Connecting Through Relationships

We gain awareness of who we are, and learn to know ourselves in the context of relationships with others. For many of us, others include animals as well as people. Simply by being themselves, animals can be powerful agents of transformative change in human awareness and consciousness. Through the connections we experience with animals, and people, we discover the meaning of the word ‘relationship’. This word represents the invisible connection that exists when two or more elements, or separate objects, are attracted to each other and form a bond. The bond of relationship is dynamic, fluid and independent of time and space, as scientific research is proving.

Our solar system is based on the formation of relationships between atoms that are attracted to each other and form ‘molecular bonds’. Molecules form the basic structure of the natural world, which includes all the heavenly bodies, as well as the minerals, plants, animals, and humans on the planetary body – Earth. Hence, at an atomic level, we are fundamentally in relationship with everything! Levels of awareness and capacity differ, and may change, but not this ‘elemental fact’. Relationships exist between people, animals, places and things, whether we are conscious of it or not, and whether they are present physically or mentally – as thoughts. This is why shapes, sounds and colours have an effect on us, consciously and unconsciously. They have ‘qualities’ we are fundamentally in relationship with, though usually at unconscious levels.

Humanity is part of the great cycle of Life. While it is clearly evident that material life has developed or evolved to a vast extent, it is also clear that without an equally developed sense of spiritual and social consciousness to guide human activities, our species will not evolve, or perhaps even survive, to manifest our true potential in relation to all forms of planetary life. Hence, the children and youth of today have a significant role to play in shaping, and safeguarding, the world we live in. All adults have a responsibility to all children when it comes to building the world of the future. Every individual member of society, no matter what age, for better or worse, is a vital part of our planetary life.

At this time of great planetary change, any and all forms of education play an important role in shaping the future. Humanity is learning but we need to pay much greater attention to exactly what it is that we are learning. One way of doing this is to ask how the relationships we have can impact not only how, but what we learn. Modern systems of education rightly help prepare children to live in the ‘material’ world, but many children of the world still do not receive even a basic education. Individuals and groups around the world are working tirelessly to make improvements in this area. Still, there is urgent need for modern educational curriculums to prioritize and emphasize social and emotional competencies by incorporating and evaluating them within the context of existing subjects. We have the ability to include assessment of relationship, social skills and emotional regulation in the assessment of total competency within any given subject. Our educational systems hold the key to building foundations upon which the elements of goodwill, inclusivity, kindness, generosity and harmlessness will determine the quality of relationships that connect us as a global society. Movement in this direction has begun, spearheaded by educators and parents who have witnessed first hand the result of society’s imbalanced engagement and over reliance on technology, both in and out of school. We are all realizing the price that is being paid in terms of social and emotional development, not to mention, the development of a ‘spiritual sense’, which many children naturally feel and express.

While the online world of cyberspace is a wonderful medium for social interaction, the ‘virtual’ world also has the potential to intensify experiences of alienation and loneliness as much as it fosters a sense of connection. Superficial connections often give us a false sense of what we really need, which is the ability to create and sustain meaningful relationships at deeper levels. It is not the number of relationships we have but the quality of the connection that determines the value they create in our lives.

It is here that the relationships humans experience with animals can help people, of all ages, develop a deeper and more fulfilling sense of connection with their inner self as they become more aware of the depth of their connection with animals, which then extends to the natural world, each other, and indeed, their kinship with all life. The more we engage with technology and machines, the more machine-like we are becoming and the more disconnected we are from the qualities that makes us truly human. The bonds of relationship we form with animals help us re-connect with the heart of our humanity. We share many characteristics with our animal kin. This is what the word kinship means: “a sharing of characteristics or origins”. Animal Kinship is ultimately about connections of the heart, and the deep bonds of relationship.