Animals are sleeping immortals.
– Paramhansa Yogananda
Have you ever had your day brightened by seeing a dog enjoy a car ride, his head lolling out the window of a passing vehicle, the wind ruffling his fur? Or in the way your cat greets you after work, her tail tip twitching to beat the band in the excitement of welcoming you home? How about when your pet ferret somersaults across the floor, backflips off the sofa, ricochets off the wall, and then does it all over again just for fun? These tiniest of gestures, communicating a myriad of meanings, can make our day or even change our lives.
We love our animal friends. We love to see them happy, healthy, chipper, and spunky. We ache when they hurt. We care for them. And in that care, we have many choices. This is a book about one such option: flower essences for animals.
Flower essences may be called “metaphysical herbs,” or herbs that work on a beyond-the-physical level. In contrast, allopathic medications, from prescription to over-the-counter drugs, work biochemically. Western medicines exert their effect by specifically or nonspecifically reversing or neutralizing the symptoms of a physiological process gone awry. For example, if a person eats incorrectly, he may develop an ulcer, creating a biochemical problem. Scientists have learned ways to prevent the cells of the stomach from secreting excessive amounts of acid, which will in turn allow it to heal. We see here a specific biochemical blockade or enhancement to alleviate the ulceration and its physical causes.
Flower essences, on the other hand, work on the spiritual or psycho- logical state underlying the physical condition; they do not need to pass through the digestive system for absorption. They address the problem at the level of thought or emotion that precedes the physical disharmony. Since not all people who eat incorrectly will develop ulcers, the question arises as to why some people develop this condition and others do not. Essential flower essence philosophy suggests treating the deeper cause, balancing the personality so that the individual may heal himself.
Many people today, including some in the medical profession, are recognizing the importance of treating the root cause of physical disorders rather than the resultant symptoms. Dr. John Lee of Mill Valley, California, who recently retired from forty years of medical practice, says that we are “collecting patients from the wrong end of the river.” In other words, people would arrive at his office asking to have their strokes, heart attacks, and cataracts “fixed” rather than discovering and remedying what caused them to become ill in the first place. He observed that people made wrong life choices that eventually caused discomfort, if not life-threatening illnesses.
In our role as pet owners, we can make choices concerning the care of our pets. (Note: For a new definition of pets and pet owners, please see the introduction to this book.) Flower essences, a truly holistic form of natural pet care, affect energy and heighten awareness. Since 1977, I have collected countless testimonies confirming that flower essences are especially helpful for animals, simply because their natures are far less complicated than those of human beings, and thus the natural effects of the essences are significantly less blocked or constricted. To summarize, their personalities don’t get in the way.
The mineral kingdom of inorganic matter, including rocks and precious gems, is encased in all five koshas. The fifth is the annamaya kosha, or matter sheath. We might remember the “pet rock” companion inundating the toy market some years back. The rock was an easy-to-care-for pet—no feeding, no cleaning—but, alas, not much awareness. Members of the mineral kingdom—crystalline in color, structure, and hardness—compose this least-evolved group of living things. Life sleeps in this kingdom.
However, the mineral kingdom does possess some awareness. Metal fatigue—and the fact that metal possesses some level of consciousness—is now an acknowledged phenomenon. In my first book, The Essential Flower Essence Handbook, I have documented some of the findings of the Indian botanist Dr. Jagadis Chandra Bose, who developed instruments for measuring the response of metals to various stimuli.
When the “matter” sheath dissolves through the evolutionary process, we find the plant kingdom emerging, exposing the life sheath, or pranamaya kosha. Here, life expresses itself through the beauty and form of plants, characterized by cellulose cell walls and growth through synthesis of inorganic substances. A primary, distinguishing factor of the plant kingdom, as we shall later see, is its lack of locomotive skills. Thus, life dreams in this kingdom.
Yet plants can communicate with other living beings, including with each other. Trees, by way of example, are conscious that they are alive and make an effort to protect and preserve themselves. One particular kind of tree, if attacked by a certain leaf mold, will send a warning message to other neighboring trees, who then produce a chemical within their systems that filters into their leaves and prevents the mold from growing.
