A Mule in New Orleans

“…an essential connectedness and unity underlie all the levels of reality.”
-  John Stewart Bell, physicist

A dozen years ago I was strolling the busy French Quarter in New Orleans when I noticed the slow approach of a small, mule-driven flower cart. The man seated on the cart kept it close to the sidewalk, making it easier for passersby to stop and select from his buckets of gladiolas, daffodils, and irises. Yet, as colorful as the flowers were, my attention drifted to the mule.

A feeling of appreciation suddenly came upon me not only for this particular animal, but for every beast of burden that has toiled nobly, patiently for man since the invention of the harness.  I found myself hoping the mule was well treated, even loved, as she hauled the flower cart without sign of complaint in the hot midday sun. As the cart came nearer I began to flow good thoughts toward this humble animal.

“Thank you for your service. I wish you a contented life. You are loved.”

Just as the mule and I were about to pass each other along that bustling walkway, me silently beaming blessings, she dipped her head in my direction and gently brushed my forearm with her muzzle.

I am not trying to pass myself off as Saint Francis in this anecdote. Or Dr. Doolittle. Nor do I claim any full-time, Tarzan-like rapport with the animal kingdom. There were actually several factors conspiring together that enabled this meaningful man-mule moment.

Being on vacation, I was especially relaxed and present, pleasurably taking in the French Quarter’s lush courtyards, out-of-the-past facades, and strolling Dixieland bands.  I walked with a sense of discovery, no agendas or expectations (and, in case you’re wondering, no alcohol!). In that receptive state, my heart and eyes open, I had caught the essence of the mule and sent out a current of feeling for her well-being, which, to my utter joy, she acknowledged.

Message sent, message received. It’s that simple.

And that wondrous.

Albert Einstein wrote, “Our task [is to widen] our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” In the Tarot, we see this idea depicted almost literally in the traditional image of the World card. A woman representing expanded, unified consciousness floats joyously in the center of a sphere surrounded by animal and human figures. The card underscores the mystical truth that as creative expressions of the divine Source we are each connected to everyone and every thing. And the feeling that so effortlessly arises from this awareness is love.

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