A Love Not of This World

 Lord I want
To be up
In my heart
Be
Ohh
Just in my heart, oh Lord
– Moby, In My Heart

Conscious COmpanion_Amy MArtin


This blog post is available as an audio. You can listen here:


Hello Bright Light 💛

I hope this finds you and yours well and at peace in all ways.  Today will be a relatively short post because I have a beach date with my fur babe. We are going to get down and dirty in the sand, salt, and sun!  Thanks to Hocus calling me out on my “stuff” a few months ago, I made a promise to spend my energy more wisely and to be fully present with my beloveds.  (Btw, if you are driving, or prefer to listen instead of reading, you can listen to this blog post by clicking on the link below.)

Let’s get to it.

Do you know that song from Moby?  It’s one of my faves.  Click on the link in the above quote; take a listen and see what you feel.  That is how I am feeling today.  But I haven’t been feeling like that lately.  In fact, I have been going through a helluva a challenge for the past few weeks.  It’s kind of sucked honestly.  Thankfully, regardless of where I am walking, stumbling, or running on this life path, our furry family always has a way of pulling me out of my over-thinking, fear-based brain and back into my heart. 

true love

That is why I am sharing with you today.

If you have been flowing with this blog for a while, you know about how we can move from fear to gratitude and  how this shifts us from fearful living to a heart-based life.   You also now know about why it’s important to look at fear.   But did you know that we can also do this by looking to our animal companions and the wonder of nature?  We can look to them and truly listen from our heart, instead of our head … especially when we start to believe, feel, and think things that are not in accordance of what’s really True. We can learn to see how they really see us.  We can view ourselves and our lives through Lenses of Love.  What am I talking about here?

I am talking about Love.

Real Love.  The kind that creeps up on you.  The kind of love you didn’t see coming.  The kind that hits ya upside the head and eventually rattles you to your core.  I am talking about the kind of love that is not of this world.  The kind of love that allows you to open your closed, hurt crumbled heart.  The kind of love that heals.  I am talking about the kind of love that literally heals parts of ourselves that we thought could never heal.  The love that I am talking about is a love that flows through nature, and through our feathered, furry, and scaly earth angels every moment; 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

A Constant Love.

It is a love that never leaves. This love is constant, even when the body is ready to be laid aside.  It is a love that is seamless, ceaseless, and everlasting.  It is a love that walks with us, even when we cannot see our companion.  It is a love that is never-ending.  A love that grows.  A love that only knows expansion.  A love that is eternal.  This love never ends.

An Unconditional love.

It is a love that breaks us into pieces when it appears to leave us.  It is a love that only a true angel can offer us.  It is a love that an ascended master has mastered.  It is a love that we humans wish for, long for, and pray for ever since we are born.  It’s a love that cracks our hearts open and allows us to really FEEL.  It’s a love that teaches us how to accept; a love that allows us to receive.  It is a love that shows us we are supported.  It is a love that that moves us into new chapters of life, even when we think we are not ready.

A True Love.

This is a love that dives deep.  A love that reflects back to us; reflections at times, we would rather not see.  It’s a love that challenges us, triggers us, and reveals to us.  It’s a love that swims through our soul and stirs up what we would rather keep hidden in the depths.

A Love without limits.

This is a love that not even a parent is capable of giving to their child at every moment.  This is a love that we, as animal guardians, are often incapable of showing to our loved ones at all times.  It is a love without judgement.  It’s a love that lacks expectations or rules.  This love is incapable of asking for anything.  This is a love without limits; a love without conditions.

A Love not of this world.


This fire that we call loving is too strong for human minds, but just right for souls. ― Aberjhani, Elemental: The Power of Illuminated Love

California Mexico Humpback Whale
A humpback whale breaching off the coast of Baja California on my birthday last year

The love that I am talking about seems rare, but it really isn’t.  Every one of the Great Lovesin my life has shown me this kind of love.  They lived/live their lives with this kind of love.  They taught me this love.  They gave me this kind of love.  They ARE this kind of love.

Nature has also given me this love. Whether it was a Humpback whale who came close enough for me to truly feel him and learn his wisdom, or a tree who gave me shelter and insights, this love was real.  It was fully present.  It was without judgement.  It was freely given.

