Friday, January 21, 2011

Compassionate Communication with All Beings

Edited PR CC

Dr. Ursula Aragunde Kohl, me and participants at the CC Workshop in Puerto Rico



Last weekend I was in Puerto Rico offering two separate workshops on Compassionate Communication. One was to the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Project and the other to a conglomeration of animal welfare, social services, and faith organizations in San Juan. This was the first time I had chosen to concentrate on organizations that deal with nonhuman animals. My goal in so doing was to support and nourish the humans so that they in turn could help all beings flourish.

In my home faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism I am also gearing up to offer workshops in Compassionate Communication to those interested in the interweaving justice issues that include nonhuman animals. I will do this as part of the Reverence for Life Program that the Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry is offering our congregations. Now is the time to struggle with how we covenant with earth and her beings as our association of congregations deals with the Study Action Item: Ethical Eating and Environmental Justice. In the last few weeks congregations and list serves have been abuzz with commenting on the Draft Statement of Conscience that deals with this compelling and complex topic. Comments on the draft are due February 1st and we as an association will vote on the final draft at General Assembly in June, 2011.

How shall we come up with a statement that includes the wide diversity of who we are and yet challenges us to hold the needs of all species ever more tenderly?

My response to this question, at both the workshops and to my fellow Unitarian Universalists is this:

It’s important to think of how animals feel and suffer, how their evolution has brought them to where they are , and what they are thinking as we research how their brains work. Yet, we can never know what is “best” in the morass of ethical vagueness that cloaks humanity. Let this complexity be not a death shroud for any. Instead, let us lift up the few things we can know:

    All beings have needs that connect us in an interdependent web of inherent worth and dignity.

    We can bring kindness to every moment.

    Everything is a practice ground for the skills of compassion.


May this be our prayer in intention, word, and action in the months to come.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

National Bird Day


 It's the turning of the year, and perhaps like me you are thinking of taxes coming due and all that paperwork. Here's a poem by Mary Oliver - "Percy Speaks While I am Doing Taxes."

First of all, I do not want to be doing this.

Second of all, Percy does not want me

  to be doing this.

hanging over my desk like a besieged person

  with a dull pencil and innumerable lists

    of numbers.


Outside the water is blue, the sky is clear,

  the tide rising.

Percy, I say, this has to be done. This is

  essential. I'll be finished eventually.


Keep me in your thoughts, he replies. Just because

  I can't count to ten doesn't mean

I don't remember yesterday, or anticipate today.

  I give you one more hour, then we step out

into the beautiful, money-deaf gift of the world

and run.


Just this last month I read about language research with a dog who knew more than 1000 words.  They do understand a lot.

Currently I am reading the book, "Parrot Behavior" and just yesterday read about parrots that that understand not just hundreds of words, but can combine words into sentences.  They do understand a lot.

All of this reminds me of the movie, "Forest Gump" where Forest says, "I may not be smart, but I know what love is."

No matter how we see the intelligence of another being, whether it is comparable to humans or to other species or not, I do believe that we share with the other social vertebrates a common neural structure of emotional responses that evolved out of this beautiful earth.

Baby, we were born to run, to love, and feel deep gratitude for the gifts around us.

And in light of it being National Bird Day, I offer deep bows of gratitude those who were born to fly!


What were you born to do?

  National Bird Day