Next, the mind sheath, or manomaya kosha, falls away, revealing the animal kingdom. Webster defines an animal as “any organism of the kingdom animalia, distinguished from plants by certain typical characteristics, such as the power of locomotion, fixed structure and limited growth, and nonphotosynthetic metabolism.” Animals possess the power of movement, which enables them the benefit of accessing different localities. The sheer joy of animals at play—jumping, climbing, racing, diving—is a clear expression of their exploration of the freedom of movement. Within ten minutes after his birth, a goat kid is standing on spindly legs; a few days later, he is frolicking on cliffs and crags. Although plants may be transported as their seeds are windborne—the dandelion, for example—it is the combination of the ability to direct their own movement and being aware that allows animals to perceive and learn through covering greater territory. And so, in the animal kingdom, life stirs and further awakens.
Thus, we see an evolution of consciousness from one kingdom to the next as the koshas, or veils that dull awareness, are removed. Without suggesting that one is more valuable than the other, most people would agree that a dog is more aware than a sea slug. Life’s delightful beauty lies in its infinite variety of expression. The leopard’s spots and the zebra’s stripes are proof of a supremely conscious design and Designer both! The point is that a universal and innate drive exists in all living beings to increase their awareness. All life forms express this desire.
The jnanamaya kosha, or the discriminative sheath, is then exposed, and mankind enters the picture. In humans, the intellect has developed to a level of discrimination, thought, and reason. It is on this level that life, in the form of man, gains the element of will, and thus free choice. We may use our thoughts and actions positively, to evolve, or negatively, to close ourselves down to greater awareness. Herein lies the potential pitfall for all human beings: The major disadvantage of free will is that we can choose to think or behave in ways that act contrary to our best interest.
Overeating is a prime example. Injurious to the body and mind alike, we go for that second helping. Through misuse of reason and abandonment of common sense, we demonstrate our lack of attunement with nature’s wisdom. On the other hand, one never sees overweight animals in the wild. (A growing problem, in fact, is obesity in domesticated animals as we bring them into environments that are removed from nature and thus unnatural to them.)
Animals do not possess the element of choice inherent in free will. Since they do not have the ability to make wrong choices, they are incapable of mankind’s foibles; self-aggrandizement does not exist in the animal kingdom. It is for this very reason, one suspects, that people are so drawn to animals: We recognize their lack of ego, the “inner Eden” state to which we ourselves wish to return. In this sense, they possess a purity and innocence that humans often lack. A life lived in harmony with nature radiates an innate beauty and spirituality, reflective of Nature herself. At the same time, because of their ability to use reason and make choices, human beings are far less driven and controlled by their instinctive nature than animals.
Another interesting distinction between man and the lower animals is that adultery, as we know it, does not exist in the animal kingdom. Even though their behavior with multiple partners may seem indiscriminate to us, sex for them is purely an act of procreation to propagate the species. It harbors no moral issues. Nor is divorce a subject of concern for them—including legal fees and child support. The bonobo, a pigmy chimpanzee of which less than twenty thousand remain in Zaire, are as close as it comes to an exception. This recently discovered breed appears to use the sex act not only as an alternative to confrontational behavior and to calm their rivalry over food but also for pleasure. Although apes can sometimes be trained to have the intelligence of a human child, we may surmise that the bonobo behavior lacks the maturity and discrimination usually seen in adult humans.
As a human being evolves, the final sheath, the bliss sheath, or anandamaya kosha, falls away, and the state of Self-realization described in every major religion is achieved. Through right use of the quality of free choice, one experiences the state of nondualistic ecstasy and thus awakens fully.
Anatomical Insights: The Brain
In scientific terms, this concept of evolution can be explained through a basic study of the brain. When we look at man and most of the vertebrate animals, such as reptiles, birds, and mammals, we find that they possess an area of the brain called the limbic system, so named because it is anatomically shaped like a half moon. This area, deep inside the brain, is fairly similar in a cat, a rabbit, and a man. In all creatures it performs a similar function—even in reptiles, who are more simple and primitive than mammals.
