Relationships are the most important ingredient for a well-balanced, healthy, happy and long life.
Close relationships nourish us with deep connection based on an open and voluntary exchange of energies on many levels.
If we learn to open ourselves up and to expand our consciousness beyond the framework of our “normal perspectives” and expectations, we enter the magic of true relationship.
On our way there we need to overcome two big influential factors that sometimes can block or hinder an open and pure connection and a free unconditional exchange of energies: the negative aspects of dependency and our “user-mindset”.
We are all interconnected and depend on each other in various ways. There are supportive and nourishing aspects of this interdependence – and there are non-supportive aspects that limit the free exchange of energy. The ability to perceive the world through the eyes of other human individuals or other life forms can be an amazing experience of modern shape shifting: We merge with “the other”, gaining a deeper and broader understanding and vision of “the bigger picture”. As a business owner we see the world through the eyes of our clients. As a parent we learn how to look at the world through the eyes of a child. As a teacher we receive the gifts that our students hold for us. And as humans we are able to access a “whole new world” by merging with trees and other plants, other animals, the mineral kingdom, and the “unseen realms of the spirit world”. When becoming the river we can feel the flow and the alignment of energies… When shape shifting into a mountain we can feel the powerful, stable and calm presence of thousands of years.
If you want to know more, keep on reading ;)
The long version:
I LOVE animals.
When I was a child, I always wanted an animal companion, so I welcomed rabbits, hamsters, canaries, dogs and later “foster horses” into our family. I cared for them with all my heart and tried to make their lives as comfortable as possible. As I strongly disliked cages and fences, I let them run or fly freely in or around the house – much to the displeasure of my parents at times…
Two birds took their chance and disappeared one day through an open window in our living room. And one of the hamsters died one morning after indulging in an opulent night-time meal of leaves from a potted rubber tree in our lounge. One rabbit was attacked by a cat in our huge garden area, but his female partner saved him and chased the cat away. Apart from these incidences, all my animal friends stayed with us and had pretty cruisy life-style. I took the horses for long walks, without lead rope or anything, together with the dogs. They were free to roam, and as far as I was concerned, we simply enjoyed each other’s company and (mostly) stayed close together.
Still… there was something “missing”. There was something deep inside of me, a tiny little voice in my heart, that didn’t “feel good about it”. There was this slight dissonance that I only became consciously aware of much later in my life, when I swam with dolphins in the wild for the first time: I was swimming in a bay off La Palma, a couple of hundred meters away from shore, all by myself, when suddenly a group of wild bottle-nose dolphins appeared. At first, only one individual came really close, within my arms reach. She swam beside me and then kept going back and forth for a short time, while I paddled gently with my flippers to keep my body on the surface. Then, she swam back to the group who had circled me at a little distance. Now they all came closer, swam around me, below me, and some even gently touched my body while passing. I could feel their clicks vibrating in my body and hear their high-pitched sounds… It was magic. They took me into their world and I completely forgot my Self…
There is a huge difference whether you meet somebody on an equal level, based on free will, open and without expectations.
It changes the whole relationship experience to something that is different to what we are used to.
When I was about 11 years old, I had a raven friend. I first met him when he showed up at my window while I was doing homework for school. He sat on the wooden railing of my balcony and watched me intently. His shiny blue-black feathers fascinated me. I had never seen a raven from this close. After a while he flew away and I didn’t think more of it – until he came back the next day. And the next, and the next… I started opening my window and talked to him. We had long conversations about all sorts of things. He came most days, and if I was not in my room, he would track me down and knock on the windows of our kitchen or living room or wherever I was with his strong beak. My family teased me and called me “Kleine Hexe” (little witch).
He often took on the role of a mentor. I would bounce ideas off him and share my dreams and sorrows… And: I learned to see the world through his eyes as well. A very different perspective compared to mine!
I used to bike to school, and one day, when I opened the gate to the land where we were living, I saw Raven flying down from a big tree. He accompanied me the rest of the way to our house. From then on, he either visited me on the balcony in front of my window or he picked me up at the gate and we walked/flew home together. Somehow he always knew exactly, when I would come home. Even when I was held off at school or finished early: he was always “in time” to meet me.
Our relationship held many treasures for me (and I assume for him, too – why else would he have kept coming?). It provided the “missing bit” and stilled, for the first time, my longing for a relationship based on free will and equality.
Today, I think it was because of two main factors:
1. At any one point in our relationship we were both free to be wherever we chose to be.
2. Neither of us depended on the other for food, drink or anything else to meet our basic needs.
From my observation, these two elements hugely affect the way we relate to each other.
Another aspect that interferes with a deep, unconditional, open relationship is what I call the “user-perspective” or "user mindset". Instead of being interested in other perspectives and open to experience the world through “other eyes” (thus expanding our consciousness), we tend to see relationships a lot from a user-angle: what can I use “the other” for? What benefits does the relationship hold for me? How does the other being fit into “my normal world”? This is often a cause for trouble and exhaustion in a relationship, no matter if we look at innerspecies (between humans) or interspecies (between humans and other beings) relationships.
We see trees as timber or firewood suppliers; parents as taxi drivers, cooks, laundry staff, cleaners; our partners as emotional and overall personal support system; and our “pets” are often used to meet our needs for unconditional love, cuddles and as our therapists. Again: there is no “good” nor “bad”. It is about observing our Selves and learning to discern when we do what and why.
There is a fine line between the nurturing aspects of “feeling useful” and “being of use” on one hand and the less supportive aspects of ab-use and exploitation on the other.
