Animals are fully conscious, sentient beings just as we are. They have the full range of emotional life that we have, and they have spirits or souls and spiritual lives just as we do. They don’t have the kind of busy, chattering minds and tendency to always be thinking of the past or future or making all kinds of stories in their minds about the things that happen in their lives, as we do. As a result, they remain open to the present moment and to Grace in a way that people generally have to work pretty hard to achieve. There’s a quotation from Eckhart Tolle that I keep on a sort of inspiration board in my office that I’d like to read to you because it really speaks to this: “I sometimes say animals are closer to God than humans. They are closer to the source. The humans are more lost in the mind forms. Being is more obscured to the human because of the overlay of ego and mental formation". I call animals “guardians of Being,” especially animals that live with humans. Because, for many humans, it’s through their contact with animals they get in touch with that level of being. We are destined… to return to being by going beyond thinking. The animals are at a level prior to thinking. They haven’t lost themselves in thought. We rise above thinking and then we meet them again, where we’re both in no-thought. There’s a deep connection.
Why in your opinion is it difficult for us human beings to accept that animals actually do communicate in a language?
We humans like to think that we are special and that we are somehow separated from the rest of the animals. If we allow the possibility that animals have language, in the minds of some people that makes us seem less special and less separate. My answer is that we are indeed special, just like every other species is special in its own way.
How do animals communicate with each other according to scientific research?
There are many different ways that animals communicate with each other. Some of these ways we're just beginning to find out about because they seem so strange to us. Animals communicate using vision, sound, odors, touch, taste. But other ways that we are finding out that animals can communicate involve other senses, such as detecting electrical fluctuations and magnetic fields.
The idea of releasing or getting rid of anger is part of the Western idea that by releasing the energy the person will feel better and their life will be healthier. My approach is that it is not possible to get rid of energy and physics also teaches that we cannot create or destroy matter or energy. In traditional Native thought it is unthinkable to get rid of the anger, sickness, addiction and so on. What I ask patients to do is to make a conscious relationship with the anger. This requires that the patient introduce themselves to the anger and give it a gift. The gift in the Native American tradition usually is in the form of natural tobacco. Intent is more important than the actual form of the physical gift. The gift is a ceremonial form that allows our ego life to transcend and make relationship with spiritual entities. In Tibetan Buddhism it is also customary to give gifts to the Deities in the form of grain, butter lamps and such. Natural law dictates that the energy of anger must respond by introducing itself. Once the relationship has become conscious the person can ask anger what it is trying to teach them in this life time. Therefore, the anger becomes an ally that can help the person move into higher consciousness and not something to rid themselves of. Especially since it is not possible to get rid of this energy.
It is not the genes, it is the environment that controls the genes. So you are not a victim, you are a master, because you are the one that can change the environment and you are the one that can change the belief. So that is different because the common medical story makes you a victim. The new epigenetics story makes you a master because it says you can change everything. Only one percent of illness is actually really related to genes. 99 percent comes from lifestyle. And that becomes very critical because we kept blaming all of our health issues on a body that breaks down when in fact the health issues are not because of the body's fault. It is because of the mind’s fault.
This is why it's necessary for people to understand epigenetics and the moment you change your mind you change your genetics. There is this response study. They were looking at genes associated with inflammation and they found that eight hours of meditation can change two of the fundamental genes that control inflammation. Eight hours of meditation can change gene activity!
There is no such difficulty in bridging ancient science and modern science. The difficult process is more to spread the message of ancient science in the world. Since there is a difficulty in processing the information from both sides, the East and the West, the bridging process is getting delayed.
This difficulty came into existence because of the following factors: The identification of modern science took place only between the 6th and 7th century. It can be traced to Europe beginning with its separation from religion during the lifetime of Copernicus (1473-1543AD) and Aristotle (384 BC- 322 BC). After around 2000 years Copernicus took the non-religious approach to knowledge that is now broadly known as 'modern science'. This development stands in stark contrast to the path of ancient science in India that dates back 10, 000 years wherein ancient science was well integrated within the cultural and spiritual context. Unlike modern science ancient science has not been separated from religion.
Even if we do seperate religion, spirituality cannot be separated from the holistic ancient science as consciousness is the biggest uncertainity that will remain as a part of ancient science.
Spirituality is not reducible to happiness equated with satisfaction with life or more generally with well-being. Rather, it is characterized by the capacity for depth of feelings, both positive and negative. In my view a spiritual person is not necessarily happy all or most of the time, and may even experience anguish at times. Indeed, we may consider the inability to feel unhappiness or psychic pain (an instance of emotional numbing) as a symptom of spiritual emptiness. As a Chinese saying puts it: “There is no greater grief than the death of one’s heart.” The capacity for depth of feelings, versus psychic numbing, is the watershed that separates emotional health from sickness. Dysphoric feelings do not necessarily incapacitate.
There are some open minded theories of psychology which discuss that it is really peoples feeling of separation that creates their suffering, it is that perception that we are alone in the universe. I am separate from nature; I am separate from anybody else. This is an illusion that is very, very strong, especially in American culture, yet how completely illogical this concept of boundaries is. Think about it! Does any living thing in nature have a strong boundary, where one thing begins and another ends? No! We are permeable! Everything about us is permeable! Our skin for example is a very important boundary; it keeps our insides from spilling out. But it is permeable to a certain degree. You can place a hormonal compound on your skin that has a small molecular structure and it will absorb through your skin straight to your bloodstream. Boundaries are permeable and that is what people misunderstand. So empathy is not a lack of boundaries, rather it is based on recognition that boundaries are permeable.
Wiremu: We have a term called whānau ora, which means family wellbeing. In order for someone to be well, they need the family to be well. So it is about bringing that into place and also instilling that knowledge in somebody that for their wellbeing their family needs to be healthy. For us working in a holistic way includes the physical, the spiritual, the mental and psychological and also the relational domains.
Allister: Wiremu thinks of family differently than I do. When we meet with a family quite often I would ask about the parents’ generation and the grandparents’ generation. But Wiremu is often thinking in up to seven generations. I’ve come to know that he perceives it quite differently and that he often thinks of problems coming down the generations. So he might be looking for a cause to the problem, which dates back a few generations. And the family might not even know it, but then they might go investigating and find out what Wiremu is talking about.
There is something really important about relationship, openness, the grace of listening, and the belief that the person is indeed whole. These qualities help the conversation to be safe and generous and caring, and you will eventually get to the place where you need to be. And that is a relational thing rather than an expert thing. The expertise is more about relationship than it is about knowing. There is also a deep power in recognition which is mobilized in the knowing that if someone says something it has deep meaning. Or choosing another metaphor, what people present with is the top of an iceberg and as you go down you realize that it is a lot larger than it appears on the surface.