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.
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.