Justifying Judgement or Choosing to Compassionately Face Fears?

The Cherokee Wolf Legend invites us to ask: Which Wolf Are We Feeding?

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.”
– Gandhi

🎙NOTE: This can be listened to as an audio recording here.🎙


Hello, Friends!

Happy mid-March!  What are you up to this weekend?  I hope you’re up to something that brings you joy. I’m sure you’re aware that St. Patrick’s Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig) is today, but did you know …?

  • The real St. Patrick wasn’t Irish.
  • He didn’t drive the snakes out of Ireland; many see this as symbolism for banishing the Celtic “heathens”.
  • Adding green dye to food/beer symbolizes not only the green countryside, but also the time of the Great Famine, when Irish people were so deprived of food they resorted to eating grass; their mouths were green as they died.
  • March 17th is also the feast day of the original Cat Lady (St. Gertrude, the Patron Saint of Cats).

➡ You can get all the Deetz about AllaDat in This Post


Hugging a new friend I met at New Grange, Ireland

We stand somewhere between the mountain and the ant. 
-Native American (Onondaga) Proverb


I share those St. Patrick Day facts with you because it’s just one of the many ways that we continue to follow traditions without questioning them. We let ancient beliefs and centuries of practices go unquestioned. Sometimes it’s harmless; other times it’s quite harmful. One particularly harmful example is the unquestioned belief in being superior to any species or group within a species is a belief to be undone.

That unquestioned belief is at the heart of this heartfelt post.

Speaking of judgey-judgements and blindly following the masses, I’d like to ask you about a common one that comes up in communities around the world. How do you feel when you read, hear, or see the word “Spider”? What does the sight of an insect do to you? What are your thoughts about Arachnids?

I ask because yesterday was Save A Spider Day.  Seriously, it’s a real day. And frankly, it should be.  It may seem as nonsensical to you as celebrating an unquestioned evangelical saint and green-food-dye-day is to me, but it’s important.

Hear me out …

In a previous post I explained the importance of questioning our thoughts, judgements, and beliefs.  I explained how it ripples out to the universe and how taking responsibility for this matters.  But questioning our thoughts and beliefs and judgments doesn’t end with our little lives.  

I believe it should extend to everything our eyes see.


This includes every being; strangers, spiders and such. This questioning of thoughts, emotions, and beliefs should include ALL beings with whom we share the universe.

Here’s an easy example: Yesterday, on our Conscious Companion Facebook page, I shared a wonderful teaching moment that Hocus Pocus & I had with some lovely Canada Geese. You can check that out here. That respectful experience between three species is just one example of how we can choose to change they way we treat others in every moment.

All creatures have value whether we find them cuddly, affectionate, beautiful or otherwise.  Our own perspective–in a way–is neither here nor there.  Theology, at its best, can help to liberate us from our own anthropocentric limitations.  – Rev. Dr. Andrew Linzey

I get it. Not all species are easy on the eye of the beholder.  And physical characteristics set aside, not everyone has had a positive experience with every species on the planet.  But the looming fact remains:  Whether you’re a person or pet, those early life experiences with any species (or lack thereof) need to be positive ones.

For example, if I were to choose to hang onto a grudge for the guard geese who used to attack me (while I was riding my bike to school) every day, I would be cruel or careless to the Canada Geese whom we encounter every day. And if I were never exposed to snakes early in life in a positive light, I would have never become a herpetologist who taught people to set aside their fear for the Slithering Ones.

Every experience adds up.
And so does every judgement, thought, and belief.

We don’t need to look far to see how hateful judgements and unquestioned beliefs deeply affect lives. Just this week we witnessed another attack, based in fear. This can end. But it has to begin within.

Taking responsibility for your beliefs and judgments gives you the power to change them. ~ Byron Katie

I believe change begins with changing the way we see the seemingly little things that scare us. The little frights are merely symbolic of greater fears. What scares us is an invitation to question our fear. What frightens us is an invitation to fearlessly look within. What evokes revulsion, terror, or hatred is an invitation.

What we are a afraid of is an invitation to inquire.

Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears. – Rudyard Kipling

Last Night’s Fright Night

So, let’s get to the fearful fright we had last night. Do you follow synchronicity in your life?  I never understood what that meant until I learned about how powerful and transformative it can be.  Now I love how things are always In Sync.  Last night, there was a frightful sight in our house.  Then yesterday, I discovered it was Save a Spider Day!  That’s why I am so inspired to share with you now!

Ok, friend, find your comfy spot.  Grab a yummy drink. Invite a Cuddle Buddy. Settle in. It’s gonna get Real … and also funny. 😉


If we are to use our tools in the service of fitting in on Earth, our basic relationship to nature–even the story we tell ourselves about who we are in the universe–has to change.  – Janine M. Benyus


Okay so here’s the rundown.  Last night I had been in my office for a couple of hours working on my new website and participating in a soul sister’s live Q&A call for her chakra series. You can check out her program here.   Mr. Beaux was with me.  Hocus Pocus was sound asleep in her bed next to us.  Knox, was strangely not in the vicinity. 

After the call ended, I went downstairs to pour myself a glass of wine and begin the process of winding down.  When I entered the kitchen, not only did I discover that all of my chips and queso had been devoured to my dismay, but Knox was wide-eyed, low to the ground, looking crazed.  (I was honestly less concerned about Knox looking crazed than my shock at how and why my carefully cached chips and queso had been devoured.  I felt like the dude in this French Fry scene from the movie “Men At Work”.

Seriously. 

Knox being a naughty boy on the counter, cleaning his paws after stealing my pizza. With cuteness like this, how can I get upset?

After I realized Knox couldn’t have possibly eaten the chips and queso because the lid to the queso had been replaced (and he lacks opposable thumbs) 😉  I went to ask my husband about the thievery.   As I was leaving the kitchen, I looked over and saw Knox frantically pawing at something under the dishwasher.   Knox has a great recall so I called him to come over to me.  Rather than coming quickly as usual, Knox stayed put, but glanced back at me.  I could see that his eyes were fully dilated.

At this point I realize he has something cornered. A critter.

So, I go to investigate.  I look underneath the dishwasher where he’s crouching but I see nothing.  I call Knox away from the area, reward him for coming, and get down on the ground for a closer look.  I see nothing still.  Hoping it wasn’t another mouse, I leave the kitchen and head back upstairs do discuss The Chip Incident with the suspected thief. 

A few minutes later, I come back down to discover Knox playing with something at the foot of the stairs. He’s frantically pawing at something again, but this time he takes a several swat-breaks to shake his head, spit and salivate as if he has something poisonous in his mouth.  Then he goes back to pawing at something in the crevice of the stairs.  I quickly recall him away from whatever he’s attacking. He complies.

Hocus is intently watching all of this go down, anticipating when she can intervene.  I ask Hocus for a down-stay and she complies.  Now cat and canine are watching intently as I creep towards the critter.

I can see it.

The House Centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) trying to survive in our house 

Doing its best to make itself a small target as possible, a gigantic alien-like insect sat motionless at the bottom of the stairs.  Now I am doing my best to work up the courage to capture it. At this point, I am aware that my attitude and actions will either elicit an aggressive or calm response from both feline and canine, so I keep my cool.