If we – consciously or unconsciously – choose to be and connect with another being, because we see a benefit for our Selves, it can lead us to expect that the other being gives something to us. Instead of seeing and receiving the gift they might have to share with us, we focus on our expectation – and completely miss the opportunity of an expansive relationship.
If there is a mutual agreement and understanding about exchanging certain gifts (e.g. between a healer and the person who wants to be healed), then there isn’t an issue. However, I often see that people seem to neither ask in the beginning nor check in along the way if all partners involved agree to take on certain roles. This is especially noticeable in interspecies relationships. Humans often seem to assume that other species are here to sustain us (e.g. as “food sources”) or to help us to keep our balance and that we can “use” them as we please.
Looking at relationships in regards to the two before mentioned factors – free choice/will and dependency levels –, I observed the following: No matter how much we love our animal companions or pets, our animal therapists, farm animals, etc.: They mostly aren’t 100% free to go where they want to go and we mostly provide their food and/or drinking water. They are used to depend on us for life essentials. Again: I mean no judgment here. It is simply about exploring the impact those two factors can have on our relationships.
I have seen humans using wild or domesticated animals as therapists and friends, with best intentions. I have been involved in dolphin assisted learning and healing programs in the early 1990’s and in equine assisted therapy for most of my life. I have seen amazing things happening – beautiful relationships, incredible healing. I met many animals who enjoyed their “job” or role as a therapist, teacher, healer – most of the time at least. I also met many who “did the job” – but given a choice I know that they wouldn’t have chosen to do this job on a regular and ongoing basis.
In exchange they were fed, loved, cared for (most of them anyway). Most of their human relations seemed to have genuinely good intentions. However, all of these animals have been kept in captivity without them being asked J It seems to me that “captivity” almost became a norm in our human world – we don’t seem to think much of it anymore. Zoos and animal parks are seen as normal entertainment and education facilities for the whole family, and when have you seen the last wild cow, horse, dog running around freely and without any restrictions in your neighbourhood? Or the last wild child in the woods for that matter? What about your Self? Are you confined to four walls, in front of a small screen? Think about it: how many beings do you see on a regular basis that are mostly kept in check within paddocks, kennels, classrooms and fenced off school yards, offices, etc.? And how many actually choose to be there, or would, given a choice, run off and rather be somewhere else?
These aspects influence ALL our relationships. Parent-child, teacher-student, employer-employee, male-female partnerships all include aspects of dependency and a “user mindset” that is deeply ingrained in our collective psyche.
It can be a huge task and challenge to become aware of these aspects and how they affect our relationships. However, from my experience, it is very rewarding. You will be able to experience relationships on a whole new level!
Ask your Self in what areas of your life you are in a “power position”. This might not be that obvious sometimes. For example: we are in a power position compared to our young children – we provide their food, are in charge of their mobility (= we decide where they are allowed to go and when), etc.
Are you in a partnership?
It’s worthwhile to explore any “areas of neediness and dependencies” in your relationship J Are you or your partner financially, emotionally, socially depending on each other? Does this affect your relationship? If yes, how? Do you have certain expectations that you want to be met within the relationship?
Are you a parent or caregiver?
Your children, especially young ones, depend on you – by default. Normally, you provide all the basics (food, shelter, warmth) and, ideally, more than that (an emotionally and socially safe platform, a safe haven from which they can sail off into the world). Clearly, you are in a power position. How does this “play out” in your life and in your relationship with them?
How are your work relationships?
Are you an employer or an employee? Are you a self-employed entrepreneur? Where are the dependencies in your work relationships?
If you are an “animal lover” – like me – and/or work with animals, and if you want to deepen your connection and bring it to the next level, it is worth to look at your Self and your relationship to your animal friends under those aspects.
The “dependency factor” in our Western world is normally quite high: apart from bird friends, lizards, worms and, occasionally, cats and mice and rats and many insect friends you most likely won’t have many free roaming animal friends around you who care entirely for themselves and don’t depend on you at all.
Yes, we are all interconnected and depend on each other all the time – this is true. However, this is not what I am talking about here. I talk about the importance to become aware of the dependencies we created, about our “user mindset” and how both factors affect our relationships.
It is about awareness and getting a clear picture of how we relate to each other.
Deep inside, most of us long for deep meaningful fulfilling relationships. In fact, such relationships are seen as the main ingredient for a well-balanced happy long life.
(c) Nomi Baumgartl
My raven friend didn’t have any apparent benefits from our relationship like other animal companions. I didn’t feed him, I didn’t give him water, I didn’t provide shelter for him. I didn’t keep him safe from attackers or other dangers. And I didn’t have any obvious benefits from our human-bird relationship either: he didn’t bring me any food, I didn’t want to eat him, he didn’t give me cuddles, he didn’t even sing a beautiful song for me, even though I got to love his occasional crawks very much. When I swum with dolphins in the wild, there was no obvious “use” or purpose either. They could have stayed away and not approach me at all. They were, at any time in our relationship, free to go wherever they needed or wanted to go. They didn’t depend on me and I didn’t depend on them (well, they could have harmed me if they wanted, too, simply because of our difference in size). We didn’t meet with expectations of “using each other”.
This is what made these and similar relationships in my life so special and different. This is what I was craving for as a child with my “domesticated” animal companions. This is what I wish will one day transform the relationships between humans and with other beings: so that we can enjoy each others company on a free-will basis. Offering and sharing our gifts freely without being pressured or feeling obliged. Learning and growing together. Opening our Selves up to expand our consciousness and to be able to perceive more and more aspects of "the bigger whole".