Some people may find it weird, the process I am walking with the chickens here at the farm, and the fascination I have developed with them. I myself can’t completely explain it. What I am able to put into words though, is what I am learning about myself through not only the chickens, but all the animals on the farm. This includes dogs, horses, parrots, bugs, rats and frogs.
I had an experience recently that inspired me to finally write about my process with the animals. The experience involved a hen with a pretty bad injury on her foot. It happened as I was walking through the chicken coop to retrieve a bucket, when, as usual, all the chickens came running towards and gathering around me with great vigour in hopes to be fed. This particular hen was slower, coming real close and holding up her foot in a gesture that caught my attention. It almost seemed to me like she was showing it to me, as I saw a bad wound on one of her toes. Interestingly, I immediately felt guilty, as if I had in some way caused it by unknowingly stepping on it, or by opening the door on it.
Already, there are two red flags that I noticed, which I have been learning through interacting with the animals. The first is thinking the hen was showing me her foot. Here, it is important to not impose my thoughts or beliefs onto the actions of an animal in an attempt to anthropomorphise the communication, because there is no way to know for sure, so there is a risk of mis-interpreting the situation because I only have my side of the story. The second thing is to not bring my emotions into interactions with animals. Through both common sense and experience, I have seen that bringing emotions into animal relationships only ever causes problems, either between animals, or between myself and the animal.
The interesting thing here is that these two behaviours that I am correcting within myself in relation to animals can also be applied with humans. For example, how often do we only look at our own side of a situation, interpreting what we see and believing it to be the truth or the reality of the situation, without first checking or cross-referencing the information with another? We can so easily invent entire dramas in our own minds, missing important information, going into reactions that affect our behaviour and that can even put a wedge in the relationship, sometimes without it ever being fully resolved.
So, for the first red flag moment of believing I was having a special communication with the hen, I quickly let go of my own beliefs, and took away the objective information only: that there was a wound and the hen was limping, and I would need to ask someone whether there was anything we could do for her.
The second red flag involved me bringing an emotion into the interaction, in this case ‘guilt’. This behaviour can also be applied in human relations: When we act from a starting point of emotion, for example, ‘guilt’, we are not being sincere in our actions, and we are not addressing the root cause of whatever problem we are feeling guilty about. Let’s say you buy a child, a friend or a family member gifts out of guilt that you are not spending enough time with them. The solution would be to make time to spend with them in a sustainable way, and not bring guilt into your presence when with that person, because it will usually have a consequential impact on them. Also, when we do this, we make it all about US, how WE are feeling and what will make ME feel better about MYself. This allows for the root-cause behaviour to continue, it takes away from the sincerity of the gesture and the opportunity for real, unconditional giving, unconditional care, and unconditional support for another.
When it came time for me to be taught how to handle the situation in terms of actually treating the wounded hen, I was a bit apprehensive thinking about how silly I would look clumsily chasing around a chicken, and then I saw images of those long, sharp, bacteria filled chicken claws cutting through my skin and causing some life-threatening bacterial infection.
What I have learned about approaching animals in preparation for some task I need to complete with them, is that I must be very direct with my intentions. Because there is no way for me to directly communicate with the animal, the only thing we have going on between us is Who We Are in the moment: our presence, our body language, our movement, and anything else the animal can pick up on that we humans may not be aware of.
To do this, it is necessary to check our starting point. For me, in this situation, I could not cloud the interaction with feelings of guilt or remorse, worries of hurting or scaring the animal, projections of the animal hurting me or fears of looking silly. When the interaction is clouded in this way, it becomes confusing, if the animal does not cooperate, the reactions build and the situation becomes tense, unpleasant and more accident-prone.
So I focused on my intention, even speaking it out loud as I was directing myself with the hen. And as all the chickens scurried about, the hen stood still. I approached, leaned over, and simply picked her up. Now, speaking to the hen may seem like a contradiction after having stated there is no direct communication going on between myself and the animal. But the thing is, I was speaking as much for myself as I was for her. Making sure my intentions were clear and focusing on my sound and my words supported me to focus, not on the temptation of my mind to go into the emotions, self-judgments and projections, but on the task at hand: to disinfect the wound, prevent infection and promote healing, which, although would sting, would be in the best interest of the hen in the long run. I brought her into the shed, treated the wound, opened the door and let her out. She promptly ran back to the coop, and my task was complete.
In all my experiences with catching chickens here at the farm, never before has a chicken let me simply approach and pick it up. There is always a chase, a cornering and a bit of a struggle. I will never know if the chicken somehow understood that I was there to help her, although admittedly, that is what I would have liked to believe. But that too, I must let go, otherwise I risk to try to turn it into something special or a bigger deal than what is actually is. If I do this, then I will create expectations to re-live the experience, disappointments when it does not go the same way, fears of losing the experience, and all sorts of other mind-clouding internal energetic noise that will take away from the purity and sincerity of future moments and interactions to come.
Again, these principles would only be of benefit when interacting with others in the human world. How often is our communication clouded with false intent, ulterior motives and secret desires or expectations, which, when unmet, lead us to feeling disappointed with ourselves or the other? When our intentions are clear and in true consideration of the best interest of all parties involved, and when we have not imposed any kind of beliefs of motives into the relationship, we develop real trust, honesty and openness. In a world of corruption, abuse, lies and deceit, we can actually birth a small slice of heaven between us, creating a space where we can express and learn about who we really are and can be, rippling the trust and openness into existence, both existentially if that is how you want to see it, or by example, through our interactions with those in our lives and worlds.
Within working with animals over these past 5 months or so, I have seen an improvement with how we interact and work together. So far my successes have come when I check my starting point to make sure I am not only considering myself, to make sure I am clear with my intentions, that I understand what I am doing and have a plan, and lastly, to stand within myself as the authority of myself, not allowing or accepting my mind to scatter in different directions chasing worries, fears, projections and judgments.
It is within these situations of challenge that is presented by working with animals that we are really shown whether or not we have that self-authority that allows us to decide who we are in the moment, or if we rather have a mind that has never been mastered as the tool it actually is or at least, should be. This is a skill, and what I described above with the chicken shows how I am learning how to develop these qualities that create a quality of interaction that extends far beyond chickens and other animals, and into the realm of the human. Without this, we are subject to the chaos of the mind, being pushed and pulled by thoughts and reactions, fears and projections, worries and doubts. We are brought to highs and lows that affect who we are in moments, which then taints our relationships, causing all sorts of unnecessary consequences of varying degrees.
The animals we are fortunate enough to become close to are a tremendous support in this sense, as they exist in the simplicity of the moment - that quantum, timeless moment where everything exists all at once. And if we accept their invitation, they open the door for us to simply walk through and meet them there.
Note: I am walking a process of self-change using the tools of support offered by www.Desteni.org. I am taking the course called DIP Pro. In this course I learn how to take every day moments and find ways to make myself a better, more understanding and well rounded human being, the kind of human being I would like to see in this world. "Be the change you want to see" is a cool saying, but actually doing it is a bit more confusing because people tend to believe that you can't change human nature. I believe you can, because I have seen myself changing to someone I've always wanted to be. Not there yet, but my motivation is fueled by the proof I have given to myself, which I have documented online every step of the way, in my blogs and on youtube. DIP Pro requires serious dedication and commitment, it is not for the faint of heart. If you want to test the waters for yourself, try the Lite version, it's called DIP Lite, and the best part is, it's free! Why? Because Desteni puts individual self-change above profit. Why does DIP Pro cost money? Because it costs money to exist in this world, and takes a dedicated team to run the program. Otherwise it would also be free.