This love is here, around you now.

The Standing Ones_Amy Martin_Ireland_Conscious Companion
Hangin’ in the arms of a Standing One in Ireland

“Your task is not to seek for love but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself which you have built against it.” – A Course In Miracles


Recently I was forgetting what’s Real and I momentarily slipped into ego-fear-based thinking.  I had moved out of my heart and into my head.  I was feeling guilty about not doing this, or having said this and that.  I was wishing I had been a better guardian years ago.  I was regretting.  I was wanting to have done things differently over the 18+ years that Mr. Beaux and I have been together.

I wanted to go back and be a better human to him.

I began to cry so hard as I held him.💙  When I found a moment to catch my breath, I looked into his gold eyes and Mr. Beaux very calmly shared, “There is nothing to forgive. I see past it all.  I know who you really are.”
💛
This is a love not of this world.
That is who he is.
That is what he freely gives.

Beaux (2)
Mr. Beaux, my Bodhisattva

“Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.”― Alan Cohen


My beloved, Mr. Beaux, is not unlike your animal companions. The ones who walk with you while they live their new life in spirit, and the ones who walk with you here on the earth plane.  Their love is truly unconditional.  It is without limits; without borders and expectations. They see beyond the illusion. They see who we really are without our fears, stories, guilt, judgement, and mistakes.  They view through the lenses of Love.

The ARE Love.

So they are able to see us who we really are.  We don’t see things as they are; we see them as we are.

As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. As a man sees in his heart, so he sees. Through unclean windows, lenses, senses, we see things not as they are but as we are. — H. M. Tomlinson.


Every Day Can Be The 14th!

As heartwarming and humbling as that story about Mr. Beaux is, I have to switch gears a bit.  Most of you know that I am not a fan of Valentine’s Day.  Starting 20 years ago, this fateful date took on a whole new horrible meaning for me when I had to suddenly say goodbye to three of my beloveds on Valentine’s weekend (on three separate occasions!). You can’t make this stuff up, folks.  I was single each time, so each of their transitions broke my heart in unimaginable ways.

So, after several life-changing losses and lessons around Valentine’s Day, I started to view February 14th very differently.  Now every day is the 14th.   If you are interested,  you can read why the meaning of Valentine’s Day dramatically changed for me many years ago and why I believe most of us have MANY “Great Loves”. 

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My Beloved File’ (Feelay) passed into another world 10 years ago today.

Beyond Feb 14th

At the risk of sounding negative,  I’ve noticed that Valentine’s Day has become a day for people to celebrate their “special love” and thereby exclude love from others, whether they mean to or not; it’s almost inevitable.  Valentine’s Day, to many,  is a contrived Hallmark holiday, whose Dark Origins are unknown to many folks.  

But does it have to be? 

Maybe we can create something new out of it.  Maybe we can live every day as if it’s the 14th.  I truly believe that every day should be centered around extending love; strangers, family, foes, friends.  Love should be the epicenter of our lives.  Not just one day out of the year, but every moment.  Love is the Light that leads our path, and that lights the path of others. 

Our animal companions walk this path.  They are such incredibly beautiful and powerful examples of love!  They are always reflecting a love not of this world.   They are the bridge to the kind of love we have always been looking for.  We just have to recognize it and accept it.  Let that love in.  And then spread it around.


Love is intended to be a circle. Love is intended to be endless. Infinite. Unconditional. Love is not a one way flow. Love gives, and love receives. Love allows us to be raw and open. Love allows us to be exactly who we are, flaws and all. Love heals the broken. Love heals the heart. Love allows us to grow and heal each other. Love Gives Unconditionally.

USMC Conscious Companion_Martin Amy_Unconditional Love
Hocus Pocus giving some our Marines Love on Christmas

Self Love

Our animal family members teach us what it really means to love others (and ourselves) unconditionally.  They teach us how to love and appreciate ourselves (and others) every day.   Love is right there, waiting for us to see it.  But are we loving ourselves the way they love us?  Many of us are so willing to give love, but we have not allowed ourselves to receive. 

Here’s the secret: Self love is loving!

