I’ve said before that animals are our greatest teachers. My beloved dog Dakota was my first animal Reiki teacher. And the animals I’ve worked with over the years have taught me so much about compassion and even guidance on meditation. But the other day, as I caught sight of my dog Mystic napping contentedly in her little dog bed, I realized the animals teach us other important lessons, too. Do any of these spiritual lessons from animals sound familiar to you?
1. Unconditional love. Mystic loves me when I’m in my PJs, grumpy, sick and even if the house is messy. No matter what mood I’m in, she’s there for me without judgement. It’s definitely a perk when you share your life with a dog, isn’t it? You can just be yourself. And it’s always been the same for the other dogs I’ve shared my life with, too (and also the cats!). Even my horses love and accept me for who I am. They don’t tell me, “Be different. Change who you are.” The wisdom of animals in rising above and embracing their humans (warts and all) is something for me to remember, learn and carry over into my life and those I share it with.
2. Live for this moment, right now. This piece of spiritual wisdom reminds me of the Reiki precept, “For today only, do not worry.” This ideal can be very hard to hold onto and embrace when times are tough, when things don’t go our way, when those we love suffer from disease and other hardships. Life can feel so bleak sometimes. But then I sit with my animals, or take them out for a walk and witness a spark of pure joy in this moment—a moment without worry for the future or sadness or regret about yesterday. What a wonderful space to be in: to be truly present. Almost on a daily basis, I thank the animals for reminding me and bringing me back to this place right now, even when on the hardest days it feels virtually impossible.
3. Live simply. Recently, I talked to you about the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and how it truly is changing my perspective of “things” and the role material objects play in my life. And when we take a moment to watch the animals around us, either those by our side or in nature, we see that they are content to have full bellies, a warm bed, a little exercise and sunshine, and loving connections with their inner circle. In other words, they are happy to live a minimalistic life. How wonderful to not be burdened by status symbols—who has the nicest house, the most expensive car, the trendiest clothes, the “right” shoes, the “right” friends and on and on. Our modern lives offer so many technological advances and conveniences, but at the cost of distancing us from the natural world and distracting us from the things that matter most: love, kindness, gratitude, compassion, peace.
4. Play more. Sometimes on our walks, Mystic will chase a butterfly or other creature and jump around and play in a few moments of delighted elation. And sometimes I catch my horses galloping playfully in their pasture. It always brings a smile to my face! But then it reminds me, when was the last time I ran through raindrops or the waves giggling, skipped down the sidewalk next to my 8-year-old daughter, or laughed so hard I doubled over crying? Not often enough. We tend to lose touch with our playful side as we grow up into busy adults, don’t we? The animals around me remind me it’s OK to loosen up, have some fun—and science even tells us that laughing is good for us.
5. Know when to rest. Again, my dogs and cats have taught me another spiritual lesson over the years: know when to slow down and rest. (Cats, especially, have no trouble sprawling out anywhere—and in random places and all the time!) So many of us just work, work, work. I know for me, running a business and as its sole employee, it’s very hard to take a break. But resting is so renewing for the body and soul. Next time I see Mystic curl up in her bed in the sunshine and let out a huge yawn and sigh, I’ll take it as a sign that I, too, should pencil in an hour for myself to unplug, close my eyes and just breathe.
What spiritual lessons have you learned from animals?