Animals as Mirrors

Michelle Burns, USA

Founder, Advanced Holistic Healing Arts.

(Submitted by the author)

Have you ever looked into an animal’s eyes and seen yourself reflected? Reflected, not just physically, but spiritually as well? Animals are so much closer to the source, the infinite, with no veil between this world and others. They see truly. When an animal looks at us, they reflect to us the part of ourselves which we've often hidden, even from ourselves. They can see the part of us that hurts, that is afraid, that is vulnerable, that loves.

And, when we look into their eyes, we can see those parts of ourselves as well. But, through their eyes, we see those parts as pieces of ourselves to be embraced, not hidden.

Animals see us through love
So, how can animals see us through love when they demonstrate fear and aggression? They see us through love because they are seeing those forgotten and hidden places in us and have learned to embody those parts because we are too afraid to acknowledge them in ourselves. Animals, whether wild or tame, offer us their unconditional acknowledgment that they are who they are and can accept us for who we are. Does that mean that we are perfect and we don’t have things we want or need to change to be happier? We are, all of us, perfect, and the animals know and see that and they also know and see that sometimes we might want to learn new behaviors and patterns for our own happiness and joy. That knowing is reflected in their eyes and their actions toward us.

There is a saying in our culture: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Throughout my life, wonderful, teaching, loving animals have graced me with their mirror eyes, with the gift of seeing myself through unconditional, nonjudgmental, honest love and acceptance.

Animals are great teachers
I have learned patience while communing with deer and birds, love and forgiveness while living with dogs, independence, autonomy and a lack of guilt while living with cats, and a willingness to serve while working with horses, donkeys and cows. And through all the experiences I have had in life with animals, I have learned what a gift it is to give and receive trust and respect: for each other’s points of view, each other’s needs and the opportunities for learning and joy we bring to each other.

Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” While his statement makes a great impact, I'd like to modify it to reflect the following: “The greatness of an individual and his or her progress towards joy can be determined by the way he or she relates to animals.” As we become more open to knowing ourselves, animals become great teachers on our journey of self-discovery and self-love. We just need to see ourselves in their eyes.

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