Tuesday, January 24, 2012

31 Writers, 31 Lessons-Lesson 24: Spend Time in the Presence of Animals

The squirrel sat on his hind legs and held a piece of bread in his front paws. Cautiously, hurriedly, and determinedly he nibbled at the bread, his eyes darting around constantly, ready to scamper away at the slightest hint of trouble. I stood silently and watched him from the balcony door. I smiled. When he gulped down the last few crumbs, I felt fulfilled, content, a lot like I do when I have just eaten a delicious meal.

It didn’t take long for me to be drawn into the world of the squirrel. I silently observed his movements, and marvelled at his alertness and resolve to procure food even though it meant exposing himself to possible harm. A deep feeling of compassion for the squirrel surged from within my consciousness. All my other thoughts were silenced, for a while. It was like a meditation of sorts.

Animals and birds have the potential to bring out the best in us, and spending time in their presence can put us in touch with a part of ourselves that we often tend to ignore. When I approach them in silence, respectfully not intrusively, as a guest in their world, I find that I am able to communicate with them at the level of feeling. It doesn’t matter what type of animal or bird it is. I have felt the same surge of compassion when I watched swans glide over still waters, when I observed a turtle clumsily swim to the shore, and when I stopped in my tracks and silently watched a pig rummage through mud and dirt!

I’ve seen them in zoos as well, but few zoos are able to re-create the rich natural environments that these animals and birds were meant to thrive in. In most zoos I’ve visited, the energy that emanates from these animals is one of resignation – meek acceptance of their imprisonment. The very act of caging a creature is disrespectful to the life energy that flows within it. By disrespecting the life force in another being, we ultimately disrespect the life force within ourselves. We wonder then, why we are never at peace with ourselves. Loving ourselves has much to do with loving those around us, and that includes birds and animals.

Have you ever wondered why children are so fascinated by animals? Why does every child have a collection of ducks, bears, mice, and dogs in their toy box? When a child walks past a stray dog, the child will invariably point to the dog and say “doggie,” even as the parents will, more often than not, pull the child along and make a comment about how the dog will bite you if you don’t keep walking. Children are born with an instinctive love for animals. Yet, few parents allow their children to express this love. As children grow, they are taught to fear animals as beasts or look upon them merely as pieces of food. In many countries, the only ducks that children get to see are the dead ones hanging in the windows of meat shops.

As I write this piece, I look out the window. A beautiful brown bird with yellow lined eyes is sitting on the ledge chirping with energy and enthusiasm. Have you ever seen a depressed bird?

Each morning, I’m greeted by my pet dog with a joy and fervour that a human cannot possibly match every single day! Sometimes, she’s all over me and ready to play ball first thing in the morning.

On other days, she’s gentler; she puts her head on my knee and nudges me until I hold her head in my hands and stroke the back of her ears. While I’m massaging her head, she closes her eyes in pure bliss, and that bliss rubs off on me as well! I think she knows the energy that I need for the day – active and extroverted or gentle and soothing, and she greets me accordingly.

More often than not, animals reflect back to us the feeling that we put out towards them. When we approach them with fear, we see aggression or a fear response back from them. When we approach them with love, we’re rewarded with more love, sometimes a lot more than our fragile hearts can handle.

Sai Ganesh Nagpal lives in India. He is a Writer, Musician, Trainer, and English Teacher and enjoys exploring creative expression in different roles. Born in Dubai, U.A.E, Sai began music lessons at the age of four and recorded his first albums of Vedic Chants and Indian devotional music when he was sixteen. He studied Fine Arts at the Maharishi University of Management in the US where he also taught Sanskrit to students from different countries. After graduation, he moved to New Delhi, India, where he has since been a Writer for online educational programs in schools, colleges, and companies. Sai is also a certified Teacher of English as a Foreign Language. You can find him at http://www.sai-waves.blogspot.com.


  1. That is a wonderful piece. It fully resonates within me.

    When we moved to our apartment, I had to give up my dog. She's in a good place, but I still miss her. Very much.

  2. Sai-I love this piece. I don't live with animals, but they are all around me in Washington State, which is covered with trees, mountains, rivers, lakes and has an abundance of squirrels, birds, raccoons, foxes, deer and in the deep woods its possible to see bears and even cougars, but those are rare sightings. Squirrels, birds ducks, and seagulls are plentiful around my house in Seattle. In fact, we have a family of squirrels that lives outside our house. I can so relate to your description of entering the world of an animal. I have sat in awe observing animals and I feel, if one is gentle and mindful, and not needy or disrespectful, there can be a beautiful exchange of energy between human and animal on a very subtle level. It is a meditation, as you describe. I think we humans in our fast-paced world, have forgotten this subtlety of living and animals/nature bring us back to that. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Beautiful :-) One of my favorite things to do. Whether it's spending time with our 3 cats & bunny or sitting outside and watching squirrels run around, I love all of them. Animals always put a smile on my face and warm my heart.

  4. Thank you for your kind comment, Rob. I feel your pain in being separated from your dog. It's a bond that's so strong - goes straight to the heart!

    Katherine - thank you for your comment, and for having my post here! It's so true - we're constantly running from one thing to the next, and we often miss out on appreciating the beauty that's right outside our doorsteps. Your house sounds like a beautiful place! It's truly amazing when we're able to commune with nature in the places where we live, instead of having to drive hours away for it.

  5. So beautifully written! There is another world out there that is constantly sending us love, beautiful energy and spiritual messages on a daily basis... all we need to do is to open ourselves to this energy and allow the animal kingdom to heal and guide us!

  6. So simple and profound. Thank you for opening a window to the warmth of love that the animals hold!