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What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human

Two months ago I welcomed a new addition in my life.  Lucie. Translated from Italian Lucie means “graceful light.”  A mom and her 3 puppies were rescued in Mississippi and brought to the Nantucket Safe Harbor for Animals for adoption.  It was love at first sight.
Every day Lucie reminds me what it means to practice yoga off the mat, to practice loving kindness, to experience true joy.

A friend once told me “being kind is worth one thousand headstands.” It’s true, we talk a lot about the physical postures of yoga, but the real work begins off the mat.
That is our yoga. Learning to live in this world with grace and ease; with a “graceful light.”

How to accomplish this? The best advice I have ever read is in the following excerpt from an article by Dr. Vint Virga 

According to Dr. Virga, Below are 10 lessons we can all learn from animals:

1. Savor the moment.

Animals live focused on the moment whereas we humans are far too often distracted by our thoughts about the past and future—a fight with a friend last night, the performance review tomorrow, our growing to-do list. By taking our cue from animals and noticing more of each moment, we can find more fully appreciate what is happening right now in our lives.

2. Heed your instincts.

Alert to each of their senses, animals respond to cues about the world around them by trusting their instincts and acting on them. When we rationalize what our instincts may tell us to take notice of—or ignore what our senses are conveying to us—we risk dismissing important signals about events, circumstances, and the people around us. As we attend to our senses and acknowledge our instincts, we open our selves to new choices and opportunities.

3. Keep focused on what’s most important.

On those days when it seems everything has gone wrong and we come home exhausted, our animal companions devotedly greet us with unfailing offers of love and affection. Even those times we may speak harshly toward them or ignore them completely as we walk in the door, they wait in the wings for the moment to come when we, at last, turn our attention to them. And in their patient devotion, they serve as reminders of how vital it is to connect with others and share our hearts.

4. Don’t get bogged down on words.

As we communicate with family and friends, most often we think of relying on words. Yet, we often neglect to consider the many others ways that we portray our inner world. The tone of our voice, our facial expressions, our posture, our movements, and even our scents scents, can all communicate our thoughts, emotions, and intentions. They're often more reliable than the words we choose. 

5. Take time to rest.

In the hurried pace of our daily routines, it’s easy to fill our days with a steady stream of activities—places to be, people to meet, tasks to accomplish. But, taking a cue from our dogs and cats, the lions at the zoo, a hawk perched in a tree overlooking the road that we glimpse from the car, we can take quiet moments to rest for a bit and give ourselves time to relax and reflect.

6. Remember to play.

Likewise, in the middle of our day, when we feel pressures from work or at home, a well-deserved break—even just a few moments—from the task at hand can lighten our load and help ease our concerns. From Labradors to Bengals and timber wolves to leopards, the creatures around us routinely play to invent, discover, and bring joy to their day.

7. Don’t take yourself so seriously.

Whether rolling in catnip or pouncing on strings, our cats are fully absorbed in their game without worries about how they may appear to others watching them. Likewise, when our dogs chase a ball, sniff at lampposts, or gnaw a bone, they relish their pastimes without concern for how they may look to passersby. Letting go of our inner critic and the judgments of others, we can more fully embrace those times we enjoy.

8. Let go of attachment to being right or wrong.

Evolution favors those creatures who focus on what matters most: finding food, remaining healthy, resting, breeding, caring for young. When we defer to our sense of pride and self-importance, we risk losing the outcomes and results we want most.  Letting go of our attachment to being right or wrong frees us align ourselves with what we value most.

9. Practice forgiveness.

While animals, certainly, suffer grief, misfortune, and misery, they move past them with greater poise than we, as humans, often do.  The continuity of their lives takes precedence over reliving the past. When words and deeds come back to play in our minds, like the creatures around us, we can give as before with grace and equanimity.

10. Love unconditionally.

In the silent presence of the creatures around us—all alone on the sofa with our dog by our side or cat resting cozily curled in our lap—we sense their regard for our thoughts and feelings, and we respond in kind without reserve. If we choose, we can do so, as well, with each other.

Read the full article here:

You can find more in his book:
The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human.

Joann Burnham, E-RYT, is the founder of Dharma Yoga Nantucket and the Nantucket Yoga Festival.  She lives and teaches on island year round.  She is also a certified raw chef.  Visit and She can be reached at http://[email protected]