Internally, I’m experiencing full on heebie-jeebies.

Jason Bateman’s expression perfectly exemplifies how I felt.

Stay with me here.

Suppressing the visceral reaction I’m experiencing just looking at this thing, I am aware that I need to act quickly. Hocus, being the ever protector, will go after something if she thinks it is a threat.  Knox, being the ever hunter, will kill something if he thinks he can eat it.  Neither of these are options.

Not only do I not know how toxic this creature is if consumed by cat or canine, I am doing my best to keep everybody calm and safe.  Including myself! And including this creature who is now huddled in a corner.  As I creep closer, doing my best to work up courage to investigate this alien insect, I was surprised to notice that I wasn’t afraid.

I felt compassion.

Crouched in a corner, exposed and vulnerable, this little critter was just trying to survive.  It was absolutely terrified.  I could intuitively tell by its body posture.  And I could feel it.  I was moved even more when my suspicions and senses about its fear and the harmlessness of its nature were confirmed. 

Acting quickly, I grabbed a conch shell.   My intention was to carefully scoop up the creepy critter without harming it, letting it escape, and lawd help us all in the house — without it actually touching me.  (If any of my entomologist friends are reading this, I know they are laughing). 

I set aside my fears and went to work.

Based on the behavior and structure of this alien insect, I assumed capturing it would be a challenge. Thankfully I was incorrect.  I had to coax it into the conch shell.  Rather than fighting back or fleeing, this long legged being shut down.  It wouldn’t move.  It put up no fight.

It was terrified.

And when I knew this, I was no longer afraid.  I saw it differently.  My heart began to open, and all I wanted to do was help it.  I saw it as someone who needed help.  And I was willing to be of assistance to this long-legged alien.

Funny how that happens when we can see clearly.  Funny how fear blocks the truth.  Funny how an open heart allows us to see others as they really are.  -Not as monsters, but as beings just trying to get by.  

When the fear leaves, love walks in.

I felt like the Grinch when his heart grew 3 sizes after seeing the Whos, who he once hated.

With an open heart and questioned mind, a carefully navigated the creature into the conch shell.  While simultaneously telling him he’s safe, I thanked Hocus and Knox for allowing that to go as smoothly as it did.

I then brought the little being down into our basement, intending to release him in a safe spot.  Slowly and carefully he crawled out of the conch shell.  He took a moment to pause where I had placed him. Then he slowly walked away.  I wished him well and thanked him for teaching me.     


A good deed done to an animal is as meritorious as a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as an act of cruelty to a human being.  -Mohammed

The centipede & conch capture reminded me of sweet, misunderstood Remi of Ratatouille when he was captured and nearly killed.


Seeing Species In A New Light

I would be doing all species a dis-service if I wasn’t honest in sharing this with you:  Just googling for an image of that creature gave me the full on hee-bee-jeebee chills.  But that’s normal considering it’s only the second time I’ve seen it, and via my PC I’m looking at an image of it magnified 50 times bigger than it is in real life. So yeah, it’s still a little creepy to look at up close. And unless I continue to have positive associations with that creature again, I may recoil a bit. Like any person or pet, until we change the underlying emotional response to a perceived threat, we will respond fearfully.

Although it was a really moving experience, I have not been completely desensitized to this species yet. But give me some chips, queso, and a Guinnes while I observe it again and I’ll be feeling much more comfortable with this critter skittering! But the next time I encounter one, my response will be filled with kindness because now I know better.

By ethical conduct toward all creatures, we enter into a spiritual relationship with the universe.
Albert Schweitzer, The Teaching of Reverence for Life


If you aren’t feeling compassion for “creepy crawlies” yet, I understand.   For as long as I can remember I’ve been terrified of roaches of all shapes and sizes. In fact, I was so afraid of them, I hated them. So I killed them.

It was only through my career at the Audubon Zoo, that I began to have compassion for creatures who I once killed as soon as they came into my sight.  My fear of them was so intense my immediate reaction was to kill them.  Destroying them did not stem from anger.  It stemmed from a deep-seated fear.

But since all fears are learned, all fears can be undone.

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.”
– Gandhi

Each of us has the ability to remain fearful or become empowered.  This includes every species in the universe.  Once the root of the fear is recognized, we can change the underlining emotion.  Some fears take longer to undo than others but it is possible.  Again, this does not pertain to specific species; All is One.  The scientific principles behind this pertain to every species on the planet.

If we try to get rid of fear or anger without knowing their meaning, they will grow stronger and return.Deepak Chopra

I am forever grateful to my entomologist friends for teaching me to see even roaches in a new light. Through witnessing their kindness and compassion towards “creepy critters”, and their unending patience with helping me to unravel my deeply rooted fears, I learned to see insects of all shapes and sizes in a new light.  

I even “adopted” an 8 inch centipede as my first venomous pet while doing field research with the Louisiana pine snake project.  (Looking back, I realize I actually stole a viable female from the wild, and should have left her where I found her; lesson learned.) Although, she was initially unsettling to look at, and her venom is wicked powerful, I fell in love with her.  She was a fierce, brilliant, and beautiful bug.  I began to see her this way when I was no longer afraid of her. 

Blinded by fear initially, I could not see her beauty.

If we are willing to be still and open enough to listen, wilderness itself will teach us.  Steven Harper


Fear Binds. Love Unfolds.

Speaking of beautiful and brilliant, the image above is of my closest Soul Sister utilizing her joy, love light, compassion, kindness, and beauty to contrast the scariness of creepy crawlies to kids.  Liberty was the Super Hero Bug Lady who ran the Bug Mobile at Audubon where we worked together.  She was beyond amazing at her job with bugs.  She could transform children’s fears of insects into curiosity. The curiosity transformed aggression into kindness towards these creatures.  Kids came forward instead of recoiling.  They were open to learning.  They were open to changing their limited perspective about all insects.

And so was I.

I learned how sensitive they are.  I learned they can experience fear.  I learned they have personalities.  I learned they care for their young.  I learned they all serve a very important purpose.  I learned that the human species would not survive without them.  But mainly, I learned they’re not out to get me. 😉

You have to hear this.

One of my favorite entomologist friends shared this today, and I promise you will learn something amazing about Arachnids:

I always liked to talk about the Amblypygids (Tailess Whip Scorpions) and kin recognition. These are the arachnids that most people will recognize from Harry Potter when he was being taught the curses. They actually not only recognize family members, but prefer to spend time with them, especially in stressful situations. Siblings will huddle together with mom and stroke each other with their whips to calm down when they are put into new environments. -Matt Thorne

You read that, right? Please take a moment and let that sink in. Even the scariest looking insects are not what we believe them to be; they are capable of concern for their young. They provide comfort to their family when they are scared. How is that not unlike us?

This is the scene Matt is referring to; you can view a short clip of it HERE.

Matt continues: As a personal story, I’ve had many arachnids that are total sweethearts and completely handleable. My giant Asian forest scorpion, Beatrice, was definitely more like a dog with a crunchy exterior. She would walk right onto my hand and nuzzle my palm, and she would eat crickets right out of my hand. She was so gentle and looked like she genuinely liked to be held.

