Humans and animals have a profound connection. One that can very often defy explanation. A few humans have tried to delve into that connection and have found a few key components that in large part make up this connection. In a book by veterinarian Vint Virga, called The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human, he shares the key truths he learned about animals, animal behavior, and what humans can learn from them.
Ten lessons animals offer us that we can apply to our lives right now:
1. Savor the moment - By their very nature, animals live in the here and now. When they encounter a crisis, they're in that moment. But as soon as the danger has passed, they go about being focused in the present. Living their lives the best way they can. "By taking our cue from animals and noticing more of each present moment, we can find a chance to more fully appreciate what is happening right now in our lives."
2. Heed your instincts - Being alert and attentive to their senses, animals respond to the cues the world is sending them. They behave accordingly and trust their instincts. They don't second-guess what they sense. "As we attend to our senses and acknowledge our instincts, we open ourselves to new choices and opportunities."
3. Keep focused on what's important - Ever have a dead when everything seems to go wrong, no matter what you do. But as soon as you get home from your trying day, your animal companion is there to greet you with "unfailing offers of love and affection." And if you're in a foul mood, they wait patiently off in the wings until the mood passes and you once again have a little time to spend with them. "And with their patient devotion, they serve as reminders of how much we value connecting with others and sharing our hearts."
4. Don't get bogged down with words - Humans have a tendency to talk too much. There's no question that words are important. And what you say matters...word matter. But there are many other ways to express your inner world. Animals don't use words yet humans know what they are trying to say. facial expressions, tone of voice, posture, even the scents your skin emit...they're all ways humans have of saying things. And what is more powerful than a hug? Dogs can wag their tail, cats purr. But only humans can give hugs,
5. Take time to rest - Critters have this down pat. They eat, play, and rest. While humans, on the other hand, have this need to keep going without ever stopping for a break or a little play. They get burnt out. While taking cues from critters, humans "can take quiet moments to rest for a bit and give ourselves time to relax and reflect."
6. Take time to play - Animals instinctively understand the need for play. "From Labradors to Bengals and timber wolves to leopards, the creatures around us routinely play to invent, discover, and bring joy to their day." And humans? You feel the pressure to constantly perform tasks...to get the job done, at whatever cost to your physical and mental well-being. Why not take a well-deserved break, or two, each day? These breaks not need to be long; a few minutes can do wonders for rejuvenating the body and the mind. Listen to a favorite song, read a paragraph from an uplifting book, step outside and breathe deeply, in and out a few times. Find a funny cat video to watch; anything that moves you away from chore to fun for a few minutes. Don't sweat the small stuff.
7. Don't take yourself so seriously - No one and nothing is less self-absorbed than an animal. They know they're perfectly fine even though they might be experiencing a "bad hair day" or simply acting silly by rolling around in catnip. They aren't the least bit concerned about what you or others might think. "Letting go of our inner critic and the judgments of others, we can more fully embrace those times we enjoy."
8. Let go of attachment to being right or wrong - "Evolution favors those creatures that focus on what matters most—finding food, remaining healthy, resting, breeding, and caring for young." When humans opt to defend their pride and sense of self-importance, they risk losing outcomes and results they want most. Letting go of attachment to being right or wrong frees you to align yourself with the things you value most.
9. Practice forgiveness - "While animals, certainly, suffer grief, misfortune, and misery, they move past them with greater poise than we humans often do. The continuity of their lives takes precedence over reliving the past." Learn to move pat your problems. Don't let these negative thoughts keep replaying in your mind. Let them go and live your life with grace and equanimity. And, lastly, (and always the best)
10. Love unconditionally - "In the silent presence of the creatures around us—all alone on the sofa with our dog by our side or cat resting cozily curled in our lap—we sense their regard for our thoughts and feelings, and we respond in kind without reserve. If we choose, we can do so, as well, with each other."
What can you learn about being a better human from the animals around you? Turns out, plenty! I sincerely hope that you've enjoyed this longish blog today. As for the length, I do apologize. But there are simply some subjects that are too important to gloss over. Please stop back by tomorrow for a blog that I think you'll find pretty interesting. Until then,