I used to be the last person on the planet who practiced self love.  I felt selfish if I wasn’t giving all of my time and energy to the species I was caring for at both work and at home.  For over a decade during my zoologist days, I was just plowing through the pain and stress, never creating time for myself, and for self care.  But when I moved out of New Orleans and left Audubon, I began to study Energy Medicine and learned a new way of living in the world.

“Choosing self-love challenges the collective paradigm of guilt and shame that has controlled us for thousands of years. If we go the route of the ego, we’ll never feel worthy of self-love. If we choose to live our Spirit, we’ll be instantly liberated.” — Sonia Choquette, The Answer is Simple…Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit!

Clearing and managing my energy was an integral part of this program.  Not only did meditation become a replacement for medicating myself with Advil, alcohol, food, and sugar, but I learned that self care must be a priority if I wanted to help anyone.

I learned that self care IS self love, and that self love is quite easy to do every day.  I then started to notice that the animals I cared for at home were practicing self love 24 hours a day!  They were teaching me!  One easy way to start a practice of self love is to give yourself the gift of a clearing bath.  You can view this simple recipe here.

Clearing baths_empath tools_spiritual cleanse_how to detox_energy

Our lovability and worth doesn’t come from others. It comes from within!”

I will admit that I have spent most of my life caring for others, yet I never gave this same level of care to myself.   But now I do.  Rather than forgetting to do something loving for myself or justifying why I don’t have time, I now create the time and space to receive. I allow this kind of love.

When we cultivate a daily practice self-care, we are being loving.  We are becoming the embodiment of our animal companions and how they live their lives!  When we love and care for ourselves deeply, we can see the divine within ourselves and all other forms of life. We see that we are all connected; that we are one.

When our body and mind are at peace and relaxed we create a ripple effect to every living being in our lives.  We are better prepared for what life has around the corner.  We can better care for others.  We can come from a more loving space; a place where our animal companions are always.


We seek the comfort of another.
Someone to share the life we choose.
Someone to help us through the never-ending attempt to understand ourselves. And in the end, someone to comfort us along the way.  ~ Marlin Finch Lupus 


What About You?

I am really curious about you, so I want to know:  Have you felt this kind of love?  Do you recognize this kind of love when you see, hear, or feel it?  Are you in your head all the time, or are you up in your heart?  Where are you living?  What are you allowing?  Do your animal companions help you to totally accept this kind of love? Have you experienced this kind of love in nature? What was it like for you?

As we continue to move through the month of February, and we experiences these really uncomfortable energies, know that you are always surrounded by love.  We just have to be willing to see, feel, and notice it in all of the many forms … that are not of this world.

But as you start to notice this love, don’t be fooled into the ego-trap that you are not willing or deserving of a love not of this world.  You are. I am. We all are.  Nature and our animal companions are always here to offer this love to us, to see us beyond our faults, and to love us always in all ways.

Allow this love.


In my last post I shared how and why The Wheels of Light Keep Turning.  If this topic peaked your interest and you desire to dive deeper into the relationship with your canine companion, check out my dear friend and colleague’s online class that starts February 22nd!  It will be an eye and mind opener to how we can grow, heal, and thrive together as One!  But most importantly, you will learn why True Love Dives Deep.

Be well friend, and go in love.  Remember that Love walks with you always.

P.S This blog post is available as an audio. You can listen here:

Conscious Companion_True Love Dives Deep

 Love doesn’t make the world go round.  Love is what makes the ride worthwhile.   -Franklin P. Jones


Recommended Reads:

Wheels of Light Keep Turning!

Wheel in the sky keeps on turning 
-Journey

color-and-sound-holisitc-spiritual-energy-healing

Hello Bright Light!

I hope this finds you well at at peace in all ways.  Wow, we are nearly midway through the first month of the New Year!  Incredible.  So far, 2018 has not disappointed!  The energy has been incredibly expansive and focused, and our animal companions continue to teach me, and challenge me with love and humor 😉  More on that later.

Today I would like to share something really fun and enlightening with you!  Please get comfy.  Grab your coffee or tea.  Open your mind and heart.  And try a little willingness to learn something new for the New Year.

If you were not yet aware, I would like to share a bit about the energy of this New Year, and how you can bring this energy into your home, your shelter, and to those with whom you live, work, and care for.  Then this topic will quickly flow into a bit about animals’ energy centers, how you can learn from them, and grow together!


