Book Review: What Animals Can Teach Us About Spirituality?

Inspiring Lessons from Wild and Tame Creatures by Diana L. Guerrero (2003)

Corpus Collosum Learning Pvt. Ltd; Price: Rs. 195.00; 153 pages

(This article was first published in the magazine Life Positive, 2005)

In the tsunami that occurred in December 2004, that devastated South Asia, an extraordinary observation was that there was evidence of few or no animal death. Reports speculated that animals had the ability to anticipate the impending fury of nature which helped them migrate to higher grounds. Their sixth sense or intuitive powers came to their rescue. On the other hand, man with all his logical reasoning powers, scientific thinking abilities and technological advances had little clue about the impending catastrophe. Reports also tell us that animals can foretell seismic activity and it is not uncommon for animals to exhibit behavioural changes before an impending disaster. This leads to several questions. Has man with all his modern learning disconnected with the natural world, unlike animals, who are so finely attuned with it? Is there an inner harmony in animals which man has lost over time? Is this harmony responsible for the sharp intuitive powers in animals?

I had been contemplating on these questions when I happened to come across the book

‘What Animals Can Teach Us About Spirituality’, written by Diana L. Guerrero, which gave an insight to some of these queries. Guerrero is an animal behaviour expert and therapist and believes that by observing and learning from animals we can strive to become better human beings.

She begins her book by saying that: “Animals serve as a link to the intuitive and divine. You cannot be around animals and not learn something …In this book I will give you tools: methods and examples designed to give you a better understanding of animals; the knowledge necessary to achieve clear communication, and establish mutual respect; and illustrations of how animals help us touch into our spiritual natures and catalyze our growth. Each level of growth ties into all the others, for we are a complete unit, not segments.”

Having interacted with every kind of animal, from elephants and lions to bears, dolphins and dogs, Guerrero points out that animals have the ability to accept things as they are; they live in the moment and adjust accordingly. Guerrero explains that spiritual maturation in life is like climbing a spiritual ladder. The book consists of eight chapters, of which the first seven is dedicated to represent seven archetypal rungs of the ladder. The first step includes basic survival beliefs, and the rungs ascend through a series of steps to the acts of faith, prayer and finally to the seventh rung of meditative thought patterns.

Dogs and other pets are associated with humans most frequently. Every human’s favourite pet, the dog has been companion to humans for thousands of years, as a fellow hunter, loyal protector and a family member. Guerrero’s narrative in the chapter ‘Loyalty of a Dog’ also brings out instances where dogs have displayed traits like responsibility, fairness, integrity, power, honour and justice. ‘The Playfulness of the Otter’ acquaints us with the fact that although otters work hard, they also play hard. Otters remind us to be industrious and dive deep to get to the bottom of things. This is a lesson to all of us who tend to spend long hours at work, but have forgotten to take time off for loved ones or our own personal growth. It is this balance that humans need to strive at, which is so important to one’s spiritual development.

Guerrero also talks about the ‘Power of the Polar Bear’, ‘Heart of a Lion’, ‘Vision of an Eagle’ amongst other traits exhibited by animals. To me personally, the eagle is a magnificent creature. Soaring high in the skies it seems to be in total control of its life. Moreover, the eagle’s eyesight is four to eight times sharper and keener than a human with perfect eyesight. Eagles personify vision and foresight – needless to say that history is replete with examples where visionaries have been responsible for the progress of the world.

Our Gurus have said that God exists in the gap between our breaths. The mind of the dolphin is already aware of this profound truth. As it lives in water, it has to come up periodically to inhale air through its breathing hole. They have to be constantly aware of their breath unlike humans. Breathing with awareness leads to spiritual awareness. Indeed, tales of benevolence of dolphins abound across countries.

The last chapter talks about the Wisdom of the Owl and is virtually a handbook to connect with animals. A relatively unknown fact is that animals have a sense of humour and can be extremely mischievous. The book unlocks many such animal secrets. Through out the book Guerrero also narrates her personal heartwarming experiences with animals she has encountered on her job, and that with the other lessons learnt, makes this spiritual safari a fascinating read.

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