By Sun Mi Kim
Exploiting and subjugating other species is commonly accepted by our society. To grow in awareness and heal ourselves as well as the Earth, we can no longer ignore the feelings that nudge us to gain more understanding and compassion for, say, a Great Asian Elephant half-way around the globe as well as the tabby sitting on our sill.
Although my personal feelings often called for a change in attitudes, my ever-rational intellect was ever asking "why?" And without satisfactory answers, I continued in my old habits and thoughts, consistently pushing aside my doubts and going along with the status quo. Change required an expenditure of energy that I wasn't inclined to spend.
In this second interview with Sharon Callahan, a well-known interspecies communicator, we explore the why's, the reasons we may sometimes feel a twinge of guilt whenever we indulge too often in consuming meat or when we see a wild animal cooped up in a zoo. Sharon provides the rational reasons to back our intuitive feelings.
Q: The rapid disappearance of the rainforests and other natural habitats of the world have alarmed ecologists. What is this decline of natural resources mean specifically for the animal kingdom? Do you receive any impressions from wild animals regarding this situation?
A: Wild animal are greatly stressed and distressed by the disappearance of their habitats. It is the same as you or I would feel if some creature larger and stronger than ourselves came and destroyed our homes and civilization. The animals of the rainforest and other endangered habitats are feeling the same way we would feel in such circumstances. I also believe that much of the "non-specific" anxiety exhibited by companion animals is a reflection of the stress felt by their wild brothers and sisters. Animals are telepathic by nature and very bonded on the level of collective consciousness. As the Great Cats are driven to the brink of extinction in ever increasing numbers, is it any wonder that your cat exhibits states of anxiety? As the wolf is eradicated in ever increasing numbers, is it any surprise that your dog exhibits neurotic behavior? It is such a tragedy not only for the animals, but for humanity that we are destroying the rainforest. Each and every animal and each and every plant has the capacity to heal us in some way. God gives to each creature and each plant a healing gift. We are wiping out tremendous areas of rainforest before the plant and animal life in some of those regions have even been identified. It is as if we are throwing out exquisitely wrapped gifts without even looking within to discover what lies within. A little girl in the United States who had suffered from Leukemia most of her life was cured by medicine made from the Rosie Periwinkle flower which only grows in a remote region of the rainforest. The little girl would have died without the healing gift of that tiny flower. Imagine all of the other healing plants that are being destroyed.
Q: Aside from the obvious food-chain/habitat connections between plant and animal life, can you give us any deeper, perhaps spiritual, insights about the connection between the two kingdoms?
A: All beings, whether animal, vegetable, mineral, as well as the unseen beings who guide and protect us and the environment are all intimately connected. All have consciousness. We are as connected to these other realms as the animals are. We have simply forgotten. The animals have not forgotten their attunement to these other realms. When we are sick we usually must to go to a doctor or other therapist or at the very least look into a book to find the necessary substances to cure ourselves. When an animal is sick, it will simply go out in nature and find the plant that will help it. It will either ingest the plant or lie very near it for a period of time to absorb its healing vibrations. For example, when I had to leave my little cat Shoji with friends during a long absence he could be found each afternoon in a far corner of the yard lying beneath the branches of a bleeding heart plant. It was an area of the yard into which he had not ventured before. In the language of flowers, Bleeding Heart soothes deep sadness, repairs the broken heart and addresses issues of unrequited love. This is one of the reasons that domestic animals kept strictly indoors become sick with the same maladies that people suffer from. They are deprived of their contact with the natural world which heals them. Over time they become like us and lose their attunement to the healing properties of flowers and plants altogether. Animals have an intimate relationship with nature and they are able to see fairies and other beings that watch over the natural kingdoms.
Q: How are wild animals kept in zoos affected by lack of contact with their
A: Most animals in zoos suffer terribly, not only from lack of contact with nature, but by being restricted from moving freely about the way they do in nature. Elephants in captivity for instance are often subjected to solitary confinement or in chains for much of the day, or forced to live in small concrete surfaced enclosures. Almost all of these elephants have abscesses on their feet causing them excruciating pain. One Asian elephant I work with was confined in chains 18 hours a day for many years of her life. She suffered terrible physical pain and emotional suffering. It is amazing to me that she survived at all since, in the wild, elephants walk thirty miles or more per day freely foraging for food as needed. They are very social animals who depend on the support of family members for their physical and emotional well being. Although it is argued by some that zoos may be the only hope of survival for many species, this is not a viable solution. It is well known, even in scientific circles, that zoo animals after several generations of captive breeding bear little resemblance to their wild relatives. They even begin to look physically different as their bodies accommodate life in confinement. Animals are saved in a sense, but they are not the same as their wild counterparts. I believe that groups of beings, as well as individual beings within a group, consciously choose their circumstances to teach and to learn. I believe that animals are emissaries of love. By their circumstances they are attempting to teach us to choose a different way of living and relating to each other, to other beings, and to Earth itself. I do not see animals as victims, but rather warriors - love warriors. We must rise to our feelings of compassion for them and choose a different way to live.
