Forest at Sunset
— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
“When you open your heart to an animal and you just allow that awareness to spread out from your heart to that other being,
we become irresistible.” —Linda Bender DVM
Sometimes a conversation is so good, so inspiring, so healing, that you want to share it with everyone. In the rich, calming, hopeful conversation I share with world-renowned wildlife veterinarian Linda Bender, she speaks of what she has learned from working with animals. It is a beautiful, calming, fascinating conversation, inviting our imagination to soar to what is and could be.
When insights are really important, we need to hear them more than once to begin to digest and be able to use them. So I am sharing with you a few of her most important ones here, in written format. You can listen to the whole conversation here.
I asked her what was the most important thing that the animals taught her, through her vast experience from dogs and birds to tigers and elephants.
She replied, “If I narrow it down to what one thing animals want me to say is the basic problem, it’s that we believe we are separate from the natural world, which is of course a delusion. It’s that interconnectedness, that intertwining we have with all life, not just life that we deem worthy, but all life is where our true joy comes from. There is no other access for that…
“As a young girl I was invited into the world of the small birds, in particular the robins that lived in my parents’ back yard…The little robins invited me into this world and what they offered is that knowing; that understanding, to come beyond what you’re thinking to experience our world, the world of oneness. I realized it happened by just allowing yourself to connect with other beings – to let go of what we are thinking and mired in and go to what is right now in the present moment.”
This is the same lesson the great Buddhist teachers have passed on for 2500 years and native peoples have always known and never left—to be in the present, which is where Life occurs. It offers a physical visceral awareness of life, connected to ourselves and all that is living and the profound knowings that come with that.
She notes that we have become addicted to thinking, which while a wonderful quality of our humanness, can take us away from the vibrant magical essence of livingness – and the magic of Life. She quoted J. Krishnamurti: “’If you teach a child the name of a hummingbird, he’ll never see it again.’ We have become so mired in concepts that we’ve forgotten how to tap into the unity consciousness—that we’re not alone as conscious thinking beings. We’ve lost our way.”
We need both the thinking and the allowing. She gives the example of two ways of walking in a forest—using our science mind we can name everything and become tremendous experts, but that is very different from the other knowing, coming from our sensory being—what we smell, hear, see. It’s a different way of communicating with the forest. We need both but are currently in what she called “the great forgetting.” We now need “the great remembering.”
Another major sharing she gave is that she learned her most important lesson from robins, in her back yard—not in the far away wilds of Africa. This capacity and knowing is accessible to all of us. She emphasizes that there are no special “animal communicators” —we are all hard wired for that. We just have to “exercise those muscles,” and allow.
And a final gift in her this conversation: ”Knowledge will get us very far, but knowledge alone will never transform us. It’s experience. So the blessings we have with these personal experiences, whatever the being is, be it a hummingbird, a pigeon or an elephant, that is our unique invitation to experience, to go beyond.”
What stood out for me:
• Interconnection with all life is where our true joy comes from. There is no other access for that.
• This is accessible to all of us anywhere.
• A personal experience we have with whatever the being is, is our unique invitation to go beyond.
Finding fulfillment and joy is really simple, but it not really easy in these times. We need to help each other with this. I hope this and our other podcast conversations do this.
If we are able to really connect we will live differently on our Earth, giving all Life a chance to thrive.
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.