How is it that pets are able to travel thousands of miles through unknown territory to reunite with their beloved humans? How can dogs detect cancer with up to a 98 percent accuracy rate, and foresee epileptic or diabetic seizures in their owners? How do animals seem to know an earthquake is coming long before the world’s best seismologists?
In Animal Wisdom, veterinarian and animal advocate Linda Bender offers a wealth of amazing stories and research-based evidence indicating animals have deeply perceptive—even extrasensory—abilities. She shows us that animals are extremely perceptive, intuitive, and psychic and provides step-by-step practices for honing your natural ability to communicate with them, so that you too can learn to understand their urgent messages about peace, happiness, and the future of the planet.
We are so proud to share with you our conversation with Linda Bender, who spent living for fourteen years in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East and her veterinary work included the rescue, rehabilitation, and protection of wildlife.
“Animal Wisdom is a thoughtful and inspired exploration of the ways in which animals,
if we will but watch them and listen to them, can help us to live our lives more fully.”
—Jane Goodall, PhD, DBE, founder, the Jane Goodall Institute,
and UN Messenger of Peace
Interview with Dr. Linda Bender
Soul Love: What motivated you to write your book “Animal Wisdom”? Isn’t the work that you are doing already enough?
Linda Bender: Looking back, and I did think a lot about why I wrote it when I wrote it, I realized it has been gestating my entire life, it truly has.
In the book I tell a story of a specific trip in South Africa when visiting my friend Linda Tucker and the white lions – on the very last day, I was just ready to go home, when I had an encounter with those buffalo, and I have been connecting with animals my whole life and rarely required words, but that moment is just burned into my psyche as the time when I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I realized that in all my inadequacies and whatever else was going to happen or had happened in my life, I had to make my message available to everybody, because I suddenly realized what a treasure I had within me. I had volumes of things that I needed to sort through, articles I had written, experiences, photos, and so on.
My entire life I was the “nature girl” and my dad was my champion and he believed in me and in my connection to animals and for years he was telling me that I had to get my book out. Looking back, the whole experience and the things I all had to go through was a dark night of the soul for me, but I am so glad I did it.
Soul Love: The title of your book is “Animal Wisdom”. In what way differs the animal wisdom from the human wisdom?
Linda Bender: In my experience with animals, since I was a tiny girl, I believe that they are more closely connected to source (or nature if you like). I don’t see separation because I was never taught separation by the animals. For example – when I was a little girl I was offered the wisdom of birds, I was easily invited into their world, which seemed to be different than my world. We are more divided and our human minds tend to keep us more into these senses that we have in our culture. Not necessarily in the aboriginal culture for example – When I spent time in the Kalahari desert with the San People, I was amazed how similar the human wisdom was with the animal wisdom. These humans still use their intellect on a different level to problem-solve. But in our Western culture this is much different.
The animals are so finely tuned to the source of all, that it is different on some level. We rely more on our intellect. We used to think that we were the only ones who had emotions, but now we know different. We used to think that we were the only ones who had mirror recognition – not true. Although we are all unique lifeforms, we are actually not quite as different as science likes to maintain. All life is equal.
Soul Love: Why is it important for us to understand that animals have individual souls and spiritual lives?
Linda Bender: Animals live in a spiritual state. Humans take care of and value what they understand and what they know. We have separated ourselves in this culture so much from animals and we tend to not care, we don’t seem to understand their value.
We do love our dogs and cats, but why would we need bats for example? They scare us! If you want to make a scary movie, add some bats. People in our culture have no understanding of a bat. First of all, bats are not blind and they possess traits, like echolocation, that we don’t have. Their world is completely different. Everything is different about them. But why is it important to know that?
We have to take it one step further. Nature’s brilliance says there’s room, place and purpose for everything – All life has meaning and purpose. That’s what we tend to brush over and forget. Ninety-five percent of new growth in a tropical rainforest is the result of the seed dispersal by a bat – every species has its reason to be here. That to me is the soul of existence.
It’s so good to have a better understanding of this all because we as humans try to mess with mother nature. We’ve seen it with wolves, we are seeing it now with bees because for a multitude of reasons we are losing our bees.
You may not think a lot about bees but when you’re spraying your pesticides, you’re killing that bee too, you are destroying the ecosystem and you’re destroying yourself. What we do to our animals, we do to ourselves.
