Be Happy, Dang it!
By Kenny Coogan
I want you to think about what spirituality, deep meditation and pets have in common.
In a recently released book Animal Wisdom, Dr Linda Bender, DVM suggests that we can learn something from the spiritual lives of animals. Dr Bender wants pet owners to be able to hone the natural ability to communicate with them, so that we can learn to understand their pressing messages about peace, happiness and the future of our planet.
"It is commonplace, and true, to point out that animals are happier than people because they live entirely in the present," the author states.
I believe that animals do live in the present. I also believe that all beings - including humans - want to be happy. Being happy may be our universal quest that all humans share.
People often divide time into units that we call weeks, hours, minutes or seconds. If you take one of those units, you can divide them even further, half in the past and half in the future. How many times do we truly focus on the present? Are you having trouble focusing on this magazine clip? Or are you thinking about your naan in the oven, your afternoon chores or your dinner plans? Once you reach those events, are you going to be fully present and engaging? Alternatively are you going to dread tomorrow's Monday morning traffic and the meeting you have to attend?
When I leave for an eight hour work day and then return home my cat, Princeton, comes jaunting into the kitchen to great me, often quite vocally. She puts her tail into the air, and may even play bow - stretching her front arms as far as they reach, arching her back to solicit a rub down. If I leave something in my car, upon re-entry Princeton is once again there rubbing up against my leg to greet me.
This is one lesson that pets can teach us: time in paradise is elastic. The author suggests that I should not feel bad for my cat lounging around all day when I am not home. When I arrive my cat is in ecstasy, vocalising happily, getting back scratches and rubbing her face on my finger, smelling as much information as possible about my whereabouts. This period of happiness expands her time constraints and easily overshadows her non-active cat nap times. The more joy and happiness that occurs in our lives during a single event, should feel exceptionally greater than our other flat-lined events.
I have not read this book in its entirety yet, but even before I was aware of this book, I did notice that I was better-off when I left my cell phone in the house when I worked around my yard. I focused on my gardens, played and trained with my chickens and time did feel insignificant. I was not bothered by a constant vibration or alert, and surprisingly my emails and Facebook messages were not harmed by my delayed responses.
To further this idea of contentment and increasing happiness through present events, I am reminded of my good friend Mona. Mona's 93-year-old father recently had a stroke. Many people will say just make it over this hurtle and things will be okay. However this plays out; once she is over this hurdle, she will be faced with others. There will be tires that get holes in them and fast food coffees that are mismade and toes to be stubbed on. What our pets teach us is to focus on the present, and focus on the positive aspects of the present. Things will get better in the future but there will always be hurdles.
Spirituality, deep mediation and our own pets can teach us how to be happy. Pets show us through their lives how to connect with others, how to live for today and make every day special. Imagine if you greeted your spouse or loved one with the ecstasy that Princeton shows me when I return home. I bet there would be an influx of happiness in the household and isn't that what we all desire?
Kenny Coogan, CPBT-KA has a BS in animal behaviour. He is a pet columnist and a regular contributor to pet and garden magazines. He has authored a children's book titled "A Tenrec Named Trey (And other odd lettered animals that like to play)." Please search "Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan" on Facebook to learn more.