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Well, We All Shine On: Karmic Lessons from the Animals

 “Well, I didn’t see that coming!”  “What goes around comes around.”  “I hope he gets what he deserves."
     We can all identify with having uttered or heard these phrases after falling victim to someone’s ill intentions or witnessing an unprovoked self-serving or predatory act.  Every such action has more than one victim but we will likely not see the justice we crave in this lifetime. While we might want to even the score, we are better served by allowing the laws of karma to heal the effects naturally.  And that means, essentially, learning from our mistakes on higher levels, sometimes in future incarnations.
     But we want it, and we want it now
     Sometimes we expect karma to engulf us like a huge wave, and as John Lennon said, knock us off our feet, forcing us to learn that pestering lesson once and for all. But a life outside of isolation doesn't always allow for such easy returns.  Usually   karma presents itself in more evolutionary ways, and in reality, it can take multiple lifetimes to achieve karmic balance.  But even if we are lucky enough to welcome such justice into our current lives in one fell swoop, we might be too distracted or imperceptive to recognize it it. 
     The Buddhists define karma as “the law of moral causation”(  The explanation includes the Buddhist understanding that “In this world nothing happens to a person that he does not for some reason or other deserve. Usually, men of ordinary intellect cannot comprehend the actual reason or reasons… the result of our own past actions and our own present doings...We are the architects of our own fate.”  A less refined and more mass conscious definition of karma on shows how the word has been hijacked and thus disempowered  as a weak substitute for “energy” or intention: “the good or bad emanations felt to be generated by someone or something:  ‘Let’s get out of here. This place has bad karma.’”  Western religion teaches its own version of karma. In Galations  we read, "whatever a man soweth also shall he reap," which echoes Job: "they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same."   We can find many more examples in both the Old and New Testament.
     Surfing only the edges of consciousness limits human growth,  causing  myopia and putting obstacles in our peripheral vision.  Instead of understanding the cause/effect relationship set in motion by even our smallest actions, we sometimes plant our feet in the center of our own universe and apply ethical principles only to that which immediately affects us.  This  malady exemplifies the “I, Me Me, Mine”  that George Harrison lamented.  In truth, we incur karma with every thought, every intention, every action, every interaction with the whole, rich, natural world, not just humans as they relate to our self-centered desires. 
     Here’s what appears to be the mundane case of a middle aged man who, after buying his first townhouse, decided he wanted his first canine companion.  Upon researching dog breeds, he determined the Basenji was most appealing for variety of reasons: they’re small, barkless, light on their feet, clean. He reserved a female from a Canadian breeder but because the breeding didn't take right away , he grew impatient and found a local breeder who sold him a male puppy.   However, within months, the first breeder did have a successful breeding, so he acquired that girl, too, (double the fun, caretakers of multiple dogs know).  The male was adorable but needy and mischievous, sometimes to the detriment of his own health, true to Basenji character. A few years later the man decided he’d prefer living on the beach and found a condo with a one-pet restriction. “It’s a lifestyle choice,” became  his mantra as he gave the male away, "it's a lifestyle choice," he repeated,  keeping the more even-tempered female. Very soon, his now only  dog became critically ill, requiring emergency abdominal surgery.  His sweet girl ate part of a blanket and the threads wrapped around her intestines.  Two days after what seemed to be a successful operation, she unexpectedly died.  To astute observers it was a swift but brutal visitation by karma.
            And the dog?  The physical pain was temporary and she lives on.  Animals have souls just as pure and divine as ours, and they choose their lessons and students as we do before they incarnate on earth.   They accompany us for so short a time, willingly serving as teachers and guides so that we may learn the lessons of commitment, unconditional love, and sacrifice.   One would hope that at some point, more of us would “get it” and rise to thank teachers like Becky the Basenji, karmic emissary, for their gifts.
            Witness the unfathomable murder of Cecil the lion, illegally and immorally shot with a crossbow, tracked, left to suffer for 24 hours before he died, then beheaded to become a trophy for a cowardly Minnesota dentist who measures his manhood through his collection of carcasses.  Those of us who love, respect, and honor all life still grieve in ways the average observer may not understand.  And even then, many of us fell prey to the demand for instant justice and extradition to Zimbabwe of the killer who shall not be named here.  “Off with his head!”  “He should be killed the same way!” were the cries of millions of outraged animal lovers.  Many of us gathered in spirit, in prayer, in meditation and healing circles, and still do, trusting that karma will be the great teacher rather than fearsome equalizer, and that this will somehow serve the greater good for all living creatures.


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