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Doing Nothing with Donkeys

Updated: May 24

We all have a lot of "doing" in our lives. Sometimes we can use a little less. Or at least a balance of doing and not doing. With very little training, you can learn to do nothing! With the help of a peaceful donkey.

Want to feel a little more peace in your life? Feel like you are rushing through everything? My recommendation is to spend some time with a donkey. They are fully in the present moment. Nothing is more important than just being here, right now. They take us out of our sense of linear time, where we worry and stress about the future -- or dwell on the past. They move us into what I call Donkey Present Time which is full and simple and every sense is engaged.

Donkeys have sometimes gotten a bad rap for being stubborn. If you've ever tried to make a donkey "go" when they don't want to -- you have experienced how determined they can be to not go! But the truth is -- donkeys have a very strong sense of self-preservation. They are oriented to what feels safe and good. They want what they want. When they disobey our desires, they are just honoring their senses. They won't take a step that they don't feel good about. They are very sensitive beings -- they can sense the slightest change in your thoughts or moods because they engage the world through their senses, where everything is real. Their experience is truthful and authentic. A donkey will only approach you if they want to.

When you step into "Donkey Time" your senses slow down and your world becomes full with the present. That's why The Human-Animal Connection is announcing our new workshop "Doing Nothing with Donkeys."

What do we do? We just sit with the donkeys. Or walk with them. We let them approach us. We only touch them if she moves into our space. Being with them in this respectful way slows us down, and makes us notice everything. Our world becomes incredibly small and focused and yet our experience widens -- opens up to their sensory world. They feel us and reflect back our true nature when we engage with them in this quiet way.

What Happens at the Workshop?

Nothing. Or I should say "no specific thing." We don't have a plan -- other than to say our plan is to gently enter the donkey space. We learn a method to calm ourselves enough to tune into the soft zone of donkey time. That means we don't rush. We patiently allow the donkeys to approach or not. We don't reach out to them, we let them reach out to us. Respecting their timing means we have to slow our desires to naturally reach out and scratch, or pet them, or stroke their long ears, or cuddle. Sometimes this is exactly what they want and will position their bodies just where they want this contact. What we are doing in this workshop is switch from our impulse to reach out and touch -- and move into watching, waiting for them to INVITE us to touch. If we get it wrong, no worries, they will teach us by gently walking away.

Here's where they show us how to be patient. It is more fun to let them choose how and when they want physical contact. Just looking into their eyes and letting them take you in touches you in a way you've been longing for.

I find these moments I am able to spend in donkey time stay with me for days. I can just connect with the memory of really being with them, and the way that they acknowledge the moment with their soulful gaze.

Don Quixote - teaching us how to connect

Have a look at this video that the News did on our workshop, Doing Nothing with Donkeys

Charlotte: One Donkey's Purpose

My good friend Afton has a small animal rescue and mustang sanctuary on his ranch, Wild Horse Haven Rescue in Safford, Arizona. He has an expensive habit of rescuing horses that are on their way to the glue factory. Afton also has donkeys, chickens, a huge pig, and a llama named Cuzco.

One of his elderly donkeys, Charlotte, was being picked on by the other donkeys, who were keeping her from getting her fair share of food. She was losing weight, so he knew he had to do something. He made arrangements to transfer Charlotte to a friend’s ranch where other “last chance” horses were sheltered.

I tell Charlotte's story in my book The Human-Animal Connection. I was there with Afton that day and offered to help load Charlotte into the horse trailer. It seemed like the right thing to do so we began luring Charlotte in with her favorite treats. She was willing to put one hoof into the trailer and then she stopped. If you know donkeys, it is not easy to get them to do something they don’t want to do.

For too long donkeys have been given a bad reputation for being difficult, which translates as not doing what a human wants them to do. Often, they are just being true to their desires. If something doesn’t feel safe to them, they want no part of it. (If only humans had more “donkey-sense.”)

Charlotte and her llama friend Cuzco

We tried a few tricks but none of them worked, and Charlotte was about to bolt. Then I thought, Oh, maybe I should ask her what she wants. I asked, and she communicated back to me, I don’t want to leave my friends. Perhaps she knew the new rescue place had no donkeys! She also told me, I want to stay with Cuzco (the llama who was her friend). I want to be near the other donkeys but stay on the other side of the fence.

I told Afton what she had said, and fortunately, he trusted me and put Charlotte in with the llama. Charlotte could still see the other donkeys on the other side of the fence, but now she could eat her food in peace. She still had company, but no more struggles.

Charlotte became one of Afton’s best “reading donkeys.” When young children came to his ranch, they wanted to read to Charlotte. She would wait till the child sat down in the reading chair and opened their book. Then Charlotte would slowly approach, look over the child’s shoulder and follow along with the picture books. The children loved reading to her. One little girl begged her parents to let her come every day. She was so sure Charlotte was following every word and was determined to finish the story. The parents were amazed at Charlotte’s gentle focus and presence. This fueled Afton's desire to introduce more parents to the wonderful connection that is possible with animals.

Charlotte is such a sweet donkey-lady!

I am so happy she was able to tell me what she wanted. She had a very harmonious plan that we could never have imagined without her telling us. Life is so much sweeter when you consider an animal’s opinion.

The Human-Animal Connection's new workshop is called --

Doing Nothing

with Donkeys

which invites participants to spend time with donkeys. Or rather, to gain time by stepping into their slow rhythm. To feel what it feels like to be "chosen" by a donkey, who approaches only when he or she wants to. And hint, hint -- they choose to be near people who are kind and peaceful. They have amazingly good intuition about who is "good" to be near. They teach us to enter a world of peace and gentleness, a sensation that lasts for days. It's a sweet calmness that we've been missing in our busy lives.

Letting the donkey choose to connect - connecting through the nose rather than the hands

The Human-Animal Connection is available on Amazon or wherever you order books.

Genie Joseph, PhD

Executive Director

The Human-Animal Connection

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