Let’s take an animal’s approach to the world

Yes, here we are at the eve of another new year. And if I don’t sound too excited, it’s because I’m not. For the longest time I’ve had a major block as to what to write for this particular column. Last year, I experienced this same block at this same time and was unable to overcome it. As a result, last New Year’s there was no Animal Behavior column.

After hours of battling this block unsuccessfully, I finally gave up. I called the paper to inform them that my column would not appear this week. Within a half hour of moving on to other chores that waited to be done, it hit me. My mind at last had quieted enough for the truth to surface!

I really do not like this “holiday.” Derived from “holy day,” there is nothing holy about it. A time of over indulgence and making lofty promises that are seldom kept, New Year’s Eve marks all that is wrong with our self-directed departure from nature.

In the wild, animals listen to their bodies. They eat when they are hungry and they drink when they are thirsty. They do not fight with one another for the fun of it, but only when it is absolutely necessary. They respond to the specific needs of each moment and each circumstance as best they can. And they don’t complain about any of it along the way.

In our evolution of this thing we call intelligence, the things we are capable of doing are truly remarkable. Like a new toy, we are constantly playing with our thoughts. We carry on internal dialogues in our heads with the endless array of ideas that are swimming about. And in so doing we drive ourselves crazy.

There is no doubt that our thoughts influence our perceptions. If you think your life is miserable, your attention automatically focuses on all the bad things that are happening. When you’re in love, the world’s your friend and all is bright and wonderful.

So what does all of this have to do with New Year’s? And what does it have to do with animals? Animals are extremely perceptive. They are very aware of what is going on in their environments and are therefore prepared to respond appropriately. We humans are so wrapped up in our thoughts about our lives that we very often miss a lot of helpful information that our environments are sharing with us.

Although I have never liked the idea of New Year’s resolutions, if I had to make one it would be this: I resolve that from this point forth I will aim to behave more like an animal, and in so doing live in greater harmony with the world. I will do this by consciously quieting my mind. By clearing out the extraneous thoughts, my attention will be free to perceive what information my environment has to give. When I free myself to respond appropriately to each situation as it occurs, I know I will be making well-informed and therefore wise choices. Rather than devising a plan and charging forward, stumbling into and over all obstacles in my path, I will aim to use my mind judiciously, for it is a most powerful tool. And in so doing I will be alert to perceive what each moment has to offer, so that I can make the most of opportunities as they unfold.

For you, I wish speed and comfort in attaining all that you wish for yourselves and your animals.

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