In man and other animals, the limbic system is the area of the brain concerned with instinctual functions and basic behaviors, such as rage and fear. Examples of limbic function at work may be seen in a junkyard dog’s ferocity in defending its territory or an animal’s panic when attacked by larger, more aggressive animals. Behaviors attributed to the limbic system include the preservation of self as well as the instinct to reproduce. These behaviors apply to man as well. In human beings, the limbic system functions as a built-in, instinctual safety net.
What separates us from other animals is the degree to which our prefrontal lobes—the seat of the intellect—are developed. This area of the brain is the key that ultimately distinguishes us from lower animals—although other structural differences exist in the brain, obviously, between us and gorillas or rabbits. In a few of the animals, such as dolphins, prefrontal lobe capabilities exist, though in very limited ways.
The prefrontal lobes of the brain are the most anterior portion of the frontal lobes, located directly behind the forehead and between the eyebrows. It is that area of the brain which is concerned with our power of concentration; our level of happiness and well-being; certain aspects of creativity; our ability to learn new things; our willpower and our willingness to stick with a specific task; our ability to extract generalities from assimilated information; and, perhaps most importantly, our idealism and aspirations.
The interesting thing is that in man the prefrontal lobes actually exert an inhibitory effect on the limbic system, essentially acting as an override mechanism. This is what we see in longtime meditators: a quieting of the limbic system occurs, automatically inhibiting the more primitive, instinctual behaviors driven by this function of the brain.
In meditation, the focus of the brain’s function shifts to the prefrontal lobes, the part that distinguishes us from other animals. Thus the brain and nervous system are positively affected in the meditator. Physiologically, the overall effect of meditation can be described as a relaxation response, in which the “relax and repose” portion of the central nervous system is emphasized over the “fight or flight” portion. Both during and following meditation, people exhibit lowered pulse rates, lower blood pressure, and better functioning of their organs of regeneration, such as the liver, kidneys, and intestines. Also present is a dramatic decrease in the secretion of stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisone.
While it is true that every kind thought a person thinks will raise his energy and increase his awareness that all living things are a part of his own greater reality, the practice of meditation can hasten this process. Scientific studies have shown that meditation improves self-esteem, gives a broader worldview, makes one less self-involved, and reduces neurotic behaviors and psychological annoyances, such as anxiety and depression.
Pain: Animal versus Human
Although some people may argue that a stalk of broccoli has feelings too, including the ability to feel pain, most would agree that a cow has appreciably more advanced feelings than a green cruciferous vegetable. We would also concur that a horse is far more aware than a terrestrial gastropod mollusk, commonly known as a slug. This explanation harbors no judgment; rather, it fosters respect for life in all forms. Some Eastern religious followers, in fact, go to great length to avoid stepping on the tiniest insects as they stroll.
The pain, rage, and terror that animals experience in being led to their death at slaughterhouses is virtually unimaginable. If, however, a group of people were led into a room and told that they would be killed, their suffering would far exceed that of the animals. The people’s agony in this identical situation would be multiplied to an intolerable level. Metaphysically encased in one remaining kosha, represented by prefrontal lobe capability, humans would possess an even greater awareness of their situation.
Animals deal directly with pain in the moment they experience it. They do what they have to do to avoid it, if possible, or to adapt to it. One “animal communicator”—a person who can communicate telepathically with animals—attended an elderly black Lab suffering from severe arthritis and reported, “This dog just goes and goes. It’s not an issue for him; he simply deals with it. His attitude seems to be that this is the way it is, and he’ll try to get comfortable.”
Animals suffer physical pain due to the stimulation of the nerves. A fox with its leg caught in a trap, for example, would feel the pain of the clamp and tearing of the flesh with a full nervous-system response. A human being in that same situation would suffer the additional agony of mental anguish: “What if I lose the leg, how will I support my family? What about my job? Is this covered by my insurance? How will I get by in the future?” and so on. Thus, a person experiences a much greater component of suffering than the physical response alone. Animals live in the moment, accepting what happens and dealing with it at the time, unlike we who often live simultaneously in the past and future. In this way, we could say that they deal with pain better than we do. Plus, they don’t take it so personally. Our identification with our body, and the resultant thought that this is my leg and my pain, increases the suffering many times over.