We will have to honour and to understand the soul and purpose of every life form. To make a division and say “humans have souls but the rest of nature is just meaningless – neural networks firing”, we’re taking away the soul and life force of life.
We as humans have stripped the soul and the life force from the animals that we use for our food source. Pigs are not called pigs anymore but they are called units. So how could it be other than all life is soul. When we strip nature of what we think is unnecessary or unessential we’re destroying ourselves.
The same thing that makes any animal alive, a dog, a cat, a whale and even a tree alive is the same force that makes you and me alive. It’s so simple. It all has meaning, purpose and soul. If we forget that, we’re doomed.
Soul Love: In your book you write about your first experience of feeling true love and that by rescuing an animal, you rescued yourself. Can you explain this?
Linda Bender: I was just a skinny, awkward little kid and I couldn’t speak until I was three years old. I remember my parents talking like “Oh my God, there’s something wrong with this one”. I had a much older sister who was winning beauty contests and I was this little thing and so I was ignored a bit.
I distinctly remember going out in the middle of the night when I was hearing screams. My parents also came and I picked up this tiny little bunny and brought it inside. What came over me as I was ‘rescuing’ this tiny little being was an overwhelming feeling of love that I had never felt before and it was so powerful and so strong that I understood that there’s a whole other thing going on here in this existence than just me and being separate from other beings.
I was still a little kid and I couldn’t conceive what was happening but I knew that this little animal and I were connected by a bond of love. I might have been rescuing that bunny, but boy that bunny rescued me. I opened my heart and soul and when we do that, isn’t that rescuing us?
Stories like that are constant throughout my life, at many levels – out in the wild as a conservationist and certainly in practicing veterinary medicine.
Soul Love: How can we deepen the relationship with our pets and can you give us some examples?
Linda Bender: One of the great lessons we can learn from animals is to understand and to be comfortable in our limits – in our ability to understand and to trust more.
A lion for example, could teach us: “Listen buddy, I am a lion, I am not trying to be an elephant and I am really cool with being a lion. I am sacred, I am beautiful and this is who I am. This is what I don’t know, because I am not equipped to know it, but that’s okay because I connect to my world through source and I am great the way I am and you are beautiful the way you are”.
As humans we could become more comfortable with mystery and in ‘not knowing’. This is something people struggle so desperately with.
Everyone has the capacity to establish a deeper connection with an animal. It’s very normal that humans connect on an intuitive level with animals, but we tend to play it down.
Let’s say there’s an encounter with your dog and you know that your dog does something you can’t explain – the dog is sitting at the door waiting for you when you get home and you tend to say “oh, that’s a coincidence, this isn’t really happening”. Well, it is happening and these events are actually very normal.
When I am feeling down or unsure, my dog will know that. My dog will come over and sit with me. What people need to remember is that these things are real. Just observe this and pay more attention to it. Don’t sweep it under the rug. Any dog will try to pull their companion human into the present moment. Just allow it to happen.
The first step in learning to connect with the spirits of animals is to connect to the divine within yourself. We can close our eyes for a moment and just think “who’s listening? Who’s thinking the thoughts?” When we can recognize the source within ourselves, in that one minute, we can then recognize it in any other being.
Go for a walk with your dog and instead of focusing on where you want to go, let the dog lead the way. Pretend you’re out walking as two partners – what an adventure! In my book I describe eighteen practices for a stronger connection with animals. They’re really helpful and so much fun.
Soul Love: In both Asia and Africa you have worked with local communities promoting anti-poaching initiatives and educational programs. The way humans care for the earth including the animals, what does that exactly say about us?
Linda Bender: We have divorced ourselves, we’ve become so estranged from that interconnectedness of all life that we don’t see what we do to them. It’s ignorance and fear, but the problem is that we’ve reached a point where the animals can no longer live in that blissful ignorance of us.
In Africa, there used to be millions of elephants. Today, I believe there are less than 200,000 and we’re losing about 36,000 elephants a year through poaching alone. We can no longer afford that ignorance, because there are too many of us.
This tells us that we’ve got a lot of work to do. We better start kicking into that human specific genius to solve creatively the problems we have. It’s not only about raising our consciousness because that is happening, but now we will have to exercise it, to get out and to actually act.
INTERVIEW BY: DIRK TERPSTRA – SOUL LOVE FOUNDER