Can our relationships with animals provide spiritual teaching and healing?
We are here to love all creation
Judy Carman, a McLouth resident, is author of "Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken's Soul" (Lantern Books, 2003):
This question is both vital and profound. Its answer gets to the very core of the crisis of survival we now face as violence, disease, famine and ecological destruction continue to escalate. We long for spiritual healing, perhaps more than ever.
The root of our spiritual longing goes back centuries to a time when a world view emerged that claimed certain human beings were divinely ordained to dominate and exploit nature, animals and all people whom they considered "inferior."
Wars, human slavery, the ownership of women and children, the destruction of ecosystems and the massive suffering and killing of now more than 50 billion land animals and more than 100 billion sea animals each year has been the result of this world view.
While this unimaginable suffering is largely hidden from our sight, nevertheless our souls hear the cries. Our spirits sense the imbalance, the injustice, and long for a new harmony with all beings.
If we are to heal and grow spiritually, then we must transform this world view and the behaviors that feed it. God's message to us all is that we are here, not to destroy, but to love all creation.
Gandhi taught that "spiritual progress demands from us at a certain point that we stop killing our fellow living beings ..." He, along with Albert Schweitzer, Einstein, Tolstoy, Rachel Carson and many other great teachers warned that we cannot ever achieve an end to human war until we stop our war on animals. This is because the eating and exploitation of animals interferes with the expansion of compassion and love in the human heart.
A growing number of people are discovering the spiritual joy, not to mention improved health, that comes to them when they give up the eating and using of products made from animals. This gives me great hope for the future of all sacred life that we may one day heal our spirits and live together in peace.
Nurturing pets can ease stress
Charles Gruber, a Lawrence resident, is a student of Zen Buddhism, Sufism and Judaism:
To answer this question, I found a physician's quote on the subject and interviewed my four pets.
Dr. James O'Keefe Jr., short-haired cardiovascular consultant: "Nurturing another living creature brings us outside our own worries. Petting a dog or cat lowers blood pressure. Older people show improved overall health, self-esteem and mood, resulting in decreased health care utilization when caring for a dog or cat. Pets seem somehow to shelter their owners from stress-related illnesses like heart disease and hypertension. The blood levels of dangerous hormones like cortisol and epinephrine are much lower during stress when a pet dog or cat is by their owner's side, than when they are alone or even than when the person's spouse is next to him or her."
Charlie Cougar, 3-year-old, 25-pound domestic short-hair cat: "I pull my weight in my relationships with my humans. They feed me and care for my needs and I respond with a royal attitude. The connection I have with my humans, in which my kingly nature models the divine majesty, is indeed sacred."
Kalayna Marie, 3-year-old, 10-pound Chihuahua: "Whether my humans are sick or well, I like skin-to-skin contact. This models divine sharing. I am the most sharing Chihuahua in all of East Lawrence. Just ask my humans."
Itty Kitty, 5-year-old, 10-pound, silver domestic short-hair cat: "I am famous in my human family for my softness, inside and outside. I am soft to the touch and have a fond, gentle regard for my humans. This models the divine aspect of parental generosity."
Babe, 8-year-old, 85-pound, lab/Chow pound puppy: "My loyalty to my humans and my willingness to put up with their incessant need to rub my tummy models appreciation of all of creation."
Me? I just wish I was half as worthy as my pets think I am.
Send e-mail to Charles Gruber at firstname.lastname@example.org.