ISSUES OF FAITH: Five spiritual lessons I’ve learned from my pets

Spiritual inspiration can come from many aspects of daily life, and pets are a prime example.

My husband and I share our home with a loving dog and a rambunctious cat.

I learn life lessons from them on a fairly regular basis, including these:

1. Embracing the present moment

Animals are naturally aligned with “the now,” enjoying each moment to the fullest.

Whether they are eating breakfast, going for a walk, playing with a toy (or with each other) or taking a nap, they seem to be totally present to the task at hand.

They don’t seem fettered down with regret about the past or worries about the future.

They remind us to take the same approach to life.

2. Compassion

Our pets seem to have a sixth sense about when something is bothering us.

When we are ill or under the weather, they stick closer to our sides and take naps with us until we feel better.

When we are emotionally distressed, they become more attentive and loving.

Thus, they inspire me to become more attentive toward the needs of others, and extend help and compassion whenever possible.

3. Single-pointed focus

Like many of you, I sometimes struggle with what Buddhists call “monkey mind” — that chattering monkey of our internal monologues.

The best way to tame our monkey minds is to practice single-pointed meditation.

It is my good fortune that I get to observe this technique being practiced each day by my pets, such as when my dog focuses on the ball she is fetching or when my cat observes birds on the other side of the window.

It’s as if nothing else in the world exists for them.

In this way, they inspire me and help me get ever-more adept at mindfulness meditation.

4. Unconditional love

Pets can be remarkably loyal and dedicated friends.

As long as we don’t abuse or neglect them, they love us mightily — without ever considering our race, class, gender, age or belief system.

So when I encounter an especially challenging person or situation, I often ask myself, “What would my pet do?”

5. Accepting hardships with grace

Have you ever noticed how animals, most especially dogs, do not allow their injuries or age to keep them from enjoying life?

They may have joint pain that slows them down, they may have endured amputation or even partial paralysis, but somehow still they find a way to “smile” and carry on.

Mind you, some also get cranky or anxious at times, depending on the severity of their discomfort, but they do not waste their days feeling sorry for themselves or yearning for the past.

May we strive to do likewise.

________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. The Rev. Kate Lore is a minister at the Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Port Townsend. Her email is [email protected]

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