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Lessons in Mindfulness from my Animal Teachers

Updated: Mar 29

It seems like we have said goodbye to a lot of our animal companions in quick succession over recent years and, in the midst of our sadness, I am pausing to reflect on all our animal companions have offered and taught me.

The Wisdom of Cats - Lessons from Liam

I have so much gratitude for the joy, delight and comfort our beautiful cat Liam brought to our lives.  Here are some of the ways I can honour his legacy by appreciating his unique feline insights.

😸 Cats always seem to find a warm spot to curl up and rest, reminding us to savour life’s sunny moments.

😸 There’s always time to pause for a cuddle - connection is one of life’s gifts. Liam reminded us honour that by prioritising it.

😸 Cats are notoriously curious - everything is there just for their delight and exploration. I'd like to bring more of that attitude of "what is this? And how can I appreciate it?" into my life.

😸 Cats are wonderful at establishing boundaries and letting you know whether they are okay with whatever is happening in such a straightforward and often humorous way.   

The wisdom of dogs - Lessons from Ella and Rusty

Last year we said goodbye to Ella, our beloved canine companion of 10 years who sadly also died from a heart condition. Later in the year we welcomed new puppy Rusty to join the family.  Here is some of the wisdom they have generously shared.

Ella enjoying the buttercups

🐶 We can approach each new moment with enthusiasm and optimism. In mindfulness we often talk about looking through the fresh eyes of beginners mind, personally I am also cultivating my puppy perspective.

🐶 Loyalty is a valuable quality. Many years ago I attended a training course in London. The thing I remember to this day is the power of 'being your word': being someone others can rely on. Although dogs may not be able to speak they embody this quality in buckets. They are reliable and always there when you need them.

🐶 Gentleness can be a strength. All my life we've had Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. They are known for their friendly, kind and gentle outgoing characters. The say that over time owners develop the characteristics of their canine companions. If that's true, I am happy to embrace friendly, kind and gentle as my super powers.

🐶 You will always feel better after a walk in nature. This may be easier to grasp when the weather is pleasant but I can honestly say, even when I am reluctant to head outside, knowing I have a canine (or equine) companion relying on me nudges me out the door and I invariably feel better afterwards.

Rusty enjoying a rest on a favourite cushion.

The Wisdom of Horses - Lessons from the herd

Since 2017 I've had the privilege to work alongside a small herd of therapeutic horses and ponies. These majestic souls have each offered their own unique lessons to me and the many clients we have worked with over the years. There is so much I could say here, I sense a future post coming. But, for now, some edited highlights.

🐴 You cannot not communicate! As herd animals, horses are masters at reading what is not said, understanding energy and communicating through body language.

🐴 It's often better being part of a herd.  Like horses, we are also social animals. As humans, finding our 'herd' can be a complex business but nowadays there are many blended ways we can get our need for connection with like-minded souls met. I am grateful for both the in-person and the online community groups I am part of.

🐴 Horses model emotional agility. They respect emotions as they arise, listen and act on the message and "go back to grazing" when the situation is dealt with.

🐴 Don't take it personally. To the uninitiated, the way horses sometimes communicate with each other (ears back, a nip or a raised back leg) can seem fierce and aggressive. But horses are actually skilled communicators and generally interpret and respect these communications without taking it personally. They simply respond without worrying what judgements the other may making. It can be good to work at developing our own 'horse hide' - learning to interpret and respect the intention behind the message without taking it personally.

The Lesson of Equanimity

Equanimity can be described as a sense of balance and groundedness in the face of the ebb and flow of life's changing seasons. For me, trees are a beautiful symbol of equanimity, reminding us of the stability of roots, the flexibility of a trunk that bends in the wind and the wisdom of growing into and with life's changing seasons.

Our animal companions are also wise teachers in this regard.  They remind us of our connection with nature - that we too are part of the natural world, despite all our modern technological and medical advances.

Our pets teach us how to be in this moment, regularly inviting us to pause, take a break from our human mental time travel and come back to just this moment: this meal, this cuddle, this walk.

They also remind us of the precious gift of life, appreciating both moments of vibrancy and ultimately the transience of life, reminding us that this moment is so precious and in the end all we can do is live our lives in this moment.

And perhaps, for me, the most important lesson our animal teachers offer is the power of love. Each animal that has joined our family has generously offered that and received it in bucket loads too. I am so grateful for that opportunity to give and receive.

Liam and Rusty enjoying a precious moment of companionship

If you have been touched be any of these lessons and would like to work with me - and my animal colleagues  - to explore them more deeply, I would love to speak with you. Why not arrange a free, 30-minute Clarity Call at a time to suit you so we can dive deeper into nature-based coaching and mindful compassionate well-being.

This article was particularly inspired by our beautiful cat Liam who recently lost his battle with heart failure at the tender age of four.

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