Teaching People Kindness and Compassion to Animals, Each Other and our Planet.
Teaching People Kindness and Compassion to Animals, Each Other and our Planet.

Turning Fear to Love

I always thought that hatred and cruelty were our worst enemies. I thought that it was hatred that caused racism, sexism, discrimination, and suffering, that it was cruelty that caused the suffering, pain, and slaughter of animals. I thought it was apathy and greed that was causing the destruction of the rain forests, and the demolition of the environment. Today, however, I learned something new.

I meditate every morning on the mountain that borders The Gentle Barn where I can see the cows, horses, and smaller animals simultaneously. There is a small path that leads to a ledge between cliff and ravine where Mother Earth cradles me, Father Sky shrouds me with his blue, and Grandfather Sun kisses my face and warms me all over. In this nature’s lullaby, I close my eyes and seek wisdom. I ask “what can I learn today?” Then, I wait in the silence, focusing on my breath and the stillness, until something comes to me. Today, I heard these words whispered in my ear, “It is not hatred that is the worst enemy, it is fear!”

My eyes popped open and my head started spinning. How can fear be worse than hatred or cruelty? I thought of all the examples of cruelty in history. I thought of all the horrors that we encounter doing our work. I thought of all the suffering that our animals had endured before coming to us. Was fear the cause of all of that?

I then remembered Andrew’s story. Andrew was kept as a stud horse for twenty-five years until he was too old and of no use to them. When Andrew came to us, he was terrified of everyone and everything, and it took years for him to learn to trust us. His previous owners had treated him with so much cruelty, but thinking about this now, they might have had the belief that stallions were dangerous and had to be kept in their place with a harsh and heavy hand. That attitude was caused by fear!

I thought of all the racism throughout history: to Native Americans, to people of color, and to people with a different sexual preference. It seems so brutal, but it’s true, underneath all of it is fear! The fear of others that we cannot understand seems threatening to some, so threatening that they want to destroy it.

I thought of a Native American story I had heard once. When Natives walk the desert and through nature, they see everything with love and compassion. They don’t see themselves as separate as other creatures, but as the same, living in this world together. So, when a native would see a rattlesnake or a black widow, they would kindly acknowledge them with a nod and a smile and pass by peacefully. Natives rarely got bit. The settlers looked at nature as something to be conquered and owned and at other creatures as something to be dominated and controlled. When the settlers would walk through the desert or the woods they often got bit or stung because they looked upon the creatures with fear, and, the energy of fear poisoned everything in their path. That story always meant a lot to me and shaped the way I look at all creatures with love. The energy that I bring to all beings has protected me throughout the years and has brought me closer to all creatures. I have had bees land on my hand and I have pet them as they rested. I have had wild creatures such as rabbits, coyotes, and even skunks remain still as I praised them. I have held many snakes and even charmed rattlers and wasps. I always thought it was because I was kind to them, but now that I think about it, it might have been because I was unafraid and looked at them through the energy of love.

When I was a teenager, I went scuba diving with my family. We were exploring the ocean floor when we came across an octopus. Each of us took a turn holding him while he waved his legs wildly. When it was my turn to hold him, I was completely enchanted and he stayed with me for a long while. When he finally went on his way, I looked up and realized that my party had moved on, leaving me there. I looked around trying to figure out where they went, and to my right I saw a shark. He was just staring at me. Above the water, the thought of meeting a large and powerful shark seems alarming to say the least. For some reason in that moment, I felt one with the shark and all things in that ocean. I did not feel afraid. I admired him and his sleek, impressive power. He circled me a few times and I just loved him. Then, he looked at me one more time and I thought only praise and affection for him in my mind, and he swam away as I waved good-bye to him. I wonder what would have happened to me if I looked at him with fear?

The fear of not having money, the fear of losing a job, the fear of being alone, the fear of not being liked, the fear of change, the fear of someone different, the fear of being hurt, are all so powerful that it sometimes drives people to do horrible things, or make poor choices. What if all of us looked at everything and everyone with eyes of love? What if we encountered someone different than ourselves, whether it was a scary insect or another person, with acceptance no matter what? What if we embraced differences, change, and things we don’t understand? I think if we did, the world would seem different and our day would feel different.

I walked from my meditation spot on the mountain with new resolve to find the areas in my life that I am feeling afraid, and instead approach them with love. It is going to take a lot of self-awareness and self-reflection but I am going to give it all my focus as I move through my day today. When I find myself feeling afraid, in any area of my life, I am going to acknowledge it and ask myself, “How do I change this to love?”

Can you imagine what a gentle world we could have if we all did this?

Ellie Laks
The Gentle Barn

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