2018 is a Year of Mastery! 

In numerology (which I am a total novice at), 2018 translates into 11, which is what they refer to as a Master Number.  Master numbers possess great potential for learning and growth and can bring major transformations in our lives.  This is a powerful year for everyone and all beings on Earth.

The Universal Energy for 2018: 2 + 0 + 1 + 8 = 11  

Master Number 11 symbolizes high energy, inspiration, intuition, self-expression and personal power.  Master Number 11 is called ‘the Illuminator’, ‘the Messenger’ or ‘the Teacher’.  Master Number 11 also tells us that by connecting with our higher selves is to know and live our soul’s mission and life purpose.  2018 is also about partnership, connections, balance, equality, and flexibility!

You might be wondering, What the heck does that mean for me on a practical level?

Great question.  It basically means that we’re here to “master” the elements presented to us within the frequency, vibration, and “theme” of 2018.  Our strengths will be supported, but we will also be faced with more significant challenges.  However, if we are coming from an empowered place, these changes and challenges can be greeted not with fear, but with grace and ease.  This includes challenges with our animal companions.  Peace, joy, and expansion can be the epicenter of our lives.

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Energy Artist Julia – Big Cartel

More Insights Into the Energy of 2018:

The Master number brings with it an intensity that’s undeniable.  It’s generally observed that the Master numbers bring a higher spiritual purpose, no matter how you might define that.  The Master numbers carry a higher frequency and vibratory influence.  Energetically speaking, they’re always pushing you.  So in practical terms, the year 2018 is a year where the energy supporting and guiding all of us is rather intense.  Everyone will be getting the internal call to step it up this year.


What better time than now to embrace these energies?!?  That is part of why I am finally shedding my current (and past) fears of sharing the more spiritual side of things with the world.  This is part of why I am stepping it up NOW.   So, needless to say, not only is the Master Number Energy in the mix, but today is a very auspicious day indeed: 1/11/2018, which is probably why I am so inspired to share with you today! So let’s get to it!


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Art by Iris Scott

The Year of the Earth Dog

The Chinese new year begins in February.  This will be the The Year of the Earth Dog.  Its keyword is ACTION.  Of the five Taoist elements Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood, this is the year of the Earth.  Stable, honest, practical, industrious, prudent, reliable, kind, and loyal are Earth qualities.  The element Earth enriches Dog’s character and adds needed stability.  The Earth Dog is endowed with some of the finest qualities of all the 12 astrology animals.  Since 2018’s element is Earth, this year is also about security and feeling grounded and safe.

Which leads me to the main point of this post:  Energy 


Beyond The Borders of Animal Training

As someone who has been an animal professional for nearly 20 years, I understand the need for, and the importance of humane, science-based animal training, species-specific enrichment, and species-appropriate husbandry.  I understand and the importance of animal care givers and companion animal guardians being fluent in specie-specific behaviors.  Knowing how to accurately read and correctly interpret an animal’s body language, and vocalizations is essential.  Knowing how animals learn and retain information is essential.  Understanding how and why force-free methods work is vital; applying these humane methods should be priority.  These science-based tools assist us in bridging the gap between species.

Conscious Companion_force free training_reptile training
Teaching my volunteers and interns at Audubon about science-based, force-free training

After decades of professional and personal experience, I am an expert in these areas.  I have seen the far-reaching effects of these compassionate, science-based methods, which is why I am very passionate about these tools!  I not only teach others how to use these tools, but I use them on a daily basis.  These are all necessary for any species of animal who is living in a captive environment, whether the animal is in our home or a facility.

But there is much more that we can work with and carefully manage that extends far beyond the borders ofanimal training,enrichment, and husbandry.  There are other elements at play that affect our animal family members, and the animals under our care at a shelter or facility.  This can be summed up in one word: Energy.

Energy Healing for Pets_conscious Companion

Energy is everything.

As I have shared with you before, my life is a balance of science and spirituality.  This is how and why we now have a beautiful harmonic home life.  This is why my clients find success for life.  This blending of modalities and holistic approach to medical and behavioral challenges has changed everything for the better … and for the Greater Good.

How we manage energy is an integral part of being a Conscious Companion.  Practicing personal energy management is important to the management and success of managing our animal companions. It is also connected to the health and well being of them as well.  Assisting our animal companions with their energetic challenges is also an important part of being an empowering animal guardian!  Recognizing our energetic challenges is also incredible important and empowering!

Science-based, force-free training is only one part of the “pet puzzle.”  Knowing this and acting on it in an empowered way is vital.  Although it is2018, we are light years away of where we could all be with regards to how we live with and care for animal companions. The world of animal behavior consulting and animal guardianship will eventually shift to a world that combines both science and spirituality; we will finally learn how to work with the metaphysical and the physical. These worlds are not separate. They are One. And if we want to have true success, true lasting bonds and true health and harmony in our homes, we will learn to utilize (and live in) both of these worlds.

The blending of science and spirituality is the work of the future.  That future is now.   Conscious Companion

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Checking and Balancing Chakras

One of the many ways that every animal guardian can come from a more empowered place and recognize potential pitfalls is by checking chakras!  No, that word is not the sound of a cat hacking up a hairball.  It’s totally legit. 😉 Hear me out …

All living beings have these.  Dogs, cats, people, dolphins, parrots, horses, rats, frogs, you name it!  If you’re alive, you have chakras!

animal chakras_pets

Chakras are energy centers/vortexes.  Chakras are conceived as an energy focal point, bodily functions, or psychic node in the subtle body.  Although this concept is found particularly in the tantric traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, countless holistic veterinarians work with pets’ chakras every day.  In yoga, meditation, and Ayurveda, chakras are often referred to for balance throughout.

The ancient Sanskrit word Chakra literally translates to wheel or disk.  It is literally a wheel of LIGHT.  And each chakra has its own color of light!     In humans, there are seven main chakras (currently recognized –but there are many more!). These 7 chakras align the spine, starting from the base of the spine through to the crown of the head.

Most animals have 8 Major chakras, up to 21 Minor chakras, and 6 smaller energy points known as Bud chakras (paw pads & the bud of skin at the opening of the ears).  Companion animals have an 8th chakra that we humans don’t have: a brachial chakra.  The main Chakras govern responses to surrounding energy.  The 3 chakras found in the lower part of the body (root, sacral & solar plexus) govern basic survival needs. The four chakras in the upper body (heart, throat, third eye & crown) govern mental processes and connection to higher realms.

Chakras expand or contract depending on a variety of circumstances (emotional AND physical health, environment, etc.).  Animals receive and distribute energy through each chakra individually, which makes them sensitive to subtle vibrations & changes within the atmosphere & their environment.  This invisible energy, called Prana, is vital life force, which keeps us vibrant, healthy, and alive.


What-Is-Chakra-1


It’s not Woo-Woo; it’s just new to you! – Conscious Companion


Windows to Wellness

Chakras are a window to wellness.  In both people and pets, the energy body (which involves the chakras) are connected to emotions.  So the energy body is like a blueprint or software which gives instructions to the physical organs.  These swirling wheels of energy correspond to massive nerve centers in the body.  Each of the main chakras contain bundles of nerves and major organs as well as our psychological, emotional, and spiritual states of being.

Being aware of both your and your animal companion’s mental and physical health is vital, which is why we perform routine Chakra Checks!  In another post I will teach you how we use a tool called a pendulum to check the status of each one, every day.  For today, what I want to get across is this: When chakras are open and balanced all is well within body and mind.  BUT… when even one chakra is out of balance, it affects the entire system.

Here’s one example/insight into the Heart Chakra of a feline:

An open, balanced, and aligned Heart Chakra allows for loving, harmonious relationships, tolerance, and being deeply connected to their guardian on a heart level.
-A closed or imbalanced heart chakra can adversely affect behavior.
-It could also indicate there is a physical issue in the body.
-Heart chakra governs the heart, lungs, immune system & thymus gland.

Chakra-System-of-Cats


“Going from Ugh to Om”

So what does this mean for devoted animal guardians??  It brings us all to a very empowered place.  It’s an invitation to be more open, more curious, and willing to grow and heal … together.

Now.