Matt also shared this humors but poignant example of how his compassion and care was witnessed by a stranger:
While evacuating for a Hurricane, I was sitting outside of my motel room holding her, letting her get some exercise crawling from hand to hand, and giving her a mealworm to snack on. In the middle of this, a man staggers out of the bar down the street and walks my way. He gets closer and then stops, trying to focus on my hand.
“Is that a scorpion?” he slurs in disbelief.
“Yep.”
He leans in a little closer and in a conspiratorial whisper asks, “Are you a wizard?”
I nodded in the affirmative and he hurried away.


Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.
– James Stephens


Species Serving a Purpose

All life is valuable. All species serve a purpose. There is a connection and interdependence within the Whole. But are we open to accepting this? Can we become compassionate to all life?

Even after everything my entomologist friends taught me over the years, I was amazed to discover that the creature we captured in our house is considered a very beneficial insect. An entomologist has a great write up about the species on his website. You can check it out here.

It turns out, this particular critter in question is called a house centipede.  He refers to them as curious. They are docile to non-prey items (you and me and our pets). He explains that the venom of house centipedes is not particularly toxic (to humans/pets) and they seldom bite.  He further explains they prey on tons of unwanted house “pests” such as clothes moths and cockroaches. How cool is that?!?

And this species does all of this without charging a dime for their services. 😉


Kindness & Compassion Connects Us All.

Kindness or Cruelty is a Choice.  
And Choices Allow for Change.

The really cool thing about changing the way we perceive something is that it brings the power back to the observer.  The power of perception lies within.   We have the ability to change the way we perceive something.  No one else has that power over us.  When we change the way we perceive something, change occurs on all levels.  

Change Is a Choice.

People aren’t the only ones that learn from observing.  How we choose to react to, and how we treat other creatures with cruelty or kindness does not go unnoticed.  I’m convinced that our cat and dog learn something from observing me and not experience with the creature.  Had I finally reacted towards it, you can bet their response would’ve been similar in the future.

If emotions can change, so can behavior.

models of emotion suggest all the feelings we experience as being discrete emotions vary in how they feel to us/how helpful they are.

If we want to change the behavior of any being, we gotta dig. Aggression in all species does stem from fears, but the details are complicated. Today we will keep this simple.

Both people and animals learn that aggressive behavior gets them what they want. This can be social status, resources, or a sense of safety. Behaving aggressively comes in many forms; bullying other school kids to biting someone who tries to pet you without permission. Both of these behaviors receive desired results. Quite effectively actually. The bully feels powerful and the impinged upon pet gets the pushy person to go away. Aggression towards an Archind serves the same purpose; I kill the spider. Now he/she can’t crawl on me. Attacks on other people have the same results; I shoot them; now they can’t impinge upon me.

But until we look at the underlying emotions and beliefs or prior experiences that have created the fear, we cannot undo the fear that’s led to the aggressive behavior.

Harm no other beings.  They are your brothers and sisters.
– Buddha

 


Spider Symbolism

So, all of this discussion about “creepy crawlies” is now coming back full circle.  This brings us back to the eight-legged species of the day:  The Spider!  A souls sis shared that spider meme with me yesterday and it made me laugh out loud. As silly as it seems, now you’ll think twice before you kill your 8-legged roommate. 😉 And let’s not forget what our entomologist friend Matt shared with us about spiders having social behavior!

Bottom line: Spiders are awesome. Spiders deserve respect.

As do all insects in every corner and crevice of the world.  Bugs are doin’ the best they can, man. And they’re doing a damn good job at what they do. Let’s do our damnedest to be better to them.

We are the earth, made of the same stuff; there is no other, no division between us and “lower” or “higher” forms of being. 
Estella Lauder

Have you seen Ellen Degenere’s stand-up comedy bit about how quick we are to kill “creepy crawlies” and other critters? You can check it out here. It’s so true! And if you really think about it, we see humans doing this with other humans, too.

Fear is Fear. Love is Love. With whom we love or fear, the species does not matter. It’s all the same.


I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.  -Mahatma Gandhi

Ok, so here’s something you may not know about spiders:  Their symbolism is astonishing.   If you have never heard about Nature symbolism, please let me explain.  This tool was utilized by all of our ancestors, most of whom were deeply connected to Mother Earth and Mother Nature.  My Cherokee and Celtic ancestors recognized important communication and clues that surrounded symbolic patterns in nature.  In our modern-day society, we have forgotten this, and we often miss the signs, but we can learn to use our intuition to recognize these subtle messages from Spirit.

All we need is a little willingness to learn.

You can see the short post about Spider Symbolism here.


Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man.  Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.  –The Dalai Lama

Compassion for Fears with A Willingness to Change

How would we see things in a new light if we weren’t judging them as bad, wrong, evil, or scary?  How would everyone’s experience change if we weren’t afraid?  This pertains to every species on the planet.  As the title of this post asks us, are we Justifying Judgement or Choosing to Compassionately Face Fears?

I choose compassion. I choose to face every fear.

Find out what you’re afraid of and live there.
Chuck Palahniuk

Once we remove the fear, the underlining emotion changes.  When the underlining emotion changes, the behavior changes as a consequence. This is not woo; it’s actually based in science. Thoughts, beliefs, judgments and emotions are intrinsically linked.

It’s All Connected.

The fear we have about a species, person, place, idea, or experience is not our fear alone.  It ripples out. It is shared. This is why we all have so much responsibility to each other.

But there’s a flip-side; the fear we have about something that scares us can give us compassion and understanding for what another soul is experiencing. We don’t have to fully understand their fear, but we can respect it and then help them to undo it. This is true for both people and pets!

Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough.  We have a higher mission — to be of service to them wherever they require it.  St. Francis of Assisi

If we understand what it feels like to experience revulsion, fear, and even anger towards something that frightens us, we can show compassion to the one who is afraid. We can understand that fear is at the root of all anger and aggression. This includes every person, animal, and insect.

Those who are not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I discussed in my last post about the power of our thoughts, the power to change our thoughts brings the power back to us. When we question our upset, angry, hateful, and fearful beliefs we open the door to compassion, empathy and understanding. We move out of fearful or reactive energy and shift into a loving presence. This allows gratitude and love to enter our mind.

This is what transforms worlds.

These are not trite sayings, my friend. They are true. And Love is who we all are without our stories, beliefs, judgments, and justifications. When we can tap into the compassionate side of ourselves, we will ripple that out to the world. Like a stone tossed into a pond the impact of the stone penetrating the surface of the water eventually reaches the shore.

We Are One.

Looking closely at our disgust or dismay for something frightening or unfamiliar is a doorway to a new way of seeing all beings in a new light. Finding compassion for the smallest-sized critters is no small feat, my friend. If we can show compassion to a ant, spider, or centipede that once annoyed, scared, or creeped us out, imagine how we would begin to see other communities, other nations, and other worlds of life. One seemingly small shift in perception from fear to love is the beginning to peace within and without. Empathy is the first step in conquering fear.

We are all in this together.

