Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Animals Wearing Our Clothes

It's natural to focus our compassion on other beings - animals, children in need, the sick, the downtrodden, even our enemies. Being selfless. Putting our own needs and comfort on the back burner. Tireless rescue workers forgoing sleep. Mother Teresa. Bodhisattvas in the trenches. So much to do. So little time.

In all of this, it's easy to forget a much neglected group of animals. I wrote about them in my first blog post (Who Are These Faithful Friends?):

They are generally obedient animals, with teeth, nails and hair like most others. ;They love attention but are often ignored.  They would love to romp, but are usually allowed only a little bit of walking, and for the rest of the time, are made to sit.

Most often, they are made to eat food with minimal nutritional value, so that for much of their lives, they are obese and unhealthy.  In some cases, they are forced to breathe smoke and even to take harmful drugs to the point of addiction.

They have naturally curious intellects, but these are usually stifled by the countless hours of mindless television they are made to watch.

They are aware of endless opportunities to make others happy, to reach out and comfort suffering.  But because they are forbidden to do so, they are mostly sad.

Despite all of this, they continue to serve us until they eventually die.

They deserve our kindness.

They are our bodies.

Compassion for others and our sense of identity with them go hand in hand.

Compassion is not an idealized state. It is a profound realization that we are not separate from one another. It involves the ability to feel another’s suffering. Like lovingkindness, it is fundamentally interactive and ultimately has no subject and no object. Lovingkindness and compassion are the perfume of the realization of nonduality.

           Compassion: The Second Abode by Joan Halifax Roshi

Respect and kindness towards our animal bodies is really no different.

Besides, there is work to do, and our bodies are our tools. Letting them deteriorate is like letting our chisels get blunt and our wrenches get rusty. Unnecessary illness is unnecessary distraction.

In our enthusiasm for self-sacrificing compassionate action (or possibly, I hasten to add, because of laziness or gluttony), we may overlook or minimize our bodies' needs.


The cost of poor sleep is much greater than many people think: it may have profound consequences for our long-term health. Research has revealed that people who consistently fail to get enough sleep are at an increased risk of chronic disease, and scientists are now beginning to understand why. Treating sleep as a priority, rather than a luxury, may be an important step in preventing a number of chronic medical conditions.

Sleep and Disease Risk (Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School)


The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. ... Find a physical activity you enjoy, and just do it. If you get bored, try something new. ... As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day.

A healthy diet

Metabolic Syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes ... If you have metabolic syndrome or any of the components of metabolic syndrome, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems.

Metabolic Syndrome (Mayo Clinic)

I can’t slip away without putting in a plug for what I believe is one of the best gifts you can give your body – a whole foods plant based diet, as recommended in the documentary film Forks Over Knives.

Through an examination of the careers of American physician Caldwell Esselstyn and professor of nutritional biochemistry T. Colin Campbell, Forks Over Knives suggests that "most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods." It also provides an overview of the 20-year China-Cornell-Oxford Project that led to Professor Campbell's findings, outlined in his book, The China Study (2005) in which he suggests that coronary disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer can be linked to the Western diet of processed and animal-based foods (including all dairy products).

Forks Over Knives (Wikipedia)

This public service announcement was brought to the animals wearing your clothes by the animal wearing mine.


  1. such a good reminder! how often we think of our bodies as servants, as betrayers when they don't do what we want. and how easy to forget the nature of the particular body we inhabit, instead treating as more robust, or a less sensitive home than it might be. so many opportunities to practice awareness and compassion, right here in our own skin!

    1. Thanks, Carole! Just what I need - another reason not to overindulge in amazing vegan desserts. What was I thinking ..... ?

  2. Excellent advice! I'd be curious to know though, why is it that when we're under stress we are least likely to take care of the very bodies we need to maintain in order to endure the hazards and troubles put upon us? Seems the body should know instinctively what it needs to thrive. Perhaps the other species are showing us up yet again?

    This a very thoughtful and useful post - Thank you David! ;)

    1. Thanks very much, Bea! I suspect our bodies do know what they need to do to be healthy, but our clever brains talk them out of doing it. If we would only stop exploiting other species for long enough to just watch them, I'm sure they could teach us amazing things.

  3. Hi, just wanted to tell you, I enjoyed this post. It was
    practical. Keep on posting!


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