that what they want most is for their people to be content. They hold visions of us entering zen states of feline reflection and canine aplomb by establishing harmonious habits of thought and deed. (I suspect that current trends touting meditation with our cats and yoga with our dogs were inspired by human-animal teams on a mission!)
With the wild animals we share birthrights to a healthy Earth, and we can honor their planetary work by living lightly on the globe and working for change that benefits everyone. Many of us feel the burden of past injustices and ecological problems that seem too huge to address, but there is much cause for hope. Recently, saving wild mustangs from slaughter brought activists, conservationists, spiritually-oriented people and the general public together in support and celebration of equine nobility and our national heritage. Finding common ground makes the world a safer and more harmonious place for all animals — including the human variety.
Out of unity arises true peace and joy. When we begin by communing with the animals we know and love, in time we find ourselves able and willing to seek greater understanding with others – other animals, other humans, other forms of life – and learn to understand ourselves better in the process.
Listening to the animals is simpler than we might think, and more rewarding than we might imagine. And it is in seeing through the animals’ hearts, and acting accordingly, that we can most truly honor them, heal our sacred bonds, and strengthen the interspecies bridge for us all.
published in The New Spirit magazine, February 2006