— By Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
I heard two incredible bird rescue stories recently. The essence of the stories is the same, although the people were very different temperaments and came from very different walks of life. It made me think…
The first came from Mariabruna Sirabella, who leads spiritual and nature retreats. She focuses on helping people experience our interconnection with all of creation and tuning to our collective wisdom. In that context, the following story is not so surprising.
“I was holding a retreat on a farm in central California. We were down in the field doing work, and one of the participants had to go to the bathroom, which was up in the main room of the farm. All of a sudden, I heard screaming. I ran up there to see what was happening. There was a hummingbird trapped somehow in the curtain. The woman had tried to loosen the curtain, creating only more terror for the bird, who was obviously panicking and getting more entangled in the curtain. She was just terrified because hummingbirds have to move a lot, and if he got trapped, he would die. She knew that. She was totally panicking, so I told her to sit in a corner and just breathe. Then I approached the curtain, started aligning and tuning with the bird and its fear and talking to it. Then slowly, I started bringing my hands up and really staying in the silent communication. The hummingbird came into my hands. He was looking at me. It was amazing. The participant couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It stayed in my hands, looking at me straight in the eyes. And then I took it out.
“As soon as we were outside, I said go and he went. But he hovered. It was just one of those moments. I was just able to do it at that moment, because by some miracle, I came to coherence right there. It’s not something I would say I can always do. I wish I could say that and do it, but I can’t. But when it happens… I have so many stories with animals.”
I shared this story with Ann, our assistant director, and she immediately remembered a story told her by her brother Derick. He is an “ordinary” person in the best sense. He and his wife love and rescue dogs, usually hard-to-adopt senior dogs with health issues. Derick shared this story with us:
“In a book authored by Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, he suggests how animals of different species communicate with each other. Although not a scientist, his observations over the years, of dogs primarily, posits that animals speak through a universal language—energy. Recognizing body posture, sounds like growling, barking, mewing or even silence, convey to others different kinds of energy. Aggression, submission, excitement, confidence, fear, trust and pain are some of the energies expressed in some way by all animals. A dog that is excited may have a positive energy, but it can be unpredictable. One that is quiet may indicate weakness. Of all the combinations of energies, he said the most influential or commanding trait is the calm and assertive energy. Energetic and assertive comes off as aggressive. Calm and submissive shows weakness. Animals respect strong, confident, predictable behaviors and respond positively to those that express that energy.
“Shortly after reading the book, I had the chance to put the theory to the test. While shopping in an indoor mall, I saw a little bird that had somehow flown into the mall, flitting into window fronts, banging into ceilings and desperately trying to find a way to freedom. A salesperson in one of the kiosks told me it had been there for a week and people had been chasing it around in order to catch it and take it outside. I’m sure the sparrow thought the excited, aggressive attempts to grab it created an energy that indicated it should flee. When it rested on a planter, I thought, “This is my chance”! I tried to muster up a calm, assertive energy within myself and slowly approached the bird. In my head I was saying, “I want to help you—you can trust me”. I came in sideways, not head-on, and the little guy stopped and checked me out for a few seconds. Then I slowly put my arm out and extended my finger as a perch. He checked me out again, then cautiously came over and jumped on my finger. I calmly arose and started walking deliberately to the nearest exit. The kiosk salesperson was incredulous, saying he’d never seen anything like it before. Neither had I, but I didn’t want to excite the sparrow. We walked through the door leading outside and he stayed on my finger until I placed him in some bushes in an outdoor planter. Without a spoken word, two different species communicated with each other through a shared energy.
“Currently there are many apps on our phone that allow us to translate our ideas into whatever tongue we want. But there is a universal language that has been around since life began. We just need to be attuned to it.”
The common thread between these stories is, as Mariabruna said, “coming into coherence”—going to a place inside ourselves where we are calm and join into a common energy field with the animals. This may seem “far out” to many of us with our western mindset, but in the end, we are all in fact energy beings, universal energy slowed down into physical form but in a constant dance of resonating molecules. Animals, given no human cultural mindset, simply tune into this river of energy and respond to us as we do, too, and sense our desire to help.
This is part of Reconnection Ecology—finding that attunement and then making ecological and ethical decisions from that place.
The main point of these two stories for me, is that this is an ability all of us have. Many of us have experienced something like this in interaction with an animal, but are not supported in giving it the importance it really has in how we could live our lives, individually and as a society. But it is the essence of how Life works and the beauty and healing we can share, always there, available to us if we can learn how to tune to it.
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.