It will take time. It will take a little willingness on our part. When we lead by example, others learn. But will we teach and lead with love? I Am hopeful we will. I have faith in you.

What has been your experience with fears, limiting beliefs, and judgments? Has something occurred in your life where compassion became the focal point instead of fear? We would LOVE to hear❣


And it’s hard to love, there’s so much to hate
Hanging on to hope
When there is no hope to speak of
And the wounded skies above say it’s much, much too late
Well, maybe we should all be praying for time
These are the days of the empty hand
Oh, you…

Listen without Judgement …
🎥 — George Michael, “Praying for Time”


Recommended & Related Reading:

🔸Animal Emotions and That Icky Sticky Fear

🔸How Fear Becomes Aggression in Dogs and Humans

🔸Looking At Fear

🔸 Be Kind.

🔸The Many Faces of Feline Fear: ​​Kittens, Adults, Adolescents, Seniors

🔸Aggression in Canines

🔸How Cats Learn – ​The Hierarchy of Learning by Cat Stages: ​Kittens, Adolescents, Adults, Seniors ​

🔸Amazing Arachnids

🔸Social Behavior in Amblypygids

🔸 True Facts : Bolas Spider

🔸The Matters of The Mind … It Matters.

🔹 3 Words to Change Your Neural Pathway: I love You.

🔹 The Empowered Path: Tools & Tips for Empaths with Pets!


Conscious Companion®
Life with Your Companion, Improved.


3 Words to Change Your Neural Pathway: I love You.

If we understood the power of our thoughts,

we would guard them more closely.

If we understood the awesome power of our words,

we would prefer silence to almost anything negative.

In our thoughts and words, we create

our own weaknesses and our own strengths.

Our limitations and joys begin in our hearts.

We can always replace negative with positive.

– Bettie Eadie

methods-for-creating-new-neural-pathways


Hello Bright Light!

How the heck are we nearly halfway through February?  Lawdy.  Well, since many consider this the month of Love, I thought it would be fun to talk about the Circle of Love and the Lenses of Love. 

If you have been flowing with this blog from the get-go, then you know I have never been a fan of Valentine’s Day due to multiple deaths around that date.  Plus, now I know that our animal companions offer A Love Not of This World everyday.  Now I see Every Day is the 14th!  And … Feb 20th is not only national cherry pie day, it’s Love Your Pet Day!

So, this will be a new take on Love with a cool twist.  This post is something I Am really passionate about.  It’s empowering.  And I promise, if you let it in, it will change your lives. 

So grab your tea, water, or wine, invite your best fur friend for a cuddle sesh, and get comfy.  It’s about to get Real. 

🎙(Oh, if you are not a big reader, and if you’d prefer to listen to the written portion of this post as a podcast, you can listen here.)🎙


As an avid student of both philosophy and positive behavior modification, I understand and appreciate how challenging it can be to change the way we believe and think.  As Empath and Intuitive, I also appreciate that how we feel is directly linked to what we are thinking and believing.  It’s all connected.  But sometimes, it’s a big annoying wheel of feels.

Empath_emotions_anxiety_depression_starseed_empath tools_Conscious Companion_The Empowered Path
All the Feelz

If you want to change your life, you must change your mind and change your brain … on purpose. -Bill Crawford


Change and the Three Brains

There is much more at play, beyond our emotions, when it comes to change. Neuroscience research has shown that we have three fully functioning “brains”.  Check out this quote below:

 Our head (cephalic) brain is best suited for creativity, logic, and problem solving. Our heart (cardiac) brain serves us best when accessed for passion and compassion. And our gut (enteric) brain is the source of courage and self-protection. The vagus nerve is the communication channel between the three brains. 90% of the brain signals traveling through the vagus nerve are traveling up; only 10% travel down!

 

How our thoughts and brain influence our lives is overlooked and greatly underappreciated.  More importantly, how we can become more aware and influential of this process is essential if we want anything to be different. 

It begins within.

The quote above sums up where we can start.  All we need is a little willingness to change our mind about things.  Regardless of the form: a reactive rover, a frustrating feline, a careless coworker, a nosy neighbor, a sassy sister, or bothersome brother – we can change how we perceive their behavior, and how we respond to them in every circumstance.

unconditional Love_seeing with love_the Voice for Love  

“For what you see, feel, hear and experience depends a good deal on where you are standing and also where your mind is.”

-C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew, Chronicles of Narnia


Years ago, I discovered both people and pets fall into one or two elemental groups: Fire, Earth, Air, Water, and Metal.  Holistic health practitioners (for both people and pets) classify patients according to the five-element theory.  This includes:

  • body structure
  • tendencies
  • temperaments
  • emotions
  • positive and negative behaviors
  • moods
  • illnesses

These can all be viewed in relation to the five elements.  Usually there are one or two elements that are predominant in a pet or person. (There are links at the end of this post that go into this in detail.)

five-elements-What sign are you_5 elements

Our big grey bear of a cat was a Wood personality.  Our dog is a combo of Earth and Wood, and I can be a combo of both wood and Fire.  The emotion associated with the Wood element is anger.  When anger predominates, one becomes easily upset and is unable to appropriately restrain their feelings. “Wood” get angry easily and are prone to physical reactions and shouting. These unstable emotions result in the uneven circulation of Qi (energy) and Blood, creating a generalized state of tension and stress.

The combination of combustible cats and canines created very heated moments in our house.

flames on the side of my face
Mrs. White, from the cult classic movie “Clue” sums up the combustion. 

Compassion is a choice.

Some days I was less than unhelpful when it got heated.  Being both a triple Sagittarius and a Fire Personality within the 5 Chinese elements, I tend to get “heated” quickly.   When I am stressed, I can become overwhelmed wicked fast.  When I am on my last nerve I can get triggered quickly.   When I am at my worst, my temper could rival a volcano.   

But on my best days, I am calm, collected, and can cruise through any crisis.

Thankfully, my best days are the majority these days.  But I wasn’t always at my best.  Before I began practicing what I call mind training, and keeping an open heart, I was reactive.  My world was often overwhelming.  My default was reacting.

Fear ran the show.

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But as I promised in an earlier post, I have to be honest.  Here’s the truth: My pendulum can swing wildly from unconditional love to oh-hell-no.  On the days when I am maxed out emotionally and physically, I need my space.   And I need peace and quiet.  Period. 

But I also need love.

Just like our animal companions, when we are at our worst, this is when we need kindness, unconditional love, self-care, and compassion.  But in the moment – when we are feeling drained, pulled at, and impinged upon — we can become reactive to the ones we love most.

That’s when WE need LOVE the most.

When I say “we need love”, I am referring to bringing love into our awareness, and letting the Voice for Love run the show. – not the fearful ego.  I call the ego “Drop Dead Fred”.  Do you remember that character from the movie?  He’s beyond obnoxious.  And so is the monkey mind that tries to take over when we are tired. 

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Drop Dead Fred doing his damnedest to influence his person, as she begins to no longer listen to him

Regardless of how much we are struggling in the moment, however fearful, frustrated, drained, strained, or upset we are, we have a choice. We don’t have to allow the ego to take the wheel and drive.  We don’t have to become overwhelmed, upset, angry, irritated, or reactive to anyone or anything, including inanimate objects, strangers, or the ones we truly love.

