I’m very lucky to be working with animals, pure souls, who are a joy to be with. I’ve written before about some of the things they’ve helped me to learn, including the joy of being and living in the moment. I don’t always manage it, there are many distractions for us humans, but they have helped me to be so much more conscious of it. And it brings me a sense of peace, and so much more besides.
But there’s something else I’ve been noticing recently. I’ve learnt this through my work with animals, but not necessarily directly with them, although they practice it quite naturally all the time. And do then reinforce it for me. Quite beautifully.
And that’s the art of non judgement.
A few words about judgement first though. We all do it, it’s part of our conditioning, handed down through generations, in our DNA. We judge others for many reasons, but often aren’t even aware we’re doing it. So becoming alert to it first is important.
Then notice how it makes you feel. I’m pretty good at noticing when it happens to me these days, and it just makes me feel heavy and yucky. Not nice at all. Anything that makes you feel like that, you just know it’s really not doing you any good. Your feelings and emotions are your guide.
We all have our own particular triggers too. Mine’s probably while I’m driving, from pet visit to pet visit. I see and experience some awful driving, thoughtless, uncaring, bullying sometimes, and downright dangerous. And then I go into judgement overdrive!!! Makes me feel horrible!!
Judging others can have the effect of making us feel better about ourselves. At least that’s what the ego part of us wants it to do. Judgement comes from ego, which does its best at protecting us as we go through our lives, that’s its purpose - but it’s really quite misguided much of the time.
Working with animals has been a revelation to me in this regard. They never ever judge. Their love and appreciation are unconditional. What a wonderful lesson to learn from them!!
No matter when I turn up they’re always so pleased to see me. Even if they’ve been on their own since I was last there, even if I’ve been delayed by something. They don’t care what I look like, what I’m wearing, or even if my hair needs a wash!! All they care about is the love in my heart, and a heart to heart connection with them is magical.
But lessons in not judging haven’t always come directly from the animals themselves.
What I’ve been noticing more and more of late, is how we, as humans, judge other humans, especially when it comes to animals.
It can get quite nasty.
One recurring theme in particular relates to people who give up their animals. I see it on Facebook a lot.
I can’t imagine ever giving up on Bella or Dylan. But I don’t know what the future holds. Suppose I became very sick and just couldn’t continue to look after them? Would I want to struggle on, knowing I probably wasn’t giving them the life they deserved any longer, or would I – because I love them so much – want them to go to live with someone who could properly care for them?
Over the years I’ve been asked by friends, acquaintances, clients even, to see if I can find a new home for their cats. I’ll ask around in many ways, perhaps share the request on Facebook too. And sometimes someone jumps in with a judgement about them. They don’t know them, they don’t know their circumstances. Yet they feel qualified to pass judgement.
In the last few months I was asked by a client to see if I could find a new home for his little cat, just a year old. He didn’t want to give him up, but he’d realised that the life he was offering to him just wasn’t fair. He lived alone, was working long hours, and was out a lot too at the weekend. He almost didn’t dare ask me if I could help. His words to me began “at the risk of being judged………………..”
I thought that was so sad. And I was glad he’d asked me. He is such a caring person, and this is something he was doing out of love. Oh, I know, there will then be people saying “well, why did he take the cat on then?” Another judgement couched as a question. He had saved the cat from an abusive situation he became aware of when the little one was only a few months old. He thought the cat would be living with him forever, that was certainly the plan. So, it was very brave then to admit that that wasn’t for the best after all.
I recently watched a conversation on Facebook, that was started by someone I know well, like and respect, who is also very involved with animals. The post was suggesting people shouldn’t be giving up their animals to rescues because they were very unlikely to find new homes, they’d never come out. Now, I disagree with this “fact” hugely (a topic for another post I think), although I’m aware that it might happen at some. The point here is that one by one people jumped in with awful comments about those who give up their animals. Just a wholesale, nasty condemnation. All lumped together, no thought as to why, just judgement upon judgement. It was horrible. I chose to leave the conversation.
I’m lucky. At the Society for Abandoned Animals where I’m a member and volunteer, we take in many animals from those who are no longer able to care for them. And we always find them homes. Some take a little longer, but we stick by them all until they can be found new homes.
My experience here, and at other sanctuaries has taught me not to be judging others. It could be a very easy thing to do, just slipping into it. I did in the past, I’ll admit – but I’ve become much more aware and conscious through working with homeless animals for many years, and I understand now that there are always reasons why people hand their beloved pets over to us. Even those who abandon their animals by the gate or on the towpath. None of us know what they’re going through.
The point is that none of us are perfect, we’re all in this life learning and developing and growing as we go along. And that’s fine. That’s what we do. So we really all ought to think about being a little kinder to others when we could be so easily judged ourselves. What good does it do? Doesn’t even make the judger feel better in the long run. A little humanity and compassion is what’s needed, and we learn that best of all from the animals in our lives.