Q: Whales and Dolphins, the latter in particular, have captured the attention of many--new agers and mainstreamers alike. Can you account for this fascination?
A: Yes! We tend to think of the Great Apes as our closest relatives, but
Aquatic mammals such as whales, dolphins and manatees are very much like human beings in intelligence, emotional sophistication and spiritual evolvement. Also among those animals capturing the attention of people these days are Elephants. Elephants, when permitted to do so lead a semi-aquatic life. Their closest relatives are the Manatees and Sea Cows. The evolution of the trunk and the absence of a plural cavity in elephants reflect their aquatic nature and ancestry. The spongy character of an elephant's skull with its innumerable air cavities minimizes weight and provides buoyancy in water. When confined to the land they require water to bathe regularly and to maintain their psychological well-being. It is a little known fact that full-grown elephants swim better than any other land mammal. They have been known to migrate across entire inland seas! A herd of elephants was witnessed swimming for six hours without touching bottom. There are so many magical things to know and understand about animals. It is my feeling that whales, dolphins, manatees and elephants are every bit as intelligent as human beings. They simply have different ways of communicating, quite possibly in ways that are far more sophisticated than our own. We resonate with these beautiful creatures because they are our next of kin. There is a quickening in consciousness taking place in our time. We are once again becoming sensitive to subtle vibrations of the natural world. The animals have long awaited this time and are eager to speak to us. Elephants, dolphins and whales are our elders. They are the record keepers. We have much to learn from them if only we will listen, listen with our hearts. The fact that these animals we are fascinated with are aquatic or semi-aquatic is interesting. Psychologically, water is linked with the emotional body, the Earth and the moon. It is time for us to return to our feelings and intuition as the source of our guidance. If thinking and theorizing were going to save the world we would be living in paradise by now. This is the age of the heart - the age of feeling. A change of heart will change the world. The animals are trying to teach us.
Q: You've been outspoken against the subjugation of animals for human convenience. For instance, you advocate vegetarianism and not using animal skins for clothing. Does this also extend to other things--for instance, wearing silk or eating honey?
A: For myself, yes. Commercially produced silk and honey cause great stress, suffering and unnecessary death to countless living beings. As I grow in awareness, I find that it feels less and less appropriate to use products that are created in ways that stress or harm other species. It simply isn't necessary. There are alternatives to silk such as rayon. One can hardly tell the difference. Why cause harm when it isn't necessary. In the West in particular people seem to feel that "more is better." With this philosophy we move into a relationship of exploitation of other species. I feel that honey for instance, is a medicinal elixir that should be consumed in small quantities and with great reverence as in the taking of a sacrament. There is a drastic worldwide decline of honeybees. They are being attacked by a tracheal mite which kills them. On the East Coast of the United States last year more than 80 percent of the honeybees were killed by the mite. If this continues, it holds great consequences for the survival of Earth. One has only to contemplate the significance of the pollinators to grasp the meaning of this. I have received amazing communications from bees as to the reasons for their decline. In short they are suffering tremendous stress from being forced to overproduce, to live in unnatural hives (square white boxes) and through lack of an appreciation of their sacredness. One beekeeper with whom I work has re-designed his beehives in accordance with instructions that we received during communication with his bees. The bees in the square white hives were continuing to die off at an alarming rate. In the newly designed hives which are five sided and lined with sisal, per instructions from the bees, the bees have survived nicely to the amazement of "bee experts." All living beings respond to love. It is important to remember that even from a scientific perspective we become what we eat. If we eat the bodies of other creatures who have died horrible deaths, or if we eat substances such as honey made in a non-respectful commercial manner we are taking into our bodies and minds the suffering that these creatures endured. I feel strongly that much of the anxiety and fear human beings experience arises from the vibrations that they take into their bodies through the things they eat or the cloths they wear. Think of it. If your body is being filled with the flesh of suffering animals and you are wearing the skins of animals that have died in horrible ways you are walking through life carrying these vibrations with you wherever you go…the vibrations of anxiety fear and suffering. These vibrations when ingested are a poison to our bodies. When we wear the skins of tortured creatures we walk through life surrounded in a shroud of fear and anxiety.
Q: Many who find themselves on the spiritual path have opted for vegetarianism because it is more humane. What about predatory animals? Will there come a time when no animal harms another? Is their predation just a reflection of dynamics happening among humans?