We Can Choose Love.

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There’s an empowering saying that I live by these days:  We are either extending love or we are calling for love.  

This is not limited to people.  This goes for every living being and their behavior.  I will talk more about this in the book, but for now, think of extending love as BEING an extension of what you consider LOVE to be.  For me, it’s as simple as being kind and compassionate.  Think of “calling for love” as anything other than that.  A “Call for Love” can come in a myriad of forms; some of which are downright ugly and scary.

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This combustible convo might have occurred in our home when I was at my worst.

But here’s the kicker that’s easier said than done:  Regardless of either form (calling for love, or extending love) the response should be love. 

Now, clearly, I do not always remember this.  And even sometimes when I do remember this, I still react.  BADLY.   In fact, there is one particular family member who I have the toughest time NOT reacting to … on. the. reg.

He is what I would call my greatest lesson in love.  I call him that because he is teaching me, through all the ways I am triggered, that regardless of the form of his behavior, my response can be love.

When I choose to respond with love, it changes everything. 

As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.

– ACIM, Chapter 8: The Journey Back

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Remembering this powerful Truth brings me into a state of higher awareness, compassion, and kindness.  Remembering this allows me to step back and become the observer of what is occurring within my environment, rather than reacting.  Remembering this brings me peace.  When I am at peace, I can be peaceful and extend this peace outward. When I am at peace, I am kind with myself and others.  The video below describes what I am talking about. 

3 Words to Change Your Neural Pathway:


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Kindness reflects our inherent oneness with each other, while attack drives us still further apart in our awareness. – Ken Wapnick, The Healing Power of Kindness, Vol. 1: Releasing Judgment


When we really understand and appreciate the power of neural pathways and how they are created in the brain, we take our power back.  We learn how to truly let go of unhelpful habitual behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs.  When we appreciate the power of perception, we empower ourselves.

Thanks to neuroplasticity, the brain’s ever-changing potentials, anything is possible.

We can become conscious of what we focus on.  We can become mindful of what we are mindful of.  We can replace the negative with something positive. We can choose to re-frame it in our Mind.

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When we are faced with everyday life situations, we have an opportunity to notice.  There is always a very revealing way that we can begin to monitor our minds.  We can do this with practical matters we find difficult or challenging. 

Imagine.

What would happen if you could say, “I love you.” when someone is behaving completely bonkers.  What if they were out of their mind and you could still think it silently.   Imagine if, while your dog was reacting to something in his/her environment, you didn’t react, too.  Imagine calmly saying to your canine companion, “I love you.”

Imagine the possibilities. 

Imagine the miracles.

We can begin to watch how we respond when our family, ourselves, partner, friends, strangers, coworkers, or animal companions are stressed, stressing us out, or going through a crisis.  During these trying times, our unconscious feelings will surface.  When they do, we often project those fears out, unfortunately, onto everyone from strangers to the ones who love us with all that they are. 

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It’s important to never underestimate the depth of our unconscious fear of returning to the mind.  It’s also important to become aware of our attraction to blaming outside circumstances (in whatever form they may be) for our inner condition.  Regardless of their reactivity, or their behavior, we get to choose. 

We always have the power to choose how we respond.

We can choose to react, or to observe.  We can choose to listen to the voice for love, or the voice for fear.  We can choose kindness and compassion, or we can choose to be critical. We can choose to extend love, or call for love.  

Let’s consider choosing Love.

“The only path wide enough for us all is love.” ― Kamand Kojouri

But first, let’s begin by being loving and kind to ourselves; we cannot give to others what we do not have.  It begins within.  Our hearts and minds are One. If we want to give to others, in challenging times, we have to start with kindness and compassion with ourselves.

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Over the decades, I have been down, broken, and fragmented by every pain imaginable.  I have been at my lowest of lows and at my worst.  But eventually I left the storm and shadows and returned to the light.  I remembered that We Are One, and that at our core, we are Love.  

Then the rainstorm came over me
And I felt my spirit break
I had lost all of my belief, you see
And realized my mistake
But time threw a prayer to me
And all around me became still

I need love, love’s divine
Please forgive me, now I see that I’ve been blind
Give me love, love is what I need to help me know my name

Oh I, don’t bend, don’t break
Show me how to live and promise me you won’t forsake
‘Cause love can help me know my name

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💜Finding Peace Together, Near The End💜

Note:  These videos were created during a very challenging time in our lives.  Not only was a family member going through constant chemo, but in addition to my career, I was the primary caretaker for a geriatric feline family member who was struggling physically.  He was a wood personality, and was on hospice care at home.  All of these circumstances were emotionally and physically challenging for everyone in our family.      

Choosing Love, kindness, and compassion was essential.

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When it comes to being the guardian of an aging animal companion or family member with health complications, even the most loving people have their limits.  The daily stresses and struggles our beloveds go through as they are aging can weigh on their caretakers, too.  Acknowledging this is essential.   

Have compassion for yourself.  Practice Self Care while you are caring. 

But Never forget this:  No matter the challenge you are facing, there is always another way of seeing your circumstances.  We are never a victim of circumstances.  Life is flowing through us.  We are One.


So then, the relationship of self to other is the complete realization that loving yourself is impossible without loving everything defined as other than yourself. ― Alan Wilson Watts


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Oh, and before you go, take a listen to this oldie but goodie… “Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel .  It’s a beautiful reminder that we don’t need the ones we love to be anything but just the way they are.  We shouldn’t need conditions to change to love them better.  Loving them for all that they are is True Love.  This is a love that is unconditional.  

I wouldn’t leave you in times of trouble

We never could have come this far

I took the good times; I’ll take the bad times

I’ll take you just the way you are

 I said I love you and that’s forever

And this I promise from the heart

I could not love you any better

I love you just the way you are

 Just The Way You Are” by Billy Joel


Related Reading / Recommended Links & Videos:


If you would like support with your aging animal companion you are welcome to contact me.  

If you are also an Empath, HSP, Starseed, or Intuitive, you are invited to join our loving commUNITY!

You can learn more about caring for aging animals here, and force-free behavior modification here.

Be well. Be kind. We are all in this together! 

Feeling Down? Get UP!

 

I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.

― Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Hocus Pocus patiently waiting while I take her pic during our afternoon walk

Note: This blog post is available as a podcast. You can 🎙 listen to it here. 🎙


That’s my girl.  My sunshine.  My Smile.  My whole heaping heart.

When I am down, she lifts me. When I am frustrated she waits for me to become clear.  When I am sad she feels it.  When my boundaries are out of bounds, she reflects this back to me.  When I need space, she gives it.  When I grieve, she is near.  When I need a nudge to get out of my own way, she gently pushes. When I am stuck in the muck of my mind she pulls me out of it.

We walk.  We run. We explore. We laugh. We play.  We let go.

She is a light in the dark. She is a rock when I need rest.  She is unconditional love when I am forgetting to love. She is an angel disguised as a dog.

But most of all, she is my Joy.

I share this with you because we all need someone or something in our life who gives us these gifts.  We all need moments of levity, laughter, and love … 24/7.