Instinct versus Intuition
As mentioned earlier, animals do not have free choice, generally speaking, as does mankind. Instinct and nature, rather than free will, are their guides as they remain encased in the third kosha. Some animals form pair bonds; others live in packs. Some animals are altruistic—they will sacrifice their lives for their partners or their families, whether an animal group or a human household.
The current scientific mode of thought is to observe each behavior of an animal and analyze it according to whether it increases or decreases the possibility of the perpetuation of genes of that particular animal or its species. It inquires: Can that animal reproduce? If a wolf confronts a moose charging his pack, is the wolf bravely altruistic for laying down his life so that the pack may survive the encounter? This particular school of animal behavior would say that, based on statistical evidence, the wolf’s actions are a specific display of cunning to allow the pack’s continued existence. Thus the gene pool is perpetuated. In this light, the wolf’s behavior is not altruistic, even though it appears so. It is instinct.
One expression of instinct, it might be said, is an inherent, nature-based form of altruism. If a dog saves his household from a fire (see chapter 3), what is his fundamental, motivating instinct? Preservation, or continued existence. In addition, the dog wants to preserve the bond and relationship with his human family. Animals grieve when their loved ones—of their own species or others—are lost. Their lament transcends the realm of instinct.
When a pet crosses the line between instinct and intuition, extraordinary, extrasensory events happen. Some time ago, I read of a married couple who had to relocate to the state of Washington from Minnesota, regretfully leaving their cat behind in the care of neighbors. Six months and fourteen hundred or more miles later, the cat walked up their driveway. Was that cat’s action based on instinct—or love?
Many documented cases of animals tending to humans have recently come to light. One such story originates in Belgium at a therapeutic riding center for autistic children. Horses usually become spooked with anyone walking under their bellies, but here they remained placidly accommodating. Behaviors such as sudden outbursts by the children would normally cause the horses to rear, kick, and eventually flee, but here they were uncharacteristically calm instead. This story illustrates the horses’ ability to override their natural instincts with altruistic actions.
Recently, a large school of dolphins was beached off the coast of Florida. Bottlenose dolphins usually remain fifty to sixty miles from the coast, but some had caught infections and were very ill. The healthy dolphins remained with the ill, unable to break themselves away from the cries of the failing ones. Whether we anthropomorphize their behavior or not, this story illustrates a beautiful aspect of the bond that living beings feel for one another. In hearing tales of such uplifting nobility, the controversy over projecting human characteristics onto animals falls aside. In a very human way, they are willing to sacrifice themselves to keep others alive. And we are touched.
Wild animals must depend on their own skills, and perhaps those of a partner or pack, to ensure their survival. Everyone else is a threat until they prove themselves otherwise. When we domesticate animals, we cross a boundary of trust and interaction. We silently communicate that they no longer need to live by survival instincts, that we will feed and shelter them. Herein lies a beautiful gift: The animal extends his sense of group trust and identification to include the human family. And this behavior is noble, whether it stems from instinct or not.
Animals and saints—on either side of the free-choice maelstrom, in terms of evolution of consciousness—share one trait, especially, in common. They love us unconditionally. And for this reason, we can’t help but love them in return. “Everybody loves a lover,” as the saying goes, which accurately defines the nature of our animal companions. Our pets love us without condition; and in this respect, they are often more advanced than their owners. They love us above and beyond the level of personality and its resultant behavior: whether we are good or bad, punctual or procrastinating, tidy or sloppy.
In many ways, we could say that animals are more spiritual than we are. We see unbridled delight in the eyes of their newborn, a challenging playfulness in the bodies of their young, and a maturing wisdom in the graceful form of their elders. Nature is their native country; natural rhythms are their language. Animals are extrasensorially perceptive. They live each moment with unbounded fullness. They give themselves to life, holding back nothing, abandoning all barriers. They love readily and completely.
Is it any wonder, then, that animals are our teachers?