We are all aware of how much our animal companions contribute to the quality of our lives. They are our friends, teachers and healers, and they mirror for us our own state of well being or disease. They often gift us with the purest expression of unconditional love that we will ever know and our lives are touched profoundly by the depth of their devotion. From the animal's perspective, though, there is another reason they have come to be with us. . . to enhance their own spiritual development and to draw themselves closer to God. It often seems that it is we who chose to have a animal of a certain kind at a certain time in our life. The animal, however, on a higher level has chosen to incarnate in its particular form at a particular time so that its life will touch our own. After having a near death experience a few years ago I have become convinced that there are no "chance meetings" in this universe of ours.

     Great strides have been made in the level of awareness regarding animal care in the past few years. Many companion animals are now seeing naturopathic veterinarians and eating healthy home made natural diets supplemented with vitamins, minerals, blue green algae and other assorted good things. When they are sick our animals are often being treated with homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, Reiki, color therapy and radionics. All these things are wonderful and life enhancing, but what about nurturing that other reason our animals have come. What of the care and feeding of an animal's soul?

     Animals have deep spiritual lives. They are capable of experiencing ecstasy, and states of reverie just as humans beings are. They appreciate beauty and refinement, and they thrive in peaceful harmonious atmospheres. They enjoy lovely company, spiritual imagery, meditation and uplifting music. What can we do, then, to enhance their spiritual lives?

     From years of communicating with animals telepathically and helping people understand their pets better, I have learned more than I ever imagined about the spiritual lives of animals. For those of us who have chosen a spiritual path, our animal's deepest wish is that we make the most of our commitment to that path; for in so doing, they are elevated too.

     Our animals have come to us in order to draw themselves closer to an experience of The Divine. We do them a great disservice when we allow our lives to become devoid of spirit; when we fail to set aside time for meditation, prayer and communion with nature; when we become hurried, stressed and preoccupied. When we allow our lives to digress to these levels, our animal companions become anxious, highly stressed and sometimes ill . . . for they know that we have lost our way. They have come to us to share in our spiritual lives, and when our lives are not spiritual, we suffer . . . and they suffer along with us.

     People often call me because their animal is misbehaving. When I communicate with one of these "misbehaving" animals, I frequently find that it is literally worried sick about its human guardian and feels a great responsibility to get things back on track. An animal only behaves badly when something is wrong . . . wrong physically, emotionally or spiritually. It is perhaps the only way he can draw attention to the real problem. Is there something in our life or way of being that needs changing? Could it be that we have forgotten our priorities; that we have become caught up in a web of complexities and stresses; that we have overlooked the simple beauties of life and the animal is trying to tell us. Our animals long to connect with us on an intimate, spiritual level and they will do what they can to direct our attention towards that goal.

     We can learn much about the spiritual longings of animals from the life of Jesus and the great saints and sages. Ramana Maharshi, the great Indian Saint, treated the animals who were drawn to his ashram with the same tenderness and reverence he showed his human devotes, he saw no difference. A cow named Lakshme lived at Ramana's ashram for twenty five years. When Ramana sat with his devotes and shared his spiritual presence, Lakshme would come on her own, walk up to the front, and rest her head on Ramana's feet. Whenever special food was prepared at the ashram Ramana would serve Lakshme himself in the hall with the other devotees. He attended to her in that moment as if she were the most precious being alive. His way of life was simple, but rich with the presence of God. Over time Lakshme, as well as many of the human devotes, became illumined. In the end, when Lakshme lay dying, Ramana said to her "Amma" (Mother), do you want me with you?" He put one hand on her heart and one on her head just as he had done with his own human mother as she lay dying. He could tell that Lakshme's heart was filled with devotion to God. When she died he said that she had attained final liberation.

     A white dog named Jackie lived at the ashram for many years. He didn't play much even as a puppy, instead he sat at Ramana Maharshi's feet on an orange cloth that had been provided for him. He would sit for hours and stare into Ramana's eyes. Whenever blessed food was passed, Jackie would not eat his right away. Instead he would watch Ramana's face and would only eat after Ramana began to eat. When Jackie lay very sick and dying, Ramana arranged a soft bed for him to lie on and held him lovingly as he made his transition. A white peacock, a crow and a deer also lived at the ashram. All were treated with the same reverence and love. When each died a samadhi or shrine was erected on its grave.

