Walk a Mile in Another’s Paws

Posted by Eliza, November 8th, 2012

Like many, I’m sometimes deeply puzzled by the behavior of my fellow creatures – how about that texting while jay walking, for example? And humbled, because I’m not always paying attention, either. When we give care- medical, emotional, or spiritual, we do our best to walk with others. Like you, I’m often awed to the point of tears by the resilience, the bravery, and the kindness of my fellow beings. It’s helpful to be reminded of our responsibility to open our eyes and hearts and minds in this work – and our imaginations.

I got my booster lesson recently, the Universe clearly saying you can never know too much about empathy. I was visiting a client with two lovely African Greys. It was my first visit, and they were understandable nervous, so I gave them space and tried moving deliberately. I sat on a couch on the other side of the room, talking to them. After a while I got chilly, reached to unwrap my scarf, and – Whoa! – one of the birds hollered at me. My client simply said “Snake” and I felt dumb. Of course! My beige and red scarf’s uncoiling reminded a bird of danger. The funny thing is, my first instinct was she was warning me – “Look out!” It was coiling around my neck, I suddenly saw. I saw the world through her eyes, clear as day. Of course.

G.M.Serino wrote me recently about having parrots as roommates:
“Brimmed hats are a problem. I’m guessing they trigger a prey response (perhaps a hawk?). The first time someone walked into my living room wearing a baseball hat I had three screaming, growling African Greys hurling themselves in terror around my living room. A delivery of flowers with a balloon; and a T-shirt with a GIANT yellow smiley all triggered a similar response. So, my living room is a hat-free zone…”

With all fellow beings, especially if we don’t have voice or tone or body language to help us, imagining ourselves into the body, heart, and head of another is vital to our caring. It’s one way we can sense and give respect to their being. Walking a mile in their shoes, as my Dad used to urge, or their paws, gives you a Master’s degree in caring.

Ms. Serino speaks from deep experience, so she gets the last word today: “If you can imagine the world around you through the eyes of another you can be a better companion to your pet and a better friend to others. Because I’m a willing student of life I believe my companion parrots have taught me to be a better person.”


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Is Your Living Easy?

Posted by Eliza, June 22nd, 2012

We’re in the thick of summer now. You can see and feel it in the reports of animal movements, as well as in the long days and hot and stormy weather. Locally, deer seek out the best browse to fatten for the long winter ahead, as do bears, raccoons, skunks, and foxes. Once we realize this is what they are doing, we can create a more peaceful co-existence. How? By letting go of our desires (Ex. Wanting birds around the feeder all summer- ditch the feeder as they have plenty to eat), or by making space for multiple ones (Ex. Feed the birds AND have pots and pans beside the driveway or back door to let the bears know you’re coming?).

It’s very humbling to acknowledge that we’re not only part of creation, but that we, like all the beings, must adapt. Or we can choose not to take advantage of our awareness, and be unhappy as a result. Or cause others to suffer. The choice is ours to make. For example, we think of the coyote as dirty and sneaky, a beast we want banished from our neighborhood, if not the earth. Among the native peoples of the Southwest, the coyote mirrors human nature: it’s alternately powerful, helpful, clever, clownish, and stubbornly unchanging. How we view the coyote and choose to respond to its living close by says way more about us than about the coyote.

Our animal instincts used to insure that we slowed down as weather and food gathering allowed. Our animal companions can be our teachers in finding a better balance in our lives, a healthier and saner way to appreciate the gifts our days offer. Keep the water bowl full, find the shade and nap in it, and eat more lightly. Seek out breezes, water, cool caves, and berries.

May the better animal of your nature guide you all summer long.


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