Animals will lead you to your spirituality, if you only listen to them.
Animals have become a large part of our lives. At least 65 percent of American households have a pet. Of those nearly 80 million households, 63 percent of them consider their pets to be part of the family. Animals have come a long way from being considered strictly property and only kept if they performed a function.
Today, many pets do have a job within the household as therapy animals. They might assist a member of the household, physically or emotionally, or they might work with their owners to provide comfort to other people. Dogs originally worked with humans to hunt and scavenge for food and now do even more work with humans as police, search and rescue, or scent dogs. However, their main job seems to be providing love, support, and companionship to their human partners. Obvious, right? Isn’t that the definition of a pet?
However, I believe that if we pay attention to them, their true gift is showing us how to be more spiritual.
When I started my spiritual journey, my main practice for attempting to connect was through meditation. Actually, it is still the foundation of my spiritual practice. However, when I first started, I had difficulty calming my mind and just being present in the moment. All the petty frustrations and anger of the day constantly intruded. When I did achieve calm during meditation, it did not last past the end of the meditation.
I made a breakthrough when my dog started meditating with me. I began meditating outside, to the sound of the running fountain, the thrum of hummingbirds visiting the feeder, and my dog snuggled warmly against my leg. This combination of nature and animals allowed me to easily slip into the peace of meditation and make that spiritual connection I was searching for. Of course, when winter rolled around, I figured I was doomed. I was never so happy to be wrong. My dog continued to meditate with me every day, and I had the same success.
I wanted to understand how his presence could make such a difference for me. What I came to understand was that for someone like myself who is already attuned to animals and nature, three basic traits of animals helped lead me to the spiritual connection I was needing.
Live in the now
Animals live in the now. They don’t need to learn mindfulness because it is a natural state for them, unlike people who struggle to maintain this cornerstone of spiritual connection. You have to be present with what you are doing to have any hope of connecting with the Universe. If you are worried about work or making to-do lists while meditating you are not going to find peace.
My dog has shown me that time and time again. He lives in the now. He doesn’t worry that I got home late from work or that I gave him a bath yesterday. He is just focused on welcoming me home or playing with me right then or on snuggling in my lap.
There is a reason that allowing pets at work is a recommended way to keep employees engaged. Not only do they improve mood and encourage fellow employees to converse, they help employees stay in the present. Whenever I find myself unable to focus on my current task, I channel my dog. I remember his focus on chasing the ball. When he is meditating with me, I feel his focus on being in that moment with me.
Exhibit Unconditional Love
Cats and dogs love us no matter what. That is a powerful message. Connecting with Spirit is about loving yourself and the world around you. Forgiving mistakes and still loving is one of the lessons we all need to learn as humans. Our pets have mastered this skill.
Dogs’ capacities to love you and other species of animals seems boundless. Science has proven that dogs do understand our emotions. They have discovered a region of the dog’s brain that allows them to recognize the emotions in our voice which is analogous to the same region in the human brain. Other studies have proven that dogs recognize emotions from humans or other animals facial expressions. So, they do understand what we are feeling. It is not our imagination, and they still love us.
When I am angry or frustrated at the world (or specific things in the world, or myself), I am not connected spiritually. If I have problems letting go of those feelings and they are keeping me stuck, I focus my attention on my dog. He reminds me to concentrate on love. When I hone in on loving him, myself, and all the people and pets around me, I forget the negative feelings. Then I can work on my connection to the Universe.
Find the Wonder
Animals provide wonder to anyone looking. When we get so wrapped up in our problems that we can’t see the beauty of the universe, our pets and wild animals can bring our focus back to the simple pleasures. Watch your cat fall in love with the box, not the toy. Try to catch a glimpse of the hummingbird as it flies by, leaving just the sound of wings. Be amazed at the squirrel fearlessly jumping from branch to branch.
Animals remind us that there are wonders that we can never duplicate, and we don’t need to, because the universe already has. When you have problems finding joy in the world, and cannot find that still place inside you to connect, contemplate the focus and joy of an animal at work or play.
Not everyone finds the wonders of the universe exhibited in animals. They are more connected to people or science. However, animals, and especially our pets, can teach us about mindfulness, love, and the wonder of the physical world. If you are having problems connecting spiritually, whatever your method, turn your attention to animals to gain insight.