We don’t learn or grow unless we challenge our thinking, our beliefs, our comfort zone. If we stay inside our little box, where things are safe and agreeable, nothing changes. Yes? Last month I challenged two of my big beliefs and came up questioning my thoughts about both.
I had a friend who was an exceptionally talented animal communicator. Now, I know a lot of people will be rolling their eyes, and as someone who is very fact and science driven, this was a challenge to my thinking too. But, time and again, she knew stuff that she couldn’t possibly know. One particular situation which had me shaking my head in disbelief – a horse was being led in from the paddock, and she was very lame. She had gone out sound and come back in a few hours later on three legs. Now, my friend and I were in different countries, different time zones, she didn’t know I was standing in a yard, didn’t know I was with a horse, or that it was a lame horse. Next thing, my phone buzzed with a message – “she says sorry, you told her the mud was slippery, but she was playing, slipped and did the splits. She says her right stifle is really sore. But, she’s sorry”. Hmmm… Indeed, it was her right hind. She was covered in mud. When I checked the paddock, there were skid marks and the vets said she’d banged her right stifle. So, explain that if you don’t believe it…. Another situation – I was leaning over a stable door checking up on a horse who had had colic the day before. He was fine, but I just spent a moment watching him. Next thing, he lunged at the door and bit me on the neck. As I was stepping back in shock, my phone buzzed – “he says sorry, he’s still uncomfortable but he shouldn’t have bitten? Did he bite you???” She did it to me too often to ignore. So, its something that I believe in, but I don’t (didn’t?) believe it can be taught.
Recently a friend’s cat was referred (by his vet) to their in-house BodyTalk practitioner and animal communicator. And, again, she told my friend things that no one else would know. This communicator was running a workshop on learning to communicate, and my friend (and her cat!) thought it was a good idea…. So, what to do? Go with, of course.
I am a horrible pupil because I question everything, I ask why, I need to understand the reasons, can’t accept anything at face value, but I was really impressed at the teaching, the explanations, and the obvious passion, commitment and understanding of our coach. Belief one – can this be taught? Not sure…
Belief two – there was a niggle that I had already discussed with my friend – the last day was at the zoo, and I don’t, absolutely don’t, do zoos. I had said I would go to the first two days, but I’d skip zoo day. Animals shouldn’t be in cages. They shouldn’t be fenced in, they shouldn’t be there for people to learn about, when what you are studying is not their natural behavior. You don’t study a jail inmate and think you understand human nature. But, Lucia, our teacher, had dealt with all issues so far in a compassionate, empathetic way, and everything gelled the first two days….
A while ago, I introduced two people to each other. Both are good people, with a genuine love of animals, kind intention, and are articulate speakers. Both are conservationists. But both are looking at situations from different angles. One has the attitude that all zoos are bad, all zoos are jails, we shouldn’t be caging the innocent, we should be protecting the habitats. I see her point. The other says you can’t trust humans. Humans are destroying the planet, humans are destroying the jungles, forests, the plains and the oceans, and the least we can do is safeguard the animals so that when / if we ever get our act together, we can release them back to the wild. I see her point too. I don’t like zoos, we need zoos. We need to help the animals, are cages the way to go? But, these two good people couldn’t express their thoughts clearly, and the one was unbelievably rude to the other. That was a major lesson to me – don’t become so set in your thoughts that you ostracize the other point of view – we attract flies with sugar, not vinegar. Having “A Point To Prove”, just becomes defensive. I don’t want to be that person, so what to do? Go to the zoo.
At the back of my mind – the knowledge that most horses are treated worse than a zoo animal. We riders fool ourselves into thinking that “my horse loves his stable” when they are the only animal who is legally allowed to stand in such a small cage, outside of battery farming, and when in a stable they are effectively battery farmed. A zoo animal, even when shut in at night, is never in as small a space as a horse. Call your horse’s stable a cage – see how that changes your perception… He’s caged for the winter, with an hour a day for exercise. Getting a young horse used to being stabled is effectively crate training for dogs.
Part of Lucia’s reason for going to the zoo, was for us to meet an enormous – both in bearing and actual size – male orangutan called Charlie. It was one of the most breath-taking experiences, sitting in front of Charlie, like sitting in audience with a great deity. He understands when one of these groups is coming in, and he sits “in state” to greet and communicate. Each person sits in front of him and gets a question, a word, a thought, from Charlie, through Lucia. The skeptic could say, she’s saying something from her point of view, with the knowledge of you from the previous two days. It’s without doubt, not that. Even her pattern of speech is slightly different. He sees himself as an ambassador for the planet – spread the word. His question to the group – why do humans find it so hard to love? Is he a prisoner? Yes. Is he an abused, shut down soul? No, he’s accepting that this is his role. I think he even embraces it. He has such a learned, regal air about him. We were the honored disciples in his presence.
If I’d stuck to my beliefs, I wouldn’t have gone on the course, or to the zoo. And yes, some animals, like the elephants are, I believe, genuinely stressed and unhappy. But most, in my opinion, are doing ok. As well as any animal who has to live with humans can be. Would I be rude and antagonistic to someone who challenges my view? No, I try to see their point, and I hope to show them my point, if I can paint the picture well enough with my words.
So, did I change my beliefs? Yes, I think so. Do I like and choose to go to a zoo? No, but I think that too often we anthropomorphize animals and think how we would feel in jail, which would be my absolute worst nightmare. Some animals don’t cope, but many, especially captivity bred animals, or those with a very small natural territory, adapt as well as they can. And some zoos, such as Singapore where we were, give the animals enrichment activity, such as hiding food, so the animals have to work for it. I won’t be visiting zoos, but as we humans destroy the world, I’m less against them than I was before meeting Charlie. And, have I come away as an animal communicator? There, the jury is out… Certainly, most people on the course seemed to have developed a much deeper empathy of the animals and answered questions they couldn’t possibly have known about each other’s pets. That is definitely a very good thing for them, the animals and our fragile planet, and I would encourage everyone to go. Were the people there already open-minded enough to be communicators, who just needed some help in understanding the messages? Possibly, but it did seem to work. Can I do it? My logical, fact driven, science brain keeps getting in my way? I’m so used to looking for facts and research? So, yes, I can look at a horse and know what exercises or work he needs to do, but is that my training, experience, understanding, empathy, or communication? Your horse isn’t going to be having a conversation in my head about whether he prefers his pink or blue saddle pad, but I’m certainly open to whatever information he cares to show me!
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