Especially now. 

We need to remember there are beloveds by our side who are always holding space for our well-being.  These beloveds – if we let them – can help our mental, emotional, and physical health, especially during these trying times.

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The little conversation, well is over very soon
And I watch in admiration from my corner of the room
And they shine on you with starry eyes and they rain a friendly storm

“Little Conversations” by Concrete Blonde

Little Conversations and Invitations 

It’s time we pay closer attention.  If health concerns can be ruled out, there could be other conversations at hand. That persistent nudge; the constant chuffing; the incessant meowing; that annoying winning; the gentle tugging; those pleading soulful eyes …  are all an invitation.

We often dismiss these behaviors or label them as irritating, annoying or distracting, but what if these behaviors attempting to get your attention are more than what they appear to be?  What if sometimes they are an invitation to get up, move about, rethink, readjust, reevaluate, shift our energy, or get out of our own way?  What if these behaviors were reflecting back to you, what you need in that very moment?

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What do you think Hocus is asking me here, while I am working in my office?

Sure, it could just be a singular desire or need our animal family members are exhibiting:  Maybe he has to pee.  Maybe she’s bored.  Maybe he’s frustrated.  Maybe she’s hungry.  Maybe he wants the cake you left on the kitchen counter.  Of course, these are all perfectly logical explanations for various behaviors. And if you read this post, then you know that pain is a very common medical issue that can create or exacerbate behavior problems in our animal companions.

But what if sometimes, it’s also you, their guardian?

What if our furry, feathered, and scaly friends and family members are more in tune with us than we can possibly imagine?  What if they can read us like an open book?  What if our behavior, emotions, and energy are a beacon to them?  What if our sh*tty mood is a shout-out?  What if they instinctively and intuitively knew what we need in that moment?  What if they truly wanted the best for us always?

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Mr. Beaux at my desk … What do you think he’s asking me?

If you knew this was true, how would you respond?  What would you do?  Would your choices be influenced?  Would your behavior change? Would your emotions change?

It’s worth considering.

And it’s  worth questioning everything. –Every thought. Every belief. Every emotion.

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My Cherokee heritage teaches (much like some of the eastern philosophies) that nothing outside of us is separate from us.  They believe that the world which appears to be outside is merely a mirror, reflecting back to us.  It’s taken me years to even consider this as a possibility, but I am starting to see. I am questioning everything, and staying open with a curious mind. I invite you to stay open and stay curious too, especially when it comes to your critters. 😉

 

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Never lose a holy curiosity.”
― Albert Einstein


New Perspective

All philosophy set aside, we have incredible beings by our side who are ready, willing, and able to pull us out of the swamps of sadness.  We have loved ones who may annoy the crap out of us sometimes, but there is a method in the madness.  The only thing we need to do is open the invitation we’ve been given.  Just being willing to look at something from a different perspective can change our worlds.  Our furry family members (and Mother Nature) have helped me to better recognize when I need to shift my mood, my mind, my thoughts, and my behavior.  Sometimes I have to get pulled hard by them, dragging and screaming, but eventually I see clearly.

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Atreyu doing all he can do pull Artax, his beloved horse, out of the Swamps of Sadness

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Other than the incredible colors of Autumn, like many people, I really dislike the time change.  As the days get shorter and the long, dark nights of late fall and winter settle in, many folks find their mood getting darker, too.  As someone who dealt with depression for two thirds of my life, I have incredible empathy for souls who get sad.  And at this time of year we see more of it.

Did you know ….?

  • Globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
  • Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide
  • It’s a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
  • More women are affected by depression than men.
  • Over 16 million people in the U.S. (6.7 percent of the pop) experience more than one episode of major depression during a year.
  • A further 5 percent live with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression.
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my husband and I might have had this exact conservation

The symptoms of SAD are so similar to those of depression that it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between the two.  SAD, also known as winter blues, typically affects women. In fact, 4 in 5 people with the condition are women, and the reasons for this predisposition are likely to be genetic.  However, while some people are genetically prone to the condition, they resist the environmental factors that might trigger it.

SAD is defined as a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons, typically starting in the late fall and early winter.  Symptoms of the “Winter Pattern” of SAD include:

  • Low energy
  • Hypersomnia
  • Overeating
  • Weight gain
  • Craving for carbohydrates
  • Social withdrawal (feel like “hibernating”)

I laughed out loud when I read those symptoms, because who doesn’t feel like that in the winter?!?  Hell, I feel like that when the temp drops below 60! 😀  I mean, come on. Who wants to eat a carrot stick or bowl of broccoli when it’s cold and rainy?!  And who doesn’t love to hibernate in the winter?!

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Hocus Pocus hibernating in our bed on a cold morning

All creatures want comfort when we are cold.  We all want to feel good when we feel bad.  And everyone has various methods for curing their ailments.  The point is, it’s important to recognize when we are feeling down, and then do something about it. We gotta address the “down”.

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Don’t Stay Stuck!

Wildfires, geopolitical insanity, and the fear-mongering the media sells, are all testing our resilience.  But so can seasonal changes.  Whether or not you’re affected by the weather, many are.  So if we become aware of these seasonal challenges we can help others.  There are four medical types of treatment for SAD:

  • Medication
  • Light therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Vitamin D

Those are the medical treatments, but there are other tools, too!  I used to take meds (which helped), but I weaned myself off of it many years ago.  Instead of the meds, I replaced big pharma by meditating twice a day, began to question my thoughts, went to Energy Medicine school,  got into acupuncture, discovered tools for Empaths, began taking Clearing Baths, practiced more self care, discovered why alcohol made my depression worse, increased my exercise, played more, created art, laughed more, became kinder to myself, and made sure my “tribe” was tight.

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Empaths feel things first, then think, which is the opposite of how most people function in our over-intellectualized society. – Dr. Judith Orloff

Even if you, your family member, coworkers, neighbors, or friends are not a HSP or an Empath, we all have emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental challenges. But we also have fabulously effective tools to Get Up and Get Out of our funk!  If each person began practicing just one of those tools I listed above we’d feel better.

I promise.

Here’s a helpful fact … Seasonal depression is caused by insufficient daylight, making the condition more widespread in countries that are farther from the Equator.  A new study in Copenhagen, Denmark,has discovered the power of daylight as a natural antidepressant. (You can read the details in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology.)

 

Daylight is effectively a natural antidepressant. Like many drugs currently used against depression, more daylight prevents serotonin from being removed from the brain.

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soaking up the sun with my best girl pal

So what does that research quote tell you?  To me, it says that one of the most powerful (free) tools/resources we have to feel better, stay healthy, and increase our mental and emotional health is something we have access to every day … the sun.  We all need to be outside more. We all need to play more. We all need to soak up the sun’s healing rays.

I wish we all would.  Everyone.  Every day.

Thankfully, our beloved Hocus Pocus and Mr. Beaux don’t let a single day go by without going outside. -Even when it’s the last thing I want to do :/  But after I do go outside and have an adventure with them (even when it’s cold-as-all-get-out), I am so damn happy that I did.  I am so unbelievably grateful they pulled me away from work, or out of my comfort zone to get outside and play.  My energy and mood shifts completely.

