While humanity seems to have developed an affinity for its pets, a large percentage appears to care nothing for the world’s wildlife. Rampant examples of such inhumanity abound worldwide in the poaching of elephants, gorillas, and rhinoceroses; the careless slaughter of small, wild animals; and the destruction of forests and jungles which are home to most wildlife. It seems obvious that a majority instead of a minority of the world’s people need to make their voices heard if these creatures are to be saved. However, if humanity’s awareness for the preservation of wildlife were to be enhanced, it would behoove us to deepen our own compassion and understanding for these creatures before attempting to foster such consciousness in others.
For example, let’s start with a wild animal that fascinates us, raises a feeling of fondness within us, and gives us a sensation of joy whenever and wherever we see it. In my own experience, it’s the family of gray squirrels that live in the wooded gorge not more than a hundred yards from my home here in Mexico. Every time I leave the house for a walk into our little town, I’m pleased to see one of them scamper from the cornfield into the grove of trees that line the ravine. The innocence, beauty and vulnerability of these small creatures touch me.
If we were to accept the continued existence of the animals that cause us to feel such tenderness, then developing a deeper, more intimate relationship with them just might be what we need to become more vocal in their behalf. Whereas doing something for these creatures on an external basis is fairly self-evident, humanity does not normally go about creating an enhanced level of compassion and understanding for them on an internal level, at least not directly. Most people do not have the slightest inkling of how to do so. But there is a way.
It’s a valuable process that only takes a few minutes once you have become acquainted with it. The first step is to calm yourself down by focusing on your breathing for a few minutes. Just focus on the air going in and coming out of your nostrils or the rise and fall of your stomach. Then once you have developed a bit of tranquility, visualize the wild animal with which you wish to establish a deeper bond. Focusing as much attention on this creature as you possibly can, imagine that you exchange places with it. You mentally transfer your consciousness into its body, and then you turn to see what was yourself with its eyes, you feel what it feels, you hear what it hears, you smell what it smells, you taste what it tastes, and you also imagine that you sense its emotions and mental processes. Furthermore, maintain this experience for as long as you can do it comfortably and for as often as you wish.
In this way, you can begin to develop an intimate knowledge of this living being. When I’ve done this process with my four-legged neighbors, the gray squirrels, I’ve experienced their fears and vulnerabilities. For example, how frightened they are of the humans around them, the dogs that chase them up the trees, and the errant hunters that have killed members of their family. I’ve sensed how difficult it is for them to safely forage for food in the cornfield on the other side of the country road from their home in the gorge, and the pain of the hunger they’ve felt when they haven’t found enough to eat. Yet, I’ve also intuited the happiness they’ve experienced when they’ve been together as a family, safe in some hidden nest among the trees of the ravine.
Throughout this process, it’s quite essential to open ourselves and let certain factors flow and grow collectively within us. If we’ve ever had any loving kindness for our animal friends, then we’ll probably focus on the creature of our attention as if it were a small baby or child. When we experience its fears, we let our compassion comfort it. Because we understand its happiness while it plays with its family and friends, we take joy in its freedom to do that. During the whole time we’re involved in this exchange of self for another, we maintain and let our equanimity nurture, even if we think we’re imagining everything and it could be a silly thing we’re doing. Finally, given enough patience, we just might begin to feel greater compassion and understanding for our animal friend; perhaps, even enough to send it some loving thoughts, such as:
May you be free, safe, and happy.
May you always find the food you need.
May you continue to have a home in which to nest.
May you have the love of family every day.
Developing a greater feeling of compassion and realization of understanding for animal life, as I’ve said above, can be quite beneficial in helping other people to raise their awareness for the need to take an active hand in conserving the animal kingdom that exists on planet earth today. Also, if we’ve been cognizant of the above practice, perhaps, we’ve realized the value of appreciating wildlife through the four step process called loving kindness, compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity. Moreover, we might have gained the understanding that when one becomes involved on an internal as well as an external basis with our animal friends, we really begin to experience just how important these creatures are to the balance of nature, including all of humanity. In conclusion, attempting this way of thinking and processing just might not only change our life but the lives of so many beings that are extremely vulnerable to the current direction of the world.