Moments Like These

snowflake up close

“Snow falling soundlessly in the middle of the night will always fill my heart with sweet clarity”- Novala Takemoto

I hope you are enjoying a most relaxing weekend.  We sure are.  This morning I awoke to discover a soft fluttering of snow falling outside our house.  Considering the extreme lack of snow we have had in our nation’s capital this year, it was a most welcomed sight!

My heart leapt with joy when I saw the gorgeous details unfolding just outside my window.

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The evergreen tree boughs held the falling snowflakes ever so gently, and the grass gladly accepted each falling snowflake as if it were a dear friend helping a loved one settle down to rest.  The snow was falling effortlessly.  Not one of the snowflakes struggled.  Each unique snowflake drifted down with ease and grace.  They appeared to be so light and free.  I wanted to be those snowflakes!

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I stepped outside.  The moment I stood there under the gently falling snow my heart was happy.  My mind was quiet and at peace.  Every time a snowflake landed on my eyelashes and caressed my face I lit up with the joy and laughter of an innocent and playful little girl.

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After my giggles and laughter subsided, I felt another sensation.  What I noticed almost immediately was the calm, quiet, stillness of what I was witnessing. The world was silent.   No cars.  No kids.  No sirens.  Just beautiful silence.  It was if the chaos of the world had been put on pause by a giant mute button.  I was taken aback by the beauty in that silence.   And a part of me longed to experience that forever.

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In moments like these, the entire world appears to be completely at rest and in harmony.  Experiencing this kind of serene silence, stillness, and peacefulness is when I remember that we all have the power to experience this kind of peace of mind and stillness, no matter what appears to be happening outside of us.

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Life gets chaotic.  Work and home can get hectic.   It can be hard to weather the storms that come straight at us.  But we can learn how get through them all with grace and ease.

Whether we are struggling with finances, health, a relationship or career, or if one of our beloveds is aging or dying, we can still find peace despite the heartache and stress.  We can experience moments of deep peace in the middle of one of life’s storms.  Animals do this all the time.  In fact, it’s one of the most miraculous and beautiful gifts they give us; they know how to find that peace within. They show us how to do this.

We can also go within and find this peace.  We can find this peace when we look into the eyes of our beloved animal companions, our children, friends, and life partners.  We can find this peace in art, nature, meditation, prayer, and a million other ways.  We can find this kind of peace watching the snow fall with grace and ease.

This peace and stillness is always available to every one of us; we just have to choose to experience it.


Where do you find moments of peace?  Where and when can you enjoy the silence?

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“Thank goodness for the first snow, it was a reminder–no matter how old you became and how much you’d seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered.” ― Candace Bushnell

Rethinking Success

“Permanent success – real success – is found within YOU.  It’s restoring Who You Are; not something you have to achieve out in the world” – Patrick Darling‏

 

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2015

SUCCESS.
What is “success” to you?
I invite you to really think about this.

What does it look like?  What does it feel like?  How do you recognize it when it comes into your life? How do you feel when you believe you don’t have it?  

What do you consider “success”?

If you’re also an animal trainer or an animal behaviorist, is success training a new behavior or modifying an animal’s fear or anxiety disorder? If you are an academic is it getting more credentials? If you are on a health kick does success mean losing weight or lifting more weights?  Is it landing a new client?  A new book deal?  A new relationship?  Is it finding a great job, a new home, or getting pregnant?  Are your successes found in helping a stranger or a neighbor? Is it healing a plant or pet?  Is it rescuing something or someone?  

Are your successes big or little?  Are they an every day occurrence or something few and far between?  Are they a standard in which you judge your accomplishments or failures?  Do your successes define you?

I ask, because I have learned to ask myself these questions. 
And how we answer them will determine how we define success in life.


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I used to measure all of the successes and failures in my life on whether or not I gained something, taught something, understood something, completed something, or received something.

But all this time, a thought kept coming into my awareness: Maybe there’s more to success than the usual definition society assumes it to be.

Maybe we have it all backward.  
Maybe the world’s idea of success is leading us further from true success.
Maybe what the world teaches us to be success is not based in Truth.


“What you think you are is a belief to be undone.”
A Course in Miracles


Thankfully, after much suffering and beating myself up for what I labeled to be failures or lack of successes, I learned to listen to new Thoughts that showed me a different way of defining success.  These thoughts were kind, uplifting,  supportive, and loving.  These thoughts taught me how to See success in a new light.

These days, I tend to measure success on a different scale.  I see the success of myself and of others differently.  Not only do I see my success as the same as another’s success (and vice versa), but I see that what the world values as success is not always the most successful accomplishment.   

Thanks to a conscious and deliberate shift in my perception now I experience many successes every day.   I’ve started to see successes in every day life occurrences.  I now see success in people, places, events, and gifts that we often take for granted.  I now see what true “success” is.

It’s the little things that are really the Big Things. 
It’s appreciating the stuff we take for granted that are the big leaps forward.  It’s rethinking what we consider success.  

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Smelling the sweet, intoxicating scent of honeysuckle is a “success” for me.

Success for me these days includes:  

Being brave; trusting life; not judging someone or myself;  setting aside self criticism; not comparing myself to another; getting enough sleep; staying hydrated; staying grounded; waking up rested; being without physical or emotional pain (or having pain but remembering to see beyond the pain with compassion); remembering to laugh (especially at myself); seeing a smile from a stranger; teaching a child something that excites their mind and opens their heart;  keeping my heart open even when others are cruel; being fully present; listening to a loved one; being kind to myself; extending this kindness to others; releasing judgement; practicing true forgiveness; being the observer; practicing Self Care; watching the wag of a happy dog; feeling the purr of a content cat; hearing the song of a bird; being in joy; enjoying shade from a tree; feeling the sun on my skin; and smelling the scent of a flower; letting my mind become still.

These are seemingly small successes by the world’s standards, but they are True Successes to me.

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first bloom from our passion vine that I planted from a seedling!


Letting go and Flowing

Success happens when we stop trying so hard.  Success occurs easily when we allow.

I experience success in just being with the things that I love and appreciate.

I find success in the events of life that bring me joy.

I feel success when I see, feel, or experience things that make my heart swell.

I Am “successful” when I give my presence, my friendship, my time, and my love to others.

I am “success” when I can find peace in the midst of turmoil.

I am successful when I allow Kindness and Love to Rule my world.

I Am success when I extend this kindness, compassion, and love to everyone and every being.

This kind of success is shared. And by sharing this kind of success we change the world.  For we are One.

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Friends, Never Forget This:

There are countless successes happening in our lives every day.  

We just have to be willing to see them and celebrate them!



One new perception, one fresh thought, one act of surrender, one change of heart, one leap of faith, can change your life forever.

― Robert Holden


ConsciousCompanion.com

Living In Gratitude

Gratitude

For those of you that are new to my blog, welcome! I am grateful for you!  In sharing my gratitude, I wanted to share an older post from last year that I thought you might enjoy.  Many thanks for being here with us,

Blessings to you and yours!

The Landfill Dogs

“The dog’s agenda is simple, fathomable, overt: I want. “I want to go out, come in, eat something, lie here, play with that, kiss you. There are no ulterior motives with a dog, no mind games, no second-guessing, no complicated negotiations or bargains, and no guilt trips or grudges if a request is denied.” 
― Caroline Knapp

Mistletoe
Mistletoe ~ Photo by Mary Shannon Johnstone

Not long ago I came across something that really moved me, spoke to me deeply, and inspired me to help something greater than myself.

Shannon Johnstone, an art professor at Meredith College in North Carolina, recently launched the Landfill Dogs project.  Every week she takes one shelter dog on an afternoon outing and photographs him or her playing, frolicking, sniffing, lounging in the grass, and just being a dog at the state landfill where they will end up after they are euthanized. Yes, you heard right.  These dogs are on death row.

So why would someone even care to do this?  Johnstone explains:

These are not just cute pictures of dogs. These are dogs who have been homeless for at least two weeks, and now face euthanasia if they do not find a home. Each week for 18 months (late 2012–early 2014) I bring one dog from the county animal shelter and photograph him/her at the local landfill.

The landfill site is used for two reasons. First, this is where the dogs will end up if they do not find a home. Their bodies will be buried deep in the landfill among our trash. These photographs offer the last opportunity for the dogs to find homes.

The second reason for the landfill location is because the county animal shelter falls under the same management as the landfill. This government structure reflects a societal value; homeless cats and dogs are just another waste stream. However, this landscape offers a metaphor of hope. It is a place of trash that has been transformed into a place of beauty. I hope the viewer also sees the beauty in these homeless, unloved creatures.

As part of this photographic process, each dog receive a car ride, a walk, treats, and about 2 hours of much needed individual attention. My goal is to offer an individual face to the souls that are lost because of animal overpopulation, and give these animals one last chance. This project will continue for one year, so that we can see the landscape change, but the constant stream of dogs remains the same.

Here are a few of Shannon’s images that so beautifully capture the spirit of each dog: 

Momma: Impoundment #68215 Photo by Mary Shannon Johnstone
Momma: Impoundment #68215
Photo by Mary Shannon Johnstone

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
― Mark Twain

Rose: Impoundment #82564 Photo by: Mary Shannon Johnstone
Rose: Impoundment #82564
Photo by Mary Shannon Johnstone

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Pigpen. Impoundment #85852. He never found a home.
Pigpen. Impoundment #85852.  He never found a home.

“Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”
― Milan Kundera

Ice Frosting:  Impoundment #82263 Mary Shannon Johnstone
Ice Frosting: Impoundment #82263
Photo by Mary Shannon Johnstone

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”
― Josh Billings

Charo, impoundment #90561. She is still looking for a home. It has been 118 days.This good girl is very busy, likes to keep herself occupied, and LOVES to be around people. She does not miss meals, is extremely treat motivated, already knows "SIT".
Charo, impoundment #90561. She is still looking for a home. It has been 118 days.
This good girl likes to keep herself occupied, and LOVES to be around people. She never misses a meals, is extremely treat motivated, and she already knows “SIT”.    Photo by Mary Shannon Johnstone

“The assumption that animals are without rights, and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance, is a positively outrageous example of Western crudity and barbarity. Universal compassion in the only guarantee of morality.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer, The Basis of Morality

 

Her images are poignantly beautiful.  Looking at these faces, I can’t help but think about the millions of dogs and cats that end up at landfills all over the world because of factors that we do have direct control over: lack of spaying and neutering, lack of planning and prevention, the endless need that we have to breed more and more dogs to satisfy the desire for a designer dog, or because dogs and cats are surrendered to shelters due to “behavioral problems” – many of which could be prevented with education, proper training, and socializing.  Every dog, cat, or other companion animal that ends up in these landfills is a life that could have been saved from such a fate.

It’s hard to not get emotional looking at this images, knowing the ground that the dogs are standing on, and what their fate will most likely be. But we can help them.

We do have the power to help all companion animals – right in our own backyards – that need our help.  We can speak up for them by sharing their story and their faces.  We can help other animal guardians avoid having to surrender their companion animals to shelters through education and training.  We can stress the importance of microchipping, spaying and neutering every cat and dog!  If someone can’t afford to spay or neuter their animal, we can show them that there are affordable spay and neuter options!  We can speak with our local shelters and ask to volunteer there, or even be a foster mom or dad to animals in need.  We can be an advocate for no-kill shelters and support their never-ending hard work. We can encourage our friends, coworkers, and family members to adopt dogs, cats, birds, etc, that need loving, forever homes, rather than buying from breeders. There are so many ways to prevent this.

These are not “abandoned pets” or “throw-aways”.  They are living beings with a soul. They deserve a life of compassion and mercy. Each one of them has so much love to give, so many lessons to teach us, and ways of opening our hearts so that we may know, feel, and understand unconditional love and acceptance.

Our Hocus Pocus was rescued from a no-kill shelter here in North Carolina.  If it wasn't for Robeson County Humane Society, she would have been one of the Landfill Dogs.
Our Hocus Pocus was rescued from a no-kill shelter here in North Carolina.  Her mother was found pregnant along the  side of the highway during winter.  If it wasn’t for Robeson County Humane Society, Hocus, her mother, and all of her siblings would have all become Landfill Dogs.

Landfill Dogs who are still looking for homes:

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Landfill Dogs is a photographic project to showcase the beautiful souls of the most overlooked dogs, located in Wake County Animal Center in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.  You can read the full story from The Unexamined Dog about Beautiful Animal Advocacy here.  To learn more about Shannon Johnstone’ project visit here.

To see most recent Landfill Dogs – the souls who are still in need of forever homes please see the Landfill Dogs facebook page or visit this gallery.  Landfill Dog Adoption info here!  Please share their story with others!

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” 
― Anatole France

WORLD ANIMAL DAY and YOU!

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World Animal Day is for anyone who loves animals

A cow’s “moo” has a different accent depending on what region they originate from.  Goats have accents just like we do.  Bats always turn left when they fly out of a cave.  Zebras are actually white with black stripes.  Flamingos can only eat when their heads are upside down.  Dolphins make a unique signature whistle that describes its individual identity. And a duck’s quack never echoes, anywhere, but no one really knows why!  These are just a few of the million amazing animal facts – facts that prove just how incredible and unique animals are.  Their presence on this planet enriches our own individual human journey through life.

There are a lot of things in the world that threaten the future of animals that call this planet home.  Everyday, natural resources are being misused, wetlands and forests are being destroyed for new cities to be built, and habitats are being fragmented for roadways.  Harmful species are being introduced into ecosystems they do not belong in, and illegal wildlife trade and poaching are wiping out entire populations of animals.  It’s estimated that nine percent of all species become extinct every million years; one and five species go extinct every year.  This rate of extinction has sped up five times in the Earth’s history.  As human beings, we are neighbors, roommates, and friends to these creatures, and it’s our responsibility to help protect them so that their future generations can grow and thrive, and, in turn, our future generations can be blessed with the joy of sharing their lives with them too.

World Animal Day began in 1931 as a way to highlight the plight of endangered species. This day has since evolved into a day to honor all the animals of the world, regardless of the celebrators nationality, religion, faith, or political beliefs.

Why We Celebrate World Animal Day Every Day

  • To celebrate animal life in all its forms
  • To celebrate humankind’s relationship with the animal kingdom
  • To acknowledge the diverse roles that animals play in our lives – from being our companions, supporting and helping us, to bringing a sense of wonder into our lives
  • To acknowledge and be thankful for the way in which animals enrich our lives

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World Animal Day was started in 1931 at a convention of ecologists in Florence as a way of highlighting the plight of endangered species.  October 4 was chosen as World Animal Day because it is the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment
St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals and the environment

Since then, World Animal Day has become a day for remembering and paying tribute to all animals and the people who love and respect them. It’s celebrated in different ways in every country, with no regard to nationality, religion, faith or political ideology.

The online World Animal Day event was launched in 2003 by Naturewatch and the number of events taking place throughout the world has increased each year. They hope that with your help this trend will continue.

That is the aim of the World Animal Day initiative: to encourage everyone to use this special day to commemorate their love and respect for animals by doing something special to highlight their importance in the world.  Increased awareness will lead the way to improved standards of animal welfare throughout the world.

Building the World Animal Day initiative is a wonderful way to unite the animal welfare movement and something that everyone can join in with whether they are part of an organization, group, or as an individual.  Through education we can help create a new culture of respect and sensitivity, to make this world a fairer place for all living creatures.

On their website you will find everything you need to make World Animal Day a reality in your area today and every day. They have events listed by countries and continents.  Now is a great opportunity to help make animal welfare issues front page news around the globe – a be vital catalyst for change in the world!

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How You Can Get Involved on World Animal Day

• Expand your own knowledge and broaden your own horizons by picking up a book by an animal expert extraordinaire

• Write a letter to your local newspaper, or put up a post on your favorite social media site, or blog informing people of World Animal Day

• Donate to a local animal charity or shelter. Local shelters are always in need of food, litter, and supplies. Check with your local shelter before going shopping as many have a giving tree or wish list.

• Volunteer at your local shelter or look into fostering an animal.

• Make your garden more animal friendly: Add a bird bath, and include bee-friendly plants. Learn more here!

• Surprise your animal companion with an unexpected treat, walk, or toy, and carve out some extra time during the day to enjoy their company. If you know somebody who doesn’t have that same opportunity, volunteer to spend some extra time with their companion, too!

The purpose of this day is for people to “use this special day to commemorate their love and respect for animals by doing something special to highlight their importance in the world. Increased awareness will lead the way to improved standards of animal welfare throughout the world.”

Empower. Educate. Collaborate. Be a part of something special today to celebrate all of the animals of the world!

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Before you get out there and make a positive difference in your community here is a humorous collection of animals around the world doing what animals do best: having fun and enjoying life!

Enjoy and please spread the joy!

Watch the World Animal Day Mash Up Here!

 

How will you celebrate World Animal Day?

Sources:

http://www.worldanimalday.org.uk

http://www.isfoundation.com

Guardian

Guardian

” The stars you see at night are the unblinking eyes of sleeping elephants, who sleep with one eye open to best keep watch over us. ”

~ Gregory Colbert

For more information about Gregory Colbert’s work, please visit here.

Widen Our Circle of Compassion to Embrace All Living Creatures

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. ~Albert Einstein

Release Your Fears To See Beauty Everywhere

Every time we label an animal, become fearful, or assume something about it, we take away from what really is there.  If we choose to see them for who they really are, then we can fully experience the gift of every animal.

Kayaking with Great White Sharks
Kayaking with Great White Sharks

Learn more about this photographer and his amazing adventures here.