by Elizabeth Austin Asch
“It is only for the purity of the animals themselves that we [humans] are allowed to still live.” ~ Salvatore Gencarelle
Popular media like the New York Times contains an ever greater number of articles about animal sentience. Most recently, on January 29, 2016 Sally McGrane wrote “German Forest Ranger Finds That Trees Have Social Networks, Too.” The evidence is everywhere: much more goes on in the minds of living things in the natural world than we have been educated to believe.
A dozen years ago I wasn’t looking for a psychic way to communicate; I was just trying to manage my daughter’s Thoroughbred mare, Ginger. I wanted to speak ‘horse’, which seemed to be a matter of learning the right body language, plus some horse psychology. However much I learned from books and from human instructors — I realized that I was learning even more from Ginger. Her intelligence, although different from mine, was extraordinary. I eventually found that I didn’t need to use body language, Ginger read my mind. Could it be that my 8 year-old daughter had picked out a very special horse?
Then my son wanted a parrot, so I started reading about this species. Combining what I had learned from Ginger with what I learned from Irene Pepperberg, author of “Alex and Me” I found that rather than training our infant parrot, I was once again a student of the being that I set out to train. At a very young age Ttac would learn the name of a visitor with no prompting, in a couple of days. He is always the first to get a joke (watch out, his “heh-heh-heh” will give you away!), and he even knew when a family member passed away across the ocean, whistling the way that Grandpa had taught him, which we had not heard since the last time they saw each other two years earlier.
My husband wanted chickens, who are supposedly on the opposite end of the avian intelligence spectrum from parrots — and then our six hens taught me about their rich lives. The crows who would sometimes get stuck in the hen enclosure taught me how wild birds think and repaid my assistance to them with extraordinary favors.
Willing wild crows and pigeons have stepped into my bare hands. Feral mallards have shown me their hatchlings. Dogs, fish, cats, dolphins, trees, sharks and elephants have been among my teachers. When you show others your willingness to listen they seek to befriend you, and to cause you to hear.
Each time I read books from top researchers of a particular species, I notice one common feature: They all believe that the species that they are studying is the species closest to humans in terms of intelligence, empathy, loyalty and other measures of what we tend to call ‘human’ traits. I noticed something else: No matter the species, when I get to know an animal well I find individual character and reasoning intelligence, free will, morality — attributes my schooling taught me to believe were limited to human beings.
In 2014 I began studying Interspecies Communication with Anna Breytenbach, Jon Young and Wynter Worsthorne. None of us really considers that we are “learning” to communicate this way, rather we are simply remembering how to do so. Every human, every being that exists, is equipped to communicate with or without the use of verbal, written language and sound. Our educational system teaches us humans that we can’t do it, but we can. And we must now re-member how, for listening to our brothers and sisters is crucial to the survival of all.
This past summer, a friend Ann-Sofi Carlborn wrote me an email telling me of the Global Peace Initiative of Women [from which the Contemplative Alliance emerged] and their intention to attend the climate conference in Paris. At the time I was visiting with two elephant friends in Tanzania, so I spent part of my evening reading about GPIW’s mission of peace and learning about their members. The following morning and continuing for the next ten days, various species of wild animals told me some of their own notions of peace and harmony, in order that I share them with GPIW. As they ‘spoke’ to me, I wrote in my journal; this understanding is what I shared with the faith leaders that joined GPIW during COP21.
Elephant: Notice the hierarchy. It serves a purpose in peacekeeping. Notice how accepting everyone is. How respectful.
Baboon: Notice how calmly we all accept our place. You [humans] have forgotten how to position yourselves and what your status means. No one owns the waterhole.
January 29th, 2015
Zebra: Learn about herd unity. Learn about the power and value of Approach and Retreat. Let time be timeless. The urgency is in the transformation, not in your sense of time. If the birds and insects and frogs are singing, that is the time to accomplish what is needed. Push gently into your comfort until you are reaching outside of it to others.
Wildebeest: Why are our energies separated? It is right and good this way. For balance. Look at the shape of our energies now. Always ask for permission when your energies are different/varied. To blend must be consensual. The more singular dominant energy must declare loudly his intention, as a way of asking. He shall then accept if the answer is no, even if he intends to return and ask again. Withdraw. Approach and ask. Withdraw. Approach. Thus, through the blending of energies does creation occur. It has been so for ages. Now is the time for returning closer to Oneness. Your kind is ready. Now is the time to approach. And blend. Be not afraid.
July 31, Day of Thanks
Elizabeth: Do you have advice for us?
Eland, Zebra and Wildebeest: (Wildebeest singing) Listen. Listen all you can and trust. Then and only then will you find the way home for us all. Fear not. You will be surprised by the ease with which change comes, and the simplicity with which it may be implemented. Listen and heed.
Voice of the Waterhole: You! You are welcome. You people cannot spoil my calm, my depth.
Warthog: With regard to the question of private property and ownership. It is not so much a question of never owning or making claim of territory. It is more a question of understanding that that claim is temporary. That eventually you must, you will, give it back. The humility in this equation is what you often lack. Search for it and keep searching, for it is there in you.
Vervets: Hear this. Because you are not usually present/consistent, there is great power of intention when you DO focus your love and thanksgiving. And when many more of you do, the results will be astounding to you. We, your brethren in the other nations, have been waiting for you.
August 1, 2015
Eland, Zebra and Wildebeest: See how we all come together. (Wildebeest singing) We welcome your desire to rekindle the peace between our nations. Know that there are those of your kind here (in Africa and elsewhere on Earth) who never lost it.
Elizabeth Austin Asch