10 Spiritual and Life Lessons Animals Can Teach Us
Updated: Sep 26, 2019
Look and you’ll find the silent spiritual wisdom of animals all around. It’s simple to follow, devoid of any rigid tenets or esoteric concepts, and yet deeply profound in impact. It's no wonder then that animals have been spiritual companions to humans, in some of the most ancient cultures. They've been linked with supernatural forces, spiritual guardians, and even worshipped as agents of God. Ancient Egyptian art depicts animals as sacred representations of gods and goddesses. Several religions, including Hinduism, worship animals as gods, assign them to powerful gods, or think that their gods could assume animal form. In Buddhism, animals are regarded as sentient beings, capable of feeling the same suffering as humans, and having the same potential to become enlightened. But religion and folklore aside, animals can teach us some powerful, practical lessons about life, spirituality and mindfulness. and Here are just a few of them.
Lesson 1: Compassion
All faiths place great importance on compassion. From Buddhism, to the Good Samaritan in Christianity, to Judaism’s "13 attributes of compassion,” empathy for the suffering of others is considered a special virtue that can change the world. And no one seems to practice this as effortlessly as animals. There are limitless examples of dogs endangering their own lives to save people, chimpanzees taking care of their ailing, elephants using their tusks, to pick up a fellow elephant that is injured or dying, and monkeys protecting the young of other species, like puppies.
Lesson 2: Unconditional love & loyalty
Animals have a natural gift for sharing unconditional love between themselves, and other species. They love us for who we are, and this love is pure, unchanging, and limitless. Animals are also intensely loyal. Every single person in your life may leave you, but your pet never will. No matter what happens, they will stick it out with you. They accept you for who you are and their commitment is forever.
Lesson 3: Mindfulness and being present
Animals are true masters of the present. They have an immediate sense of joy and wonder of creation. Watch a bird sing, an animal play, or just laze around, and you will notice that animals have mastered the art of living in the moment, of living mindfully. They enjoy every meal, every walk, every game. They enjoy the moment and stay "present", without moping over the past, or worrying about the future.
Lesson 4: Trust your instincts
I have a rule. If my dog doesn’t like someone, I keep the person at bay. It’s worked brilliantly for me because animals sense what’s beneath the surface. While we often get mislead by words and appearances, these don’t matter to them. They pick on non-verbal clues and follow their instincts, and this gives them a better assessment of people and situations that could be potentially harmful.
Lesson 5: Never hold grudges
Think of all the times we scold, ignore, or are insensitive to our loving pets. Can you recall one instance where they held it against you? Unlikely, because animals hold no grudges. They just move on, and so should we, because grudges breed negativity, and that prevents emotional and spiritual growth.
Lesson 6: Value alone time
Animals enjoy company, but they also delight in their own personal time and cherish it. We should try this too, as it’s key to spiritual growth. The time we spend alone creates balance, makes us more comfortable with ourselves, quietens our mind and promotes self-reflection.
Lesson 7: Have Gratitude
Have you ever slaved to prepare a meal and got no appreciation from your family, whatsoever? Well, this never happens with dogs. They appreciate every unimaginative meal you give them. Every cheap toy you bring them, and wag their tails happily each time you indulge them. They are not afraid to show their gratitude, weather you reciprocate or not!
Lesson 8: Be kind to kids & old people
My grandma had a very serious illness that would made her unaware of her own actions. She would often step on our otherwise fierce Alsatian, and it would really hurt him. But not once did he ever bite her. He instinctively knew something was wrong with her. Sometimes she would stroll out of the house alone, and he would go behind her and ensure she returned home safe. He was also amazingly gentle and forgiving with small kids who would do annoying things to him. Nobody taught him how to be kind. He just was!
Lesson 9: Be good parents
The natural nurturing instincts of animals make them wonderful parents, not only to their own children but also to other abandoned species. One of the most incredible stories I heard is of a wild crow that looked after a kitten, beak-feeding and protecting her from danger till she was old enough to go solo. Another remarkable parenting trait that animals have, is the ability to let go of their offspring, once they are grown enough. They don’t cling to them or make them feel guilty for taking their own paths. And have absolutely no expectation from them.
Lesson 10: Be who you are
Ever seen an animal with a double faced personality? Pretty impossible, as animals have no artifice. They are the same in front of everyone. They are not self-conscious and express themselves with abandon and integrity. They are simply comfortable in their skin and authentic in their behaviour. And this ability to live with abandon and love ourselves for who we are, is one of the most critical lessons in our life and spiritual journey. It’s the only way to find true contentment and happiness.
Once we embrace these wonderful spiritual lessons that animals teach us, we can find spiritual direction by overcoming the mundane and embracing the sacred. We can transcend words, and discover new frontiers of spirituality and consciousness.