A: Yes. I feel this very strongly and have written about it. More than one very illumined person in history has said that the savagery of animals was an out-picturing of human savagery and that human beings fell from grace and the animals simply followed. There is a wonderful true story of a lioness called Little Tyke who refused to eat meat. She was rescued by a woman at just weeks old. The woman worried that she would suffer from malnutrition if she was not given meat. The veterinarians suggested that the woman put blood in Tyke's milk to encourage her to accept meat, but Tyke refused the bottles when blood was added. As she grew into adulthood she continued to refuse meat and lived her entire life in harmony with people, dogs, cats, deer and lambs. There are many beautiful photographs of Tyke lying with a lamb. She lived to a very old age and was considered a magnificent specimen of her species although veterinarians have insisted that she would die without eating meat. Anyone interested in the details of Tyke's life can read the book "Little Tyke - The Story of a Gentle Vegetarian Lioness." As human beings become non-harming the animal kingdom will follow suit. All of the spiritual traditions stress that our outer circumstances and experience are but a reflection of our inner state of consciousness. Just as there are exceptional human beings who come to show the way to a gentler way of being, so to I believe, are there animal saints and sages who come to show us that another way of being is possible.
Q: The story about Little Tyke is amazing. Is it really possible for what we traditionally label as carnivorous animals to eat a vegetarian diet? For instance, what can we feed our own cats and dogs at home that doesn't contain meat?
A: There are many, many people that have their companion animals on vegetarian diets. I have had, and have many friends who have, vegetarian dogs. A dog will do quite well on such a diet if it is a part of your own personal regimen. Vegetarian dogs are often far healthier than dogs who eat meat. In many cases such dogs far exceed the average life span for their breed. With cats it is a little trickier as cats need taurine and other elements that are missing in a vegetarian diet. These elements can be supplied via supplements, but it takes great care and attention so caution is advised. Some cats can do quite well on vegetarian diets and others not. It is a very individual thing. I find that people who are vegetarian usually attract to themselves animals who do well on vegetarian diets. It is a matter of resonance. If vegetarianism is your lifestyle the animals in your life will usually resonate with that lifestyle. People who are interested in this topic might take a look at the VEGEPET website (search for "Vegepet" using the Google search engine) which offers VEGEPET, a quality line of vegetarian pet food mixes that are economical, time efficient and compassionate. These products were researched and formulated by veterinarian James Peden.
Q: You've said that all things have consciousness. I've recently read Peter Thompkins' and Christopher Bird's book, The Secret Life of Plants. They make a compelling argument, backed by loads of scientific evidence, that plants are sentient as well. What are the implications, then, of even eating plant life?
A: Yes, I too believe that plants are sentient. I was greatly influenced by Peter Thompkins" book. One can communicate with trees and plants in the same way that one communicates with animals. My feeing is that the plant kingdom offers itself freely for our nourishment as long as we partake in a sacred manner. This means being conscious when we prepare and eat meals offering thanks for the lives taken. Growing your own food is wonderful when possible, or at least buying food that is grown an harvested in a sacred and respectful manner. In my life and in the lives of others with whom I share meals, food is not taken without holding hands and saying a blessing over the food and thanking all of the elements of nature that came together to produce it. If we do this kind of blessing, we eat more consciously and the food is more nourishing as well. It is largely our lack of respect of the sacredness of non-human beings that is the problem. The more conscious we are of our actions the less harm we will do naturally. This is another one of those huge questions that a book could be written about.
Q: Or another way of putting it, some make the argument that animals were put on this Earth for our sustenance and/or convenience. Where does that subtle division take place of what should or should not be eaten?
There are people who eat only eat fruits and nuts that grow from plants so that they don't harm the plant. People who have chosen such a path seem to survive just fine. Each person must follow the dictates of their own heart.
I think a good basic principle of life is to live in a way that causes the least suffering possible. If one looks carefully one can find many references to a vegetarian lifestyle in the bible and sacred scriptures from other spiritual traditions. From a medical perspective most of the diseases in the western world are diseases of excess. Eating less is simply healthier and people on a vegetarian diet have fewer health problems overall. There is much research on this. In my experience the healthiest most beautiful people I have met are people who live lives of mindfulness, non-harming and freedom from excess.
A: Lots of people love animals; they always stop to cuddle kittens or pet dogs. But many of these same people feel disgusted at the sight of a rat or a cockroach and wouldn't hesitate to kill them. Are there animals or insects that are below our humane consideration?
I feel it is arrogance to perceive any living creature below our consideration. We simply need to understand each creatures place in God's divine plan. My friend Andrew Harvey addresses this question more beautifully than I possibly could in his book The Direct Path when he says, "All living things are equally holy and equally sacred. I am no more sacred and holy than the little worm in my garden, or the little cricket suddenly lost and bewildered on my white carpet because the wind has blown him into my drawing room, I am not more important in the web of life than the slug or sea horse or ladybug. A frog appears to me as beautiful as any archangel… I am a partner in that divine humility that is manifesting itself as all beings and all creatures…I have a final and inescapable responsibility to treat all beings and things with divine love, divine respect, and divine tenderness. The more I do, so the more I will grow in my own human divinity and the more I will experience, with ever greater humility and wonder, the divine presence in every rose, every bird, every shifting play of wind in the grass, every fern and pokeweed."
If each of us could live from this perspective the world would become a paradise.