Further Lessons on Community from Animals other than Human

Some animals go out of their way to make community with humans and to join our families and our clan.  Dogs, cats, horses and many others seem happy to link up with us. 

A number of years ago I wrote about the “Spiritual Lessons Animals Teach Us.” Among them are the following:

Friends. Photo by Ej Agumbay on Pexels.
  • That it is good to be an animal.  Some of the happiest creatures I know are animals and they do not hesitate to demonstrate their joy at living.
  • Ecstasy without guilt.  Animals can truly let go and let be and even celebrate without guilt feelings at “wasted time” or self-consciousness at letting their masks down.  They instruct us in realizing that intensity of living is more important than duration.
  • Play is an adult thing to do and needs no justification.
A short excerpt of an alternative therapy for PTSD from the documentary film ACRONYM: The Cross-Generational Battle With PTSD, available now at http://MountainTM.com.
  • Animals are experts at non-verbal communication—their language with us is mime, tone of voice and dance.  And a truthful language it can be, also.  Consider a dog barking and wagging its tail on seeing you.  Max Scheler comments on how this provides a “’universal grammar,’ valid for all languages of expression, and the ultimate basis of understanding for all forms of mime and pantomime among living creatures.”
  • Openness and sensitivity.  There can be little doubt that animals have developed powers of empathy and sensitivity that exceed that of  humans.  Many a dog, for example, on entering a room will know if someone is depressed or sad and will act to do something about it. 

Humans play and snuggle with the animals at a nonprofit sanctuary for farm animals. Uploaded to YouTube by Barn Sanctuary.
  • Beauty.  Who cannot be caught up by the form of a seagull in flight, by the straight back of a proud dog, by the graceful strides of a tiger, by the perfect musculature of a fine stallion?  Animals grant us glimpses of the grace of beauty.  The beauty of the singing of birds is a kind of music in itself, as is the gurgling of a brook, the dashing of ocean waves against a rocky shore, the whistling of the wind among leafy trees. 
  • Sensuousness.  Animals teach us that one can be sensual and spiritual at the same time.  They know that abstractions by themselves, such as money for example, are not what living and ecstasy are about. 
This is Tristan, Matthew Fox’s spiritual director for 15 years, painted by M.C. Richards.

I remember one time switching a dollar bill into my wallet and its dropping on the floor in front of my dog.  He didn’t bat one of his white eyelashes and had it been a thousand dollar bill he would not have reacted either. 

Had I dropped the wallet, however, there would have been a great game of tug of war.  Why is this?  Because the wallet, containing some cowhide, still retains a semblance of sensuousness.  Thus there is some fun and ecstasy to it.  It is an end and not only a means.  Money, however, is only a means and is therefore not what living and ecstasy are about.  Children hold this same instinct since, as Freud pointed out, “money is not an infantile wish.” 

To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, A Spirituality Named Compassion, pp. 166f.

Banner Image: The melted-butter look of pure love. Photo by Amiya Nanda on Pexels.

What spiritual lessons and lessons about community do animals teach you?

A Spirituality Named Compassion: Uniting Mystical Awareness with Social Justice

In A Spirituality Named Compassion, Matthew Fox delivers a profound exploration of the meaning and practice of compassion. Establishing a spirituality for the future that promises personal, social, and global healing, Fox marries mysticism with social justice, leading the way toward a gentler and more ecological spirituality and an acceptance of our interdependence which is the substratum of all compassionate activity.
“Well worth our deepest consideration…Puts compassion into its proper focus after centuries of neglect.” –The Catholic Register

Upcoming Events

WEBINAR: Cultivate a Resilient Heart in Times of Suffering – ONLINE. Thursday, November 5, 8:30 PM- 9:45 PM Eastern (GMT/UTC-4). Register HERE.

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

2 thoughts on “Further Lessons on Community from Animals other than Human”

  1. Avatar

    Such a beautiful meditation. Jenny, a sweet little dog with a huge soul, gifted me with her entire life(20 years!) and kept my heart open during some very difficult times. Just by being herself, she reminded me each day about who I am. Never has there been a better teacher.

  2. Avatar

    I am so delighted to see your new spiritual director. It is heart-warming to see her look at you so lovingly. Truly Art-As-Meditation, the love and joy showing between you two. How do you spell her name? It is so touching to hear you say, “She takes me for walks everyday.” What a wonderful presence in these turbulent times. Blessings to you both and thank you.

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: