The little mouse that had drowned in a bucket of rainwater had suddenly been discovered by our big, white Pekin duck, Ping. Her excitement at the find cued the hens to want it, too; even though they had already had a game of Run With It Until it Gets Snatched Away— with the very same dead mouse, and had gotten tired of it only a half hour before.
Its carcass had become stiff, otherwise Ping would have done what she usually does with drowned mice— when they’re early-morning finds, that is: She eats them whole, downing them in just a few toss-backs of her long neck.
Her waddle too slow to play the chook’s Run With It game, Ping stood her ground, whipping her mouse-dangling bill left and right to dodge their pecks at the loot. Raj, her drake, hoarsely whispered his best quacks in defense of his lady.
Whether you’re watching or not, animals have their own life dramas playing out each day, and if you pay attention, you may get the treat of witnessing a real life fairy tale in the making.
As humans, it’s easy to become absorbed with our own lives when things get dramatic. If there are challenges coming up, or life themes being triggered, or really just any change taking place, it’s common for us to forget we’re not the only ones plodding along through hard times.
Yes, the old uplifter of looking at your suffering-more-than-you neighbor is a good trick to boost the spirits. Although I say this tongue in cheek, there’s truth there. For one, knowing there are others slogging through the rough parts, too makes us feel like we’re all the same boat.
Noticing the plight of others can be healing because it often inspires us to an act of kindness and compassion, and helping others is a path to cultivating kindness and compassion toward oneself.
When you take this idea and apply it to the animals around you, its essence seems to become enhanced, perhaps because it’s clear within the non-human species of the world that life throws curve balls without discrimination.
If you take the time to empathize with the animals around you, pets or wild, you’ll find they have as much “stuff coming up” as you do.
For example, when you see a dog having a particularly bad day— say, if she’s walking down the sidewalk with a lick-preventing cone around her neck— it’s easier to see that it’s not personal; the dog didn’t inherently deserve to wear a cone— all dogs want to lick a wound.
Compare that to hearing news of the local bakery closing up shop because of a tax issue. Definitely hard times for them, but since they’re humans, we have a bigger tendency of pulling the old “they got what they asked for” number. Or, depending on your outlook, the “this government, I tell ya,” one.
Compassion sometimes gets jammed up between person to person, but with animals, it can be a much straighter shot.
When you’re in the thorny thick of life, feeling stressy or sorry for yourself or overwhelmed, pay attention to the animal dramas happening around you.
Photograph by Brea Fisher
This includes insects and plants, too. I think I’m having a bad day— there’s a wolf spider in my bath tub who just got mauled by my girl cat and now two of his legs are broken. Or that tomato plant that just began budding its first flower— poor dude just got nibbled down to a pathetic stump by a stoked rat in the night.
By tuning into the undercurrent of animal, insect, or plant experiences you open up a portal
that leads toward finding relief in the knowing that life’s ups and downs give us all a wild ride, regardless of what you’ve done or haven’t done to cause it.
The obvious assignment is to start noticing what the animals (or insects, plants, or any other non-human species) are going through.
Watch for the stories to emerge. See what real life fairy tales are being presented to you on a daily basis if you choose to be present for them.
The other Qi Challenge comes in the form of a Tai Chi Lesson Film, by the name of Cat Washes Face. There are three different variations of this tai chi movement, and the following video leads you through each one.
For those new to the movement, I recommend watching the lesson at least a few times through for your first practice session, and then at least once daily until the next Tai Chi Lesson Film debuts.
This Lesson Film is suitable for both beginners and seasoned practitioners alike, so please follow along. Feel free to come to me with any questions at all; I’m happy to help you refine your home practice.
Human experience can seem to be the most challenging kind; however, if you take the time to find empathy for the lives of the animals and other non-humans, you’ll find that life is impartial with it’s doling out of highs and lows.
Let this be a comfort to you when you need to cultivate a little more grace in how you move through your own.
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