To me, the year 2001 is the beginning of the Age of the Heart. And the heart is the gateway to the soul. During this age we will learn to expand our hearts to include all of God's creatures and we will begin to repair the damage done to the hearts of animals and the heart of nature itself throughout our history on the planet.

     As we begin this new cycle of time we will become increasingly aware that the final frontier of human evolution is the evolution of the heart through the awakening of compassion. We will become aware as well, that our spiritual evolution is dependent on a more compassionate relationship with and understanding of the other creatures with whom we share the planet. We will be faced with the truth that we cannot expand in consciousness without including the animals and other creatures both seen and unseen who journey with us.

     In the past we have thought ourselves to be the only kingdom that had the right to survive. We thought that we were superior because we had more capacity to destroy. We are now finding that as we destroy other kingdoms we are destroying ourselves.

     The great teacher Torkom Saryadarian said: "The destruction of man will come when his intellect grows and his heart shrinks this is what we have come closer and closer to. The intellect is developed, but the heart is not developed. Instead of killing the other kingdoms of nature we must develop such conditions that these kingdoms develop along with us." As my friend Susan Chernak McElroy says: "I do not believe that we will be fully human until we return to our original animistic view of the world---the view that saw all of creation as sacred. Until we can really own this idea, our spiritual quests will be stingy, tight, and self serving." Though these comments came decades apart, Torkom's from the earlier part of the century, and Susan's just recently, they are timeless in their scope and truthfulness. We simply must return to the wisdom of the heart.

     All of the kingdoms of nature are connected like the links in a chain. They must grow together, they must survive together they are a total unit. When we understand that life is one, that all life is developing and growing, and that living forms are one chain, then we will understand that every living form is sacred and has equal rights to survive.

     As this new age dawns, we are being called upon to examine how we arrived at the present state of Holocaust against the animals and other kingdoms of nature and to do our part in healing our relationship with them. To do this we must expand our hearts to include not only our families and other human beings, but all creatures and Creation itself. All of life on the planet depends on the choice we make now. We must come out of our deluded sense of superiority and perceive all of life as divine. As we move into a state of respect and reverence for other creatures, our own spiritual development will take a quantum leap.

     In my work I often speak of the ministry of animals. Sensitive people know many examples of the ways in which animals minister to us. Animals are emissaries of light and love, here on earth to assist in the blossoming of compassion. They do this magnificently and with tremendous courage. Animals can, if we allow them, bring us out of the past into present time. If we meet them in present time and honor their true gifts to us, our relationship with them can be redeemed.

     The time for atonement has come, at-one-ment. As we experience our oneness with all living things the past is healed. In a state of compassionate awareness and oneness we are brought into alignment with the continuous outpouring of the Divine Essence of God which is Love, and all is healed, for healing in the true sense is the lifting of the spirit into Grace.

     You may be wondering what you can do as an individual to heal the relationship with animals and nature - it seems such an enormous undertaking. But really it is not so difficult as you might think. Each one of us can be a part of the healing of humanity's relationship with animals by doing a few simple things. Every time we feel an outpouring of love for an animal, or perform some small act of kindness toward them, we can offer up that love and kindness to the spirit of all animals. When we catch a glimpse of a beautiful wild creature we can take time to thank it for its magnificence and for gracing our life in that moment.

     Our thanks will be received by the animal and our love transmitted to all others of its species and all other animals as well. Each day we can offer deep appreciation to our own animal companions for their presence on our lives. When we pray, meditate or say grace before a meal we can include the animals, we can ask for their blessing, their forgiveness and their mercy. In this way we will bring light to the darkness and suffering the animals have endured as we begin to dissolve all obstacles to the shimmering presence of love that is the true identity of every being.

     It is said that the beating of a butterfly's wing is felt by the farthest star. All things are connected. With each act of kindness, with each loving thought, with each prayer, the entire world is lifted closer to a state of grace for all beings.

     In some ancient spiritual texts it was foreseen that in the time we are now approaching four species of animal would achieve human status - Dog, Horse, Cat and Elephant. This was said to be so because of the great service rendered to mankind by these species. More than one sacred text has foreseen a time when animals would talk to human beings, qualifying this statement by adding that this could only occur when mankind stopped destroying and learned to be quiet, receptive and heart centered.

     No matter what one believes, there is no doubt that we are at the brink of a new and wonder filled age if we can only reawaken within ourselves the truth that all of life is sacred and precious.

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