A wonderful story is told about Ramana Maharshi, the Indian saint. It seems that in the evenings when he went out for his walk, cows from a neighboring village would break from their ropes and run to join him. Local dogs trotted alongside, and young children followed behind. Even wild animals would emerge from the jungle to accompany him, including various kinds of snakes. Thousands of birds flew low in the sky, hovering over this diverse crew like flying squadrons of protective escorts. When he finished his walk and returned to his room, all his friends disappeared. One cow named Lakshmi escaped from a neighboring village and arrived for Ramana's evening prayers. Each day she repeated her escape until her owner grew tired of fetching her. Lakshmi then took up residence at Ramana's ashram and lived there until her death twenty five years later. She would arrive by herself every evening at prayer time, walk through the crowd of devotes up to the front and rest her head on Ramana's feet.

     Ramana had a force field of love that all life gravitated toward instinctively and returned in kind. Developing this kind of love is what spirituality and meditation are all about. Each of us has this potential. It is not something strange or unnatural. It can become a part of our daily life.

     If you are reading this article you have probably had a moving experience with animals or plants, but perhaps felt embarrassed to talk about it for fear of sounding silly to friends or relatives. Rarely do most people remark about the spiritual aspects of their perception of nature and animals. Often encounters with animals and nature are communicated only in terms of the animal or plants physical beauty or by categorizing the animal or plant in terms of species or botanical classification. It is only when someone broaches the subject of how nature and animals make them feel that others may have the impetus to reveal their own secret experiences.

     An epiphany about the interconnectedness of all of life as a living reality is in itself a spiritual teaching, a gift that often marks the beginning of a spiritual perspective, one that incorporates cooperation between other species and ourselves.

     How do we expand on such an experience making it permeate more and more of our daily life? The best place to start is within ourselves, becoming friends with ourselves. We cannot be sensitive to the interplay between ourselves, animals and plants if we are hardened to our own feelings. If we deny ourselves, our own inner landscapes how can we expect to be sensitive to the outer landscape which surrounds us. If we take the time to confront ourselves, be alone with our feelings and sensations, even those feelings and sensations that are less than pleasant, we will begin to lay the foundation from which to build a relationship with the rest of the natural world.

     Make time each day to slow down. Be still. Stop. Just be. This requires no experience no particular method. No particular posture. No exotic spiritual persuasion. Animals and all of nature will reveal themselves to you in your stillness.

     Most of us are conditioned to feel that we must be constantly racing from one thing to the next. Our bodies race, our minds race, we don't stop long enough to notice that animals and all of nature are communicating with each other and trying to communicate with us. Be still, just for a few minutes each day. Be still with your animal companions be still in your garden. Be still in your heart. Let your animals and all of nature show themselves to you. Then just notice how you feel. It's that simple. You are really noticing your animal friend. He is noticing you too.

     If you want to delve more deeply into the souls of your animal companions, plants, trees and Nature Itself, practice not doing. Just sit with your animals. Just sit in your garden. Rest your awareness lightly on the animals and the plants and trees. How do you feel when you sit quietly with them? Begin to ask questions of them. How do they like sitting quietly together? Is there anything they need or want from you? How do they feel in this moment? Ask the animals, plants and trees to help you letting them know that your questioning is motivated by love and respect for their well being and their comfort and that you are genuinely interested in their needs and desires. If you do this sincerely over time you will be surprised at the results.

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