One of the things that I love about animals is that they help me focus on the joy of the present moment. If I am stuck in my car on a congested road and I see a triangle of geese overhead, I am drawn out of traffic misery and into enjoying where I am. When the pets and I travel together, even when things go wrong, their ever upbeat attitude forces a smile and keeps me going. Counter to the jubilant living-in-the-now feeling that animals and nature give me, is screen time, other wise known as television, the internet, social media, smart phones, etc. Obviously television, the internet and social media have made a huge change for the better of animals. Virtually educating and sharing about animals in need of help works. But does spending too much time reading and sharing at a screen disconnect us from the cause? As more and more studies show humans becoming massively disconnected with nature, do we hurt the animal causes we are passionate about by spending an increasing amount of time at our computers, in front of our TV's or on our smart phones?
On several recent trips, I have had the pleasure of being without internet access. On three occasions, I knew I was going to be out of range and I (kind of) prepared for it. On two other occasions, to be honest, I pretty much freaked out. But my panic about lack of technology gave me pause... it also gave me more time not just with nature and my pets, but also with other people. I started to wonder about how much time I spend conversing with a machine compared to having actual conversations, human and animal.
Before my unexpectedly unplugged meditations, I felt like I did a decent job of appropriately dividing my time between the physical world and the virtual world. But upon returning from my most recent internet free trip, I started to actually keep track of how much time I spend plugged in and the balance was way off. Of course, when I am at my computer and one of the dogs or the cat brings me a toy, I (usually) stop and play. If Leo starts a game of peek-a-boo or sings a song, I (try to) give him my full attention. Yet those present-with-my-pets moments, along with outings and adventures, didn't seem like a healthy balance with the time I spent in front of one kind of screen or another.
That correct balance is different for everyone yet I encourage all of you to take a closer look at how much time you spend reading about life with pets or sharing to help animals, and how much time you spend interacting with your pets and physically in nature. Could your dog use an extra walk each day? Would any of your pets benefit from more mental stimulation or training? Does your local shelter need volunteers? Is there someone in your neighborhood who could use help feeding the birds? Do you have a local park that needs a clean up? I believe prioritizing how I spend my time to help animals can make a bigger impact on the lives of animals. When I am not working virtually to better the world for animals, I am engaged physically with animals and their environment. Other humans committed to helping animals could also benefit from each of us balancing how we spend our time. Virtual and physical communities all prosper with a reboot in passion for a cause. And renewed vigor in helping animals is exactly the kind of fervor for the present that animals inspire in me to begin with.