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Animal Divina

Books We Love: Sarah Bowen

Critter lover and Spiritual Rebel author Sarah Bowen shares five cherished texts about animals.

Creature-filled books and cats reigned in my childhood bedroom. I dreamed of Aslan, recuperated from colds with Tigger, and earnestly analyzed Charlotte’s Web. Our family’s felines kept me company during countless “time outs,” as did the loquacious birds outside my window. In many ways, these influential animals—both real and mythic—supported me when the people in my house fell short.

This love for all things furry and feathered eventually ferreted me into service as an animal chaplain. I channeled Hermione-Grainger-meets-St.-Francis-of-Assisi with complete abandon. Our house overflowed with illuminating books on diverse topics—from ahimsa to zoology, from animal sentience to Zoroastrian dog funerals—as I learned how to care for the more-than-human world. Fascinating stories of remarkable animals warmed my heart while heavy academic texts confirmed why their lives should be valued.

Soon, perplexing my human neighbors, I began meditating with squirrels and imploring birds to join me in call-and-response kirtan. Admittedly, I do not have a church for critters (yet …), but my spiritual practices are increasingly interspecies, and my writing unabashedly animalia.


These five books inspired me
to see the divine spark in every being.

Inside Animal Hearts and Minds: Bears That Count, Goats That Surf, and Other True Stories of Animal Intelligence and Emotion
Belinda Recio
SKYHORSE

For eons, it seemed as if scientists intentionally ignored the incredible abilities of animals, reducing them to simple creatures who acted on instincts, devoid of emotions or intelligence. Luckily, an increasing heap of research reveals what many of us inherently know: Animals are awe-inspiring. In this delightful and eye-opening book, Belinda Recio affirms plentiful wonders of the animal kingdoms, including bears who hum when happy, magpies who mourn, and chimps who worship.

Kindness for All Creatures: Buddhist Advice for Compassionate Animal Care
Sarah C. Beasley and Anam Thubten
SHAMBHALA

In a book both practical and profound, Vajrayana Buddhist practitioner Sarah Beasley provides advice for compassionate animal guardianship. Using the Six Perfections as a framework, this accessible and comprehensive guide is packed with tips for anyone seeking to deepen their relationship with animals in and around their home.

Blessing the Animals: Prayers and Ceremonies to Celebrate God’s Creatures, Wild and Tame
Lynn L. Caruso, editor
SKYLIGHT PATHS

This sweet little compilation helps animal lovers honor the births, life moments, and deaths of pets as well as wilder lives. From the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaton to mystic philosopher Rumi to poet Emily Dickinson, spiritual wisdom from around the planet provides helpful words for joyous and heartbreaking moments alike.

Animals and World Religions
Lisa Kemmerer
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

For a detailed look into what the world’s religious traditions teach about animals, this deep dive by philosopher-activistLisa Kemmerer not only informs but also inspires. Traversing seven paths of spiritual wisdom, she dives into sacred textsand chronicles the lives of holy activists, ultimately encouraging readers to ponder their own beliefs about animal theology and planetary ethics.

Animal Sutras: Animal Spirit Stories
Stephen Levine
MONKFISH

This slim, delicately illustrated volume contains 50 short anecdotes. From “The Mouse of Faith” to “The Prairie Dogs and the Ascended Lamas,” Levine’s stories will move you from teary-eyed to grinning like a Cheshire cat. A perfect choice for when you want to cozy up with a warm blanket and namastay at home with your dog.