Animal Wisdom for Living Well…
Originally published in Happiness + Wellbeing Magazine
Stop what you’re doing. Come a little closer.
Breathe deeply. Listen with all your senses. Animal wisdom is subtle but potent, filled with aha’s, new perspectives and potential growth. The animals in our life, whether they’re chasing squirrels, hunting bugs or napping for what seems like an eternity, seem to have this whole living well thing sorted. Even the birds and the bees have a thing or twenty to share about living a rich and vital life. And even though we’re spread out across the globe, our animals remain the same – unconditionally loving, beautifully expressive and a beloved and essential part of our families.
As an animal intuitive and Equine Sport Therapist, I have the distinct pleasure of spending my days connecting with animals and their awesome people, and getting a backstage look into their connection with us, how they stay vital, and what really makes them tick. What I have learned and keep on learning about these incredible beings never fails to blow my mind. I’ve realized that our animals have this life thing a whole lot more figured out than most of us do. They tend to live well balanced, relaxed, fun and connected lives. In fact, when it comes to living well, you may have a powerful teacher napping it out on that cushy bed across the room.
So, I present to you, after over a decade of daily humbling interaction with the wisdom of animals, seven awesome ways they teach us to live well every day…
Do what you want to do.
Animals have no plan, no agenda. They just get up and do what they want to do and then they do the next thing they want to do. They trust themselves and the wisdom of their bodies to know what they need. Ok, so as a human, we have to do all those human things, like making money to feed these little loves of ours, but adding even thirty minutes a day where you follow your body’s lead is healing stuff. Your body might say, let’s put on crazy music and dance madly, or let’s have a nap, or let’s eat something nourishing and delicious. Maybe all your body wants is a yummy bath full of epsom salts or a cuddle with your dog. Or a peaceful walk in the woods. Ask your body and listen deeply for the answer. Then trust it. And do it.
Share well with others.
Animals are actually really good at sharing. No lie. They seem to understand and trust that they’ll get what they need. There are some exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, we can learn a lot about sharing from our animals. Just watch them. They share affection easily, they share their joy and their love. Humans, as a rule, are not so good at sharing. But sharing does the body and the heart a world of good. It is a powerful form of connection, a way to give what you’ve got, share your gifts and lift others up just by being you. And that always feels wonderful. Remember, this isn’t just sharing your cold virus or your strong opinions on being vegan or who you’re voting for. This is about a different kind of sharing, a sharing that creates what I like to call “The golden retriever effect” – people just feel awesome after. That might look like telling your best friend you love them to bits and sharing all the reasons why. It might look like paying it forward for someone who is just having a rough day and sharing some space, some inspiring conversation and a laugh. Maybe it’s inviting a dear friend over for a beautiful meal. It all feels so darn good and is an essential part of living well.
You might have noticed. Animals love to get their nap on. My dog Kia has at least six different nap zones which she interchanges through the day. Mornings it’s the back of the couch. Afternoons the chair. Then the dog bed. Then the shag rug. When she’s hot, it’s the tile. And yes, I’d like to be one of my animals in my next life. I’m not saying to nap this much. But, giving yourself permission to lay down for a few, shut your eyes and reboot is a wonderful thing that we often don’t get enough of. Find the right kind of nap for your system. Maybe for you it’s all about getting a full, delicious eight hours every night, no naps required. Maybe it’s a Sunday rainy afternoon two hour affair where you wake up feeling warm and cozy. Or a 20 minute power nap every day at 5:30pm to power up your system. Rest is a wonderful thing. It’s good for everything from your digestion to your immune function to the health of your skin. It resets and relaxes us and you better believe everyone in your life is going to be happier for it. Because tired people tend to be way more grumpy. I don’t have the scientific proof, but I, for one, am almost intolerable to be around when I haven’t had enough sleep.
Move your butt.
Well, not just your butt. Move the rest of you too. Often. And in lots of different ways. Almost all animals love to move. Sloths might be an exception. Kia definitely does in between naps. They must know it is amazing for circulation and lymphatic flow which makes movement amazing for digestion and immune function. Or more likely, they do it because moving freely feels so good, naturally stretching tight or restricted muscles, balancing the structural system, opening meridian channels, balancing hormones and getting energy flowing. I’ll often find myself doing random stretches, dancing around the grocery store, or craving a long hike in the woods. Make it fun and interesting. Mix up your movement, combining stretching, free form, strength building and a blood pumping type of movement like walking, hiking or biking. Just like your animals, let your movement be expressive and listen to your body. It knows just what it needs.
Alright, I’m not saying that you need to start hunting down sticks or anything. But, I think there is definitely something to be said for the tenacity with which animals focus on what they want. When I first got my cat Parker, he blew me away with his tenacity, particularly when it came to his intent focus on climbing a massive maple tree on our property. Every day this black and white kitten would throw himself at that tree, spread-eagling several feet up on the substantial trunk. He never gave up. He just kept on trying until he scaled it. He’s grown into quite the guy and he inspires me daily with his fierce focus. The moral of the story? Always chase your dreams and chase them with unshakable tenacity. There are not many things that are more empowering for the soul and enriching for your well-being.
Open your heart.
Yes, it’s cliche. I know. But, there is no one more qualified than the animals in your life to share this always relevant lesson. Over and over again they forgive our humanness and the many mistakes that tend to go with it. They love us anyways, unconditionally. As Danielle Laporte, author of The Desire Map, says in one of my favourite Truthbombs, “Open, gentle heart. Big fucking fence.” Animals do this. They are wonderfully selective (well, most of them are). They pick their people and then stand by their side through thick and thin. They teach us about connection and accepting ourselves and being vulnerable. They share about the power of self love. They look in the mirror and see awesomeness. How relaxing would that be? Just to stop all that judgement and take the pressure off to be perfect. To love yourself just as you are. There is a whole lot of wellness in that one powerful move. Plus, opening your heart enhances circulation, builds vitality and fosters amazing connections with the people who are worthy of your precious open heart.
Animals can’t help but feel. I believe that this is big part of their wisdom for us – teachings on how to open up to really feeling your feelings. I’m not going to lie, feeling deeply can feel like a blessing and a curse. Because when you open up to feeling you can’t be choosy. These feelings can run the gamut and some of them can be uncomfortable. But they can also open up entire amazing spectrums of experience not yet explored. Plus, when you let yourself feel and honour and breathe through those feelings, amazing things happen. Things like feeling lighter, freer, more present and definitely, more vital. Because the fact that we are not actually feeling our emotions in no way means that they don’t exist. They just get stuffed down and stored and create all sorts of issues in our bodies and minds, often taking the spark out of life. Which is really no fun at all. In fact, I am going to make a bold statement and say that being in touch with your feelings and knowing how to work with them in a healthy way will change your life and how you live it. Period.
And here’s a few more goodies from our animals about how to live well. Breathe fully. Trust your body. Set healthy boundaries. Allow yourself to grieve. Demand cuddles. Express yourself. And there are countless others.
Each animal is beautifully unique and once you start paying attention, you’ll be amazed at all the creative ways they share their wisdom. All you need is a little humility, a healthy dose of humour and an open mind. Your furry gurus will take it from there.
Alexa and the crew