And because We Are One, so does theirs 😉

Below is a video I was inspired to create after I had been in a heavy funk.  Hocus, as always, (and unlike no other) once again, pulled me out of the muck of my mind with her puppy-like persuasive ways and means …

 

All I needed was the love you gave
All I needed for another day
And all I ever knew
Only you

-Yaz


From Suffering to Joy

We all have natural healing tools available around the world.  It’s quite true that “Nature Heals”.  Our animal friends know this.  Our bodies and brains crave daylight; this energy not only allows the body to release the “feel-good hormone”, serotonin, but walking outside during the day (even when it’s cold) will give you vital sun exposure.

And on an energetic level, it’s important to recognize that nature exists in a constant state of nonresistance.  Mother Nature feels like home to many of us because her vibration is pure. 🌊 Our energy is most aligned to its highest and pure essence when we are immersed in nature. We are most grounded in nature.  So are our animal friends.

They know this. They feel it, too.

But have you noticed that we also feel this way when we are in the presence of our animal companions?  They are the embodiment of Unconditional Love!

Joy is our true state of being; all else is an illusion we’ve bought into. There’s nothing inherently “wrong” with this illusion, but is it how we really want to feel?  Do we want to live life feeling down every day or do we want to be free?

I choose freedom.

I choose to remember that my beloveds want this for me, too.  The ones we often take for granted are doing their best to help us.  We can wake up from our funk when we start to realize that feeling joy, gratitude, and love, and being playful is our inherent nature. We can choose a new way of being every moment of the day.

We can get up and get outside.  Right Now 😉

Be well.  Be Kind.  And be Good to each other.  Stay open to miracles in the mind and remember to laugh and play, friends!

 

“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.” 
― Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

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Exploring the Redwood National and State Park with Hocus

 

“The art of living… is neither careless drifting on the one hand nor fearful clinging to the past on the other. It consists in being sensitive to each moment, in regarding it as utterly new and unique, in having the mind open and wholly receptive.” Alan Wilson Watts


Recommended Reading:


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Explore More At Our Website!


And in the infamous words of George Michael …

What’s there to think about, baby? … Gotta get up to get down

Be Kind.

Kindness in giving creates love. ― Lao Tzu

be kind
An artist’s impression of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, built c. 300 – c. 280 BCE and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

 


Hello Bright Light!

I hope this finds you well in all ways.  This will be a short post, as I have much to do today.  This topic is important, which is why I am creating time to share the message with you now.  Let’s get to it!


🔱
Most of us are acutely aware of our own struggles; we are preoccupied with our own problems.  On our best days we sometimes sympathize with ourselves because we see our own difficulties so clearly.  But Philo of Alexandria, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher who lived in the Roman province of Egypt in the fist half of the first century BCE, compassionately reminded his community, “Let us be kind to one another, for most of us are fighting a hard battle.”

I find it interesting this statement is still true today.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
— Philo of Alexandria

When we feel into this sentiment and accept its truth we allow ourselves to open our heart, to see through the lens of compassion, empathy, and love.  When we accept this statement we allow our self to set aside judgement of one’s behavior; we become the compassionate observer.  We recognize we couldn’t possibly know the path one is on and how arduous it might be at the moment.  We admit one could never know all of what’s happening behind the scenes.

Everyone is struggling on some level; physically, mentally or spiritually.  This includes strangers, coworkers, Mother Earth, friends, family, plants, wildlife, lovers, and animal companions.  Everyone.

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Underwater City Statue in the Mediterranean Sea

 

Not only are we in a world that’s not our True Home, but we all have internal and external troubles; some evident, some hidden.  Regardless of the form or lack of, we are all in need of kindness.  Always.  In this regard we are all the same; we are not separate.  We all share the need for kindness.  This is just one of our commonalities.

“Kindness Created me kind.” — A Course In Miracles

I love the photo of the Lighthouse in the image above. It reminds me that when all the world around us is in a fog, darkness, or mists of confusion, we can be the Light for others. We can extend love and light just by being kind.

But here’s the catch:  To exclude one being from our inherent kindness is to exclude All.

Every Day It’s Helpful to Ask:

🔱 Am I being kind to myself?
🔱Can we be kind when others are being unkind?
🔱Can we extend kindness to ourselves?
🔱Can we be kind to ourselves when we notice we are being unkind?

🔱 Kindness IS contagious.🔱

We cannot fathom the unimaginable consequences of being kind to our self in every moment. Then extending that kindness out; the ripple effects could be life-changing for countless souls.

Be Kind.  We’re all in this together. 🌊🌟✌🏼

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P.S. If you’re into cool ancient civilization history, check out the 3D Animation of The Grandeur Of Ancient Alexandria, From Its Library To Lighthouse

Where are you?

mindful dog walking


 

Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone. ― Louis L’Amour


 

I Faked It.

When I was working at Audubon Nature Institute my coworkers and I used to lovingly joke about a “rambling” coworker.  One of our colleagues had a tendency to ramble on and on for what seemed like an eternity.  And those of us on the receiving end of the ramble would totally zone out.   I mean, we would completely check out.  Gone.  We would mentally leave the situation. But we were clever enough to appear as if we were listening;  we would chime in with a word or nod every few minutes and say something along the lines of “Oh”, “wow” , “huh”, “really”, or “yeah”.  We faked as if we were there, but we were mentally checked out.


 

Do You Fake It? 

As rude as what we did may sound, it’s all too common for most people when they are bored, distracted, or worried about either something that just happened, or what might happen later.  We fake that we are listening, or we fake that we care.  We fake interest in the person, the topic of discussion, or the situation.  We fake that we are actually there with the person as they are sharing.  It’s a rare event for people to be truly present with others.  Let’s be honest:  We are faking it all the time with people.

But we also fake it when we are with our pets.


 

My Mind is Either Full or Mindful.

I am the first to admit that I can completely zone out like it’s going out of style.  My mind goes a million miles a minute.  I am easily distracted.  I get bored very easily.   I don’t enjoy doing tedious chores. (Ahem, I was in the middle of a very boring  and tedious attempt to clean and organize our house for upcoming guests right as I was suddenly compelled to write this post. ha!)

As a highly creative person, it can be an enormous challenge to be fully present.  I will get these amazing insights or inspirational ideas while someone is talking to me, or when I am doing the dishes or feeding the animals.  As great as that inspiration may sound, it’s not the best use of my mind.  It’s not mindfulness.  And it’s not helpful or respectful to the ones who are choosing to share their time, presence, or insight with me.

But I can train my mind to be mindful.  I can practice being fully present, even if what I am doing or listening to is boring or tedious.  Or I can practice being bored and distracted.  I can choose to focus on what’s right in front of me.  Or I can choose to zone out.   I can choose to be consciously aware of where my mind is, or I can choose to not care.

I have that choice, and you do too.


Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.


