There’s a farm not too far from my office where you can have a therapy session with a cow. For $75, you and a friend can spend an hour with the beast; you may pet her hair, look into her big brown eyes, and cuddle. You could tell your problems to the cow, if you’d like; she won’t mind. Her big ears will take it all in and she will never judge. Compared to what I charge, it’s a bargain, but you’d have trouble getting insurance to cover it.
Do I have any fears that the cows will take over my business? Not a chance. Whenever I see a new client who has been to therapy before and didn’t find it helpful, they often say it was because the therapist rarely spoke up and gave them no direction; a problem, I imagine they would also find with cows. That is not to say that a cow cannot be therapeutic.
I know that cows can be therapeutic because, in a manner of speaking, I’ve had therapy with cows. No, I never paid $75 for an hour of their time; in fact, I got paid to be with them. You see, I used to work on a dairy farm. I had a very important position on that farm as the Vice President in Charge of Manure. I also helped out with the milking.
I learned two important lessons from my time with cows. The first was how to get dirty. The lesson in how to get dirty is to go ahead and get dirty, it’s easier that way. A job, any job is four times harder when you’re trying to stay clean. Shoveling manure is no exception. If you’re going to shovel manure, you’re going to get dirty, so you might as well accept it. When you accept things that are inevitable, those things become easier. That’s all the first lesson amounts to: acceptance; simple, yet profound. I had to remind myself of acceptance the last time I went to the dentist. I knew it was going to hurt, so I accepted it. Low and behold it did hurt, but less than I expected.
The second lesson cows taught me was how to be patient, which is really another kind of acceptance, one that has to do with time. Cows can teach you to be patient, too, if that’s a thing you need to learn. You don’t learn patience from cows because they are patient. Cows have the same range of patience as humans. You learn it from cows because they’re slow. Anything you try to do with a cow takes more time than if you did it by yourself.
I learned this lesson at milking time. Because I worked on a modern farm, all I had to do to milk a cow was to clean her udder, attach the suction cups, and wait; the milking machine and the cow did the rest. If I was in a hurry to be done with milking, or if a cow didn’t want me touching her udder, then I had to learn, and relearn patience.
When I say I learned how to have acceptance and patience, I don’t mean to imply that they’ve become my natural inclination. Far from it. I still need to remind myself of what I learned from cows. I thought about cows the last time I was at the dentist. I also thought about them the last time I had a client who was taking forever to get to the point of her story. In both cases, I began as unaccepting and impatient until I reminded myself of what I learned. That’s all it takes to practice acceptance, but I seldom do it automatically.
I guess that’s one more thing I got from cows; rather, it’s a thing I learned from my learning from cows. Acceptance and patience are not installed in you, like apps that go on operating without you. You don’t really have acceptance or patience; you choose them, and you are the person who has to make the choice.
I don’t know if acceptance and patience are things you would learn from cows if you paid $75 to spend time with them. I doubt you’ll be required to milk or shovel manure; although I’m sure the people would let you if you asked them. But don’t worry; if you need to learn acceptance and patience, you can still do so from the things already in your life that aggravate you. Just imagine them as cows and make the choice to be accepting and patient.
From what I can imagine, the therapeutic value of cow therapy would rest in the cow’s willingness to have you touch her. It can be dangerous to touch people, especially these days, or have them touch us. Consequently, we’ve gotten nervous about touch. You might be so touch starved that paying $75 to touch a cow for an hour seems like a good deal. It would be better to figure out how to have touch in your life while still keeping safe and respecting others. Meanwhile, there’s cows.