     Saint Francis of Assisi gave sermons to the birds and other creatures of the forest who gathered around him. He referred to them as his little brothers and sisters and spoke to them of God in the same way he spoke to his human brothers and sisters. No creature was too small to escape his loving ministrations and no animal was afraid of him, for he did not set himself apart, but honored them as divine beings like himself. A story is told of Francis and the wolf of Gubbio. The wolf was killing many sheep and the people of the village were afraid to go out alone. They asked Francis to speak with the wolf which he did. He told the wolf that if he would stop killing the sheep the villagers would put food out for him and he would never again go hungry. The wolf agreed and stopped killing the sheep. He followed Francis for a time and learned sensitivity to other life forms. The wolf's true desire was to become closer to God, just as we long to become closer to Him.

     In the Aquarian Gospels Jesus is said to have admonished a man who trained his dogs to hunt and kill other animals. He told the man to teach his dogs to save life rather than destroy. It was no coincidence that Jesus was born in a manger surrounded by animals; it was symbolic of the fact that his mission of love on Earth was to embrace all of the creatures of God, not only humans.

Domestic animals have the capacity to learn a high level of sensitivity to other species. For example, I have always been able to teach my cats not to kill birds. I do this by giving them lots of positive attention and communicating with them telepathically. I let them know how sad it makes me feel when they kill other beings, and I let them experience my feelings of sadness. Our companion animals want to please us. Through a positive channelling of their energy of devotion we can calm their biological instincts and teach them about love, compassion and karmic consequences. Because animals are so intimately connected to group soul the entire thought form of unconditional love and the consequences of karma are then transferred to the Soul of Animal. In this way, the whole species is elevated.

     The Japanese Buddhists have a lovely tradition of raising the hands in a prayerful position and bowing the head slightly whenever they encounter another person. I have noticed on my visits to Buddhist monasteries that this same respectful gesture is offered to animals, too, for they are seen as divine beings evolving toward perfect enlightenment just as we are. The Buddhists are seldom to busy or preoccupied to greet another divine being with love and respect be it man or animal. The animals that live in and around these monasteries are calm, at peace, and joyful just as the monks are, and there are seldom any "behavior" problems.

     Companion animals partake of thought and feeling through their contact with humans. Both the atmosphere that we create internally in our mind and heart and the outward expression created in the atmosphere of our homes, greatly influence the well being of our animals. Their souls become exalted or dejected in response to the inner and outer environments they share with us. A beautiful example of the ways in which our animals mirror our inner and outer landscapes comes from the writings of the great Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Kahn. Hazrat describes seeing a horse and an elephant that were kept only for the maharajah of Nepal to ride on. It seemed as if these two animals were conscious of that rider. You could see from their dignity that they knew that they belonged to the maharajah. In every movement that the horse would make, in the look that the elephant would give, you could feel the presence of the maharajah. And not only that, but all that belonged to the maharajah, as pain or pleasure, as life and expession all seemed to have been recorded upon the elephant and horse. It was the spirit of these animals expressing the feeling they had in their hearts. The elephant and horse vibrated to the frequency of the maharajah.

     It is not necessary for us to radically change our lives (although have found radical changes to be wonderful at times) or become saints overnight in order to satisfy the needs of our animal companions. It is well worth considering, however, that our animals were drawn into incarnation to be with us for reasons not so very different from the reason Lakshme the cow was drawn to Ramana Maharishi or the birds to St. Francis . . . the desire to accelerate their evolution toward higher consciousness. It is a two way process, of course. Our animals have much to teach us about spirituality, but we must do our part so that they can do theirs.

     We can repay our beloved animal companions for the gift of love they so freely offer us. We can do this by simply nurturing our own spiritual lives and by treating our animals as the spiritual companions they are. The more we aspire to make our lives an expression of the Sacred, the more will we become peaceful, present to the moment, and one with God. As this happens, we will become increasingly aware of the Divine Presence dwelling within all things. When we interact with our animal companions from this perspective, behavior problems vanish along with anxiety, sadness, fear and loneliness. An unforeseen world opens to us . . . the world of true kinship . . . the world of Spirit.

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