Tuesday, December 09, 2014

An Easy Way to Help Animals in Zoos

As someone obsessed with animals, I -- like many -- have conflicted feelings about animals in captivity. My love for animals goes back many years - as a child I wanted nothing more in the world than to be a veterinarian, and then in my first year of college at George Washington University, I had my heart set on becoming an animal behaviorist. Unable to resist the call of my fascination for wild creatures, I would skip out on calculus class and take the metro to the National Zoo, where I would sit and make observations in a notebook about the resident orangutans. (I would not recommend this as a highway to success, but I did have some beautiful experiences with the animals over the course of that year. )

While there can be no denying that good zoos often provide caring and stimulating homes for animals that, for a myriad of reasons, are no longer suited for or capable of having life in the wild,  there are an equal (if not greater) number of zoos around the world that trade in illegal wildlife and treat animals abominably. In honor of Animal Rights Awareness Day, I wanted to share this powerful article by animal communicator Anna Breytenbach. I encourage you to take time to think about what you might be able to do to help wild animals today, whether it be donating time or even a small amount of money to your favorite organization. But Anna shares a technique you can use that doesn't cost a thing, and I invite you to try it the next time you find yourself facing an animal in captivity. 
"Seeing captive wildlife in zoos can be very upsetting for people who care about the distress the animals may feel. The vast majority of animals in zoos or recreation centres are living a miserable life of confinement and overwhelm. Unable to exercise their bodies or minds nor live a natural lifestyle with normal relationships, they suffer dire mental, physical and emotional consequences. When we witness these sad states, we can ourselves become upset, angry, sad or despairing. Unfortunately, us being in those states is not at all helpful to the very animals. If we indulge our emotional reactions and end up pouring those out in the direction of the animal, they feel so much worse about their situation and themselves. Feelings such as pity and anxiety add to an animal's stress, compounding the problem.
Of course we need to be authentic in acknowledging our feelings. They can also be wonderful motivators of positive, productive action - inspiring great acts of support, assistance and transformation.
However, when we're in the presence of any animal in distress, it's important to adjust our thoughts and feelings in the moment. Here's a simple 4-step process to do that:
1. Take a moment to calm and quiet your mind. Even in a busy environment, simply closing your eyes and focusing on your regular breathing rhythm can achieve this quickly
2. Allow any unpleasant or unhelpful emotions and thoughts to leave you. One way is to visualise them running down and off your body like muddy water
3. Bring your attention to your heart centre and feel a sense of calmness
4. Think of positive or uplifting emotions and states of being - one at a time. For each one, feel like you are projecting that particular feeling towards the animal, imagining it landing upon them and wrapping them in the soft light of that particular energy
Throughout these steps, contain and ground your own energy within yourself. This is a non-intrusive process aimed at supporting the animal without expecting any feedback or outcome. We're not trying to force anything upon the animal; we're simply offering energetic assistance by providing the kinds of frequencies they may not be call upon on their own due to their circumstances.
By humans witnessing and caring in this way, animals feel appreciated and seen at a deeper level than the average person who only "sees" them visually and superficially. Most visitors to zoos put a camera lens between themselves and the animals they are supposedly there to experience. Far better to set aside all technology and distractions and simply engage with the animal directly with your full awareness. Even very distressed or depressed animals will sense your connection and compassion, and their experience of their day will be the better for it." 
For more information on Anna and her company AnimalSpirit, visit http://www.animalspirit.org/

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