To celebrate World Environment Day we catch up with Jason Gruhl, one of the authors of the fabulous book ‘Our Animal Neighbors’. Published by Bala Kids,a children’s imprint from Shambhala Publications dedicated to encouraging the values of wisdom and compassion for children of all ages with books on Buddhism, meditation, yoga, mindfulness, and more. Bala is Sanskrit for both “child” and “strength” and Bala Kids books give children and their grown-ups access to core values such as resilience, empathy, patience, and responsibility for themselves, their loved ones, and the world around them.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself Jason?
Hi Friends! I live in Boulder, Colorado but I am originally from Minnesota, a state up north in the central United States with lots of snow and beautiful lakes. I am a Children’s Author and a Psychotherapist for children and adults. I love helping people learn more about and connect with themselves, each other, and the world. I have a dog named Coby, and I love to read, hike, bake scones (with tea and strawberry and jam) and play Shogi (a Japanese version of chess).
2. Our Animal Neighbors book, what inspired you to write it?
Matthieu and I have both loved animals for a very long time. His book for adults, A Plea for the Animals, was the inspiration for this book. We wanted to help children understand that ALL of us play a part on this planet, and just because humans happen to be “smarter” than most other species doesn’t give us the right to hurt, harm, use, or frighten them. In fact, when we recognize that all beings just want to be free, safe and happy, humans can be part of the solution in making sure animals are protected and taken care of. We’re ALL neighbors on this planet.
3. Have you always been an animal lover and do you have a favorite animal?
I have ALWAYS loved animals. My family has always had a pet: dogs, cats, and even a hermit crab named Mary Lou! But I’ve also loved insects and birds little critters. They all seem to know how to live in balance with the Earth and what their particular way of life is. It’s often quite peaceful to watch. I particularly love ants and how cooperative they are! They can move HUGE pieces of food or leaves by working together. It’s just amazing! But I think my favorite animal is the wolf. There’s something special about wolves for me. I think I like that they have a pack of friends and family, but also spend time on their own. I enjoy both.
4. Who do you find inspiring and why?
I have a photo of Edward Snowden on my desk to remind me to be brave and speak the truth no matter what. All of us are in this together, and if we can rise above the ideas of separation, borders, “us and them”, we realize that there is a great dignity to humanity, to being human, and that it’s an opportunity to stand up for what is right regardless of laws, rules or societal expectations. It’s an invitation to really listen to our hearts and guts and be bigger than we ever imagined we could be.
5. If you could change one thing on this planet, what would that be?
That the basic needs of food, water, safety, and housing were afforded to all beings in all nations as a human right. All any of us want is to find a place we can call home.
Like our book says, we are ALL neighbors…and when we help each other, it makes the whole world a kinder and more beautiful place. We have a lot to learn from our animal neighbors about living in balance with the Earth, using only what we need, and cooperation. They teach us that everything is connected and that there is enough for all of us.
Check out this wonderful, beautifully illustrated book here