When we sit with a chicken, pig, cow, horse, dog, or any other type of animal, it is a humbling experience.
Suddenly, we realize that we’re not all so different. Animals feel like we feel. They have empathy for each other and people. They unfortunately suffer too. The things we do to animals are unforgivable, yet animals can still be so trusting even after experiencing such misery.
Mindfulness is one thing they teach us. Mindfulness is being absolutely present and not worrying about the future or thinking about the past. When we are mindful, we let thoughts come and go like leaves floating in the wind. We don’t attach ourselves to them.
Animals are mindful, sentient beings. They know what it means to be present.
How to be Mindful with an Animal
Try this mindfulness meditation with your animal. Find a comfortable position in front of the animal. Make sure there is nothing to distract you from the animal, but if the animal itself distracts you, welcome it. Meditation with animals can be easily interrupted by them and that’s not a bad thing! Enjoy the moment with them.
Look them in their eyes and pet their fur or feathers. Focus on your breath and being present with them. Use your five senses to take in the moment—smell, touch, sight, sound, and maybe taste (though we don’t recommend licking your animal, even if you feel this might connect you to them).
What are they trying to tell you in this moment? How do they make you feel? Can you feel what they’re feeling? Notice their unique features—what makes them so special and different? If you want to hold them, this will show them affection and love so your messaging in the moment is that you’re right there with them. This connection will help you understand your animal and their needs.
Another step you can take is to imagine a white light entering you and your animal’s body. This white light is simply love and cleansing of all negative energy. Set the intention or mantra such as “I will be here now” for you and your animal. Tell them this mantra and repeat it. Imagine your animal and you are separate from the world, in your own space or sanctuary together. Make this your happy place. Put your hand on their beating heart and other hand on yours. See how your hearts are in sync. If you are present with them, they will sense your care and love.
Did you know that the hormone, oxytocin, is released when you connect with an animal? This is true because oxytocin releases when you feel love and safety. So your animal is probably feeling it too. It also releases serotonin and reduces cortisol, the stress hormone.
Animals help us to become curious about our surroundings. They are constantly checking everything out. I once heard a joke that an animal sniffing around is them checking their Facebook feed. It’s equivalent to us scrolling through social media and seeing what’s new. They love to watch new things and even like to see what we have been up to lately by sniffing us! They follow us around and wait for us to praise them and shower them with affection. They react to their environment. They teach us to live in wonder.
According to Carl Safina, “I’m always struck by how extremely alert they are and how well they sense what’s going on around them. They’re much more aware, compared to humans. Modern day humans go outside and don’t see, hear, or sense very well. Our senses have dulled over thousands of years of civilization and settled living. I think that an animal’s experience of life is much sharper and clearer. That’s why I use the term ‘vivid’.”
They know how to explore their environment and each other and even to be still and meditate on their own. They pay attention. They use instinct like we would use intuition. They focus on the opportunities around them rather than problems of the past or worries of the future. This groundedness is easy to replicate. Simply focus on your senses and nothing else.
Animals accept us and other animals with unconditional love. The most skittish animal can learn to forgive and love again, even if it’s a journey to get there. They never judge us for who we are or what we do. They know right away if we have good intentions or not. They know how much we love them. They can’t tell us, “I love you” but you just know. Their acceptance of things is how they become mindful.
However, sometimes, there are situations that shouldn’t be accepted. Factory farming is one of those situations. If this is the case, know that rescuing an animal and placing them in better care will lead to ultimate unconditional love and acceptance. They don’t know what we do when we leave them during the day, but they are always waiting for us to come back. If only we could be so present with each other and loving. They teach us what real love means.
They teach us self-compassion and self-love because they don’t have our inner critic. They’re not constantly worrying about their image. They know that they are enough. And we are enough for them just as we are. They look us in the eyes and ask us to save their lives, that’s their only worry—they want to live in love and peace. If in a safe environment, they are happy and super appreciative of everything we give them. If it’s the millionth time we pet them, they will still respond like it’s the first time. They look forward to seeing us and knowing they are loved!
Living in the Moment
Animals don’t tend to worry about tomorrow. They are in the moment, and they are completely aware of what is going on right in front of them. This is how we all should live. They know that they are being cared for when they are cared for and only get stressed if they are not. This is when animals experience the joy of simply “being.” They don’t worry about things we worry about. They know that today is all that matters. They know that there is nothing to be done except enjoy the moment. If only we looked at life this way.
This moment is where we need to be, but often we are somewhere else in our mind. There’s a popular meme of a dog and a man thinking. In the thought bubble, the man is thinking of his responsibilities and other things. The dog is just thinking about being with the man. This is an example of being mindful versus mind full.
If you ever just sit with an animal and take in your surroundings, breathing in the fresh air, you will see that they are already masters of everything we are trying to achieve which is true success.
We all can learn these skills from animals and become happier, mindful human beings by following their example and remembering their lives are valuable.