 

The Most Mindful Ones

Animals are mindful.  Their minds are not full.  Take a look a the image at the top of this post.  Look at what is in the man’s mind. Then look at what is in the dog’s mind. The man’s is cluttered and full of his worries, wants, and concerns.  The dog’s mind is focused on exactly what is in front of him/her.  The dog is no where else.  The dog is fully present.  The dog is taking in the sight, scents, and experience of being right there, in that field with his/her person.  Animals have the conscious ability to be fully focused, and fully present.  And they practice this at every opportunity.  It’s truly extraordinary. And we can learn from their practice and habit of being mindful.  In fact, recently, Hocus Pocus had some insights to share with me on this very subject. You can read her wisdom here!

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I’m pretty sure that Hocus Pocus is focused. Her mind is not anywhere but Right Here Now.


 

We Are Missing Out When We Are Not Mindful.

If you are asking, So what’s the big deal about being fully present?  then you are right were I was many years ago.  You are starting to at least question your behavior and thoughts.  Asking that question and learning the answer is how we start to become more aware of our presence (or lack of) with our animal companions.

Over a decade ago when I first started consciously practicing mindfulness in my day-to-day activities, I was appalled at myself.  When I slowed down and noticed my behavior and thoughts, I started to observe how frantic, chaotic, busy, and random my thoughts were.  My mind was more like a mindless monkey machine.   I wasn’t focused on anything that was in front of me.  I was anywhere in my mind, but right there!  I was missing out on life. I was not even present and absorbing all that was happening right in front of me!

Mindfulness-and-Busy-Life


 

Mindful or Mind Full Walks?

One area that I noticed I was really mentally checked out was when while walking my dog. I was dismayed to discover that I was in my head the entire time on our walk.   I found myself wandering off in my mind, thinking about so-and-so at work, planning my next day’s events, how I wish I had said blah-blah blah in that meeting, and so on.  I was pursuing my own agenda.  I was stuck in the past.  I was fixated future.

I was not fully in the present with my dog.

Eventually I noticed that while I was mentally absent, I wasn’t paying attention to my dog at all!  I wasn’t focused on what she was doing, what she was sniffing, what she was looking at, what she was reacting to, or where she was choosing to walk.  As she walked down the sidewalk sniffing and popping her head up every so often I noticed that the walk wasn’t about her at all.   The walk was about the distractions in my head.  It was about me and all the things I wanted, fretted, and worried about.  I was there with my dog physically, but my mind had left her.

She was essentially walking alone.

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“Be here now.” ― Ram Dass

Where Are You?

One aspect I love to address with clients is helping them to notice where their mind wanders.  An easy way to determine their ability (or inability) to be fully present is when they are relaxing at home.   Relaxation time is an important tool.  This tool can help an animal guardian recognize “where they are” because this is the window to where their mind goes, when they can allow themselves to relax.

If they are in the habit of allowing themselves to sit down and relax for at least 20 minutes a day, then we start there.  People soon learn if they are able (or unable) to maintain focus on their animal while doing something as simple as petting them, or just sitting with them.  They can start to ask themselves questions such as, While I am petting my dog or cat, am I really focused on what’s happening right here now?  Am I distracted about what happened today or what will happen tomorrow?  Is my dog (or cat) even enjoying this? Am I?  Is what’s happening “out there” more important than my friend at my side, or in my lap?  As silly as those questions may seem, they are a window to where your mind is.

That’s the answer to where you are mentally.

If we are making time for “down time” every night, we can start to look at where our mind goes when relaxing with our pets.   If you can’t even focus on your pets while you are relaxing at home, with no distractions, how are you going to be able to focus when it gets hectic or when things go awry?  How will you be able to be fully present when they are nervous, afraid, reactive, sick or injured? 10561798_10153818917353485_4302261506518738885_n

Being able to be fully present with your pet when you are relaxing is a precursor to being fully present during more challenging times.  If you can’t mentally connect with your pet on the couch, then you certainly aren’t going to be fully present and connect with her during a walk, when she is becoming anxious, fearful, or reactive, at the veterinarian, or even during a simple training session.  Your mind will wander.  Your dog (and cat) will know and feel it.  And the negative effects of this can be enormous.


 

Practice Being Present. 

It takes time and practice to become fluent at anything.  It takes a concerted effort to change our habits and our reactions.  But you can practice being present! There are a number of ways that you can learn how to do this, from mediation to body awareness, but for the sake of brevity we won’t go into all of those in this post.  Instead, I’ll mention a couple of common situations that people encounter often.  In each scenario, you get to choose how to respond.

The next time your cat/dog/kid interrupts you while you are working:

  • You can stress out and become reactive to them (because you clearly have other things to worry about, and now your kid/cat/dog is adding to your worries).

OR

  • You can take a deep breath, slow down, look at them calmly, be open, be present, and be there with them.

When we choose the latter, we are shifting from our fearful and reactive mind to our conscious and loving mind.   If you can do this you will find that in that moment there is only you and them.  There is nothing else.  They get your full focus. Then you can go back to what you were doing, but you are doing it out of love.

The next time you take your dog for a walk you have two choices:

  • You can fiddle with your phone the entire time.

OR

  • You can be full present with your dog.  You can enjoy and appreciate your time together.  You can notice subtle behaviors.  You can learn where your dog enjoys sniffing, and where your dog tends to avoid. You can discover new sights, sounds, and scents with your dog. You can walk together.

Being there now, in that moment is a choice.  We get to choose this a thousand times a day.  We get to choose where we are.  We get to decide if we want to appreciate who is in front of you.  It’s in that moment where you can be grateful for that moment with him/her.  Or you can let that moment pass you by.  A thousand times  a day. It’s a choice we all get to make.

When we are fully present we are allowing their presence to be enough for us.


 

Their Presence is Enough. 

When we are fully present we are fully engaged.  We are saying to our loved ones, “I care enough about you to be here fully with you now.”  We are saying to them, “Nothing else is more valuable than you and me right now.”  When we are fully present we are releasing our worries, regrets, frets, and concerns.  When we are fully present with our pets, we are saying that we value their presence.  And we are saying that their presence is enough for us right then and there.

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Being Fully Present IS a Gift.

As Conscious Companions, one of the most powerful and respectful things we can do is to be fully present with our animal companions.  When we make a conscious decision to be mindful we are giving ourselves and the ones we love a gift.  Mindfulness takes conscious and deliberate focus but the more you practice, the easier it gets, and the more joyful your life becomes. And I promise you: Your pets will feel it, too.

Being mindful makes it easier to savor the pleasures in life as they occur.   It helps you to become fully engaged in activities and be more aware of everything.   It creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events when they arise.   It allows you to recognize and prevent stressful encounters, and conflicts.

I sometimes briefly look back and think about how often I was not fully present with the people and animals who I loved.  Many of them are gone now, but the ones who are still by my side will have the gift of my presence.   When I am walking with Hocus, petting Albert, brushing Knox, or listening to my husband, mother, or brother, they will have all of my focus.  My mind may wander sometimes, but I will consciously choose to come back to them.  I will remember that their presence is a gift, and my presence is my gift to them.

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The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers. – Thích Nhất Hạnh


 

Recommended Reading:

Active presence

Five Steps to Mindfulness

The physical, psychological, and social benefits of Mindfulness 

The Power of Pause

TTouch – a universal language and mindful way of making contact