Today a very dear friend and colleague who is a dog adorer-er 😉  gifted intuitive, Empath, and certified dog trainer is kicking off an incredible online class.   And it perfectly ties into today’s post.  Her class is all about the Wheels of Light, and how we can keep them turning!  In her 7 week class you will:

  • Learn an integrative approach to pet guardianship through the lens of mind, body, and energetic connection
  • Hear how true partnerships, heart-centered connections, and translating beyond your pets’ behaviors can help you and your animal companion heal, expand, and grow spiritually together
  • Discover how working with chakras, numerology, sacred geometry, animal symbolism and crystals can actually help shift your animal companion’s behavior like on-leash reactivity, separation anxiety, guest reactivity, barking, and accidents
  • Explore how your pet’s behaviors can provide clues to bigger energetic patterns in your life
  • Hear about a road map to how pet behaviors can give you specific insight into the healing that is ready to take place, including which limiting beliefs to process and which chakras they affect
  • Learn 3 questions that can help you call in more harmony, balance, and growth for you and your animal companion
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AUM or Om (Sanskrit: ॐ) is a sacred sound and a spiritual icon in Indian Dharmic religions. It is also a mantra in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism

In Denise’s groundbreaking class her focus will be mainly on canine companions and how our energy can affect them, but our feathered and feline friends will also be addressed as these topics arise.  It is going to be such a joy and honor to be a part of this important, ground-breaking, and incredibly empowering program!

As Denise clearly and beautifully states:

Energy connects us all.  The most primal way to communicate with our pets is energetically, but somewhere along the way this got discounted as a basic building block of dog obedience training and living a more connected life with your pet.  We are here to change all that, and redefine how we train, connect with, and relate to our animal companions.


I truly believe that you can make an unimaginable difference in the life of your animal companion by becoming an EMPOWERED animal guardian; you can BEcome a Conscious Companion, just as they already are.  You can move out of your comfort zone and be willing to learn new concepts, new ideas, and new insights.  You can empower them by healing and empowering yourself!  You can create an True New Year together!

Healing_empath_tips_pets_grounding_Conscious Companion_Amy Martin
Grounding together at the beach with my beloved Hocus

“We are more alike than different. We Are One.” 
― Efrat Cybulkiewicz

Disco, Dart Frogs, Cats, and Canines!

Disco_cats_dogs_pet tips_conscious companion

Hello gorgeous!

Considering the current state of affairs around the world, I thought we could all use some levity.  We all need a break from the fear, hate, insanity, and the seemingly never-ending drama.

This post serves to give you just that.

As promised, I will be swaying between science and spiritual stuff U.F.N. 😉  Since my last post swung to the spiritual side, I thought we could dance to a different beat today!

And once again, I am grateful you are here.

I have to mention; the grammar nerd in me got a kick out of playing around with the comma placement in the title of this post.  If you were confused, this post isn’t about disco frogs, disco cats, or disco dogs, but it does involve these species, with a touch of the genre of music I just adore: disco!

disco shoes dancing retro

I appreciate that this genre of music isn’t everyone’s preferred choice.  But since I am a child of the 70’s I have a super positive association with DISCO that stems way back to childhood and well into high school.  From rocking out to The Bee Gees in the backseat, to breakin’ it down until the break of dawn with my girlfriends; Disco was my dope.

It was a natural high for me.  Even to this day, if I am in a funk, I play F U N K!  Disco can get me movin’ and groovin’ unlike no other music!  Play me some Soundgarden or Bob Marley and I am ready to rock-n-roll or love everything around me.  Put on “Super disco, disco breakin” by The Beastie boys, and I am amped!  But when real old school Disco starts to play … watch out world … my sass emerges and I am ready to shake-that-aaaaaa … !!!

Ok, you get it. 😀  The right kind of music can totally shift me out of a funk.  And as someone who has suffered from depression, anxiety, and chronic pain for more than half of my life, music is my medicine.

But I am not unique in this way.

We are all moved by the right kind of tune.  Music shifts our mood.  Chemical reactions occur.  Endorphins are released.  Music promotes positive movement,  and dare I say, healing?

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”
― Bob Marley

 

Movement Shifts Energy.  When we physically move the body, it supports and facilitates the movement of Life Force Energy.  When the physical body moves, the energy shifts within.  This is not woo; it’s legit.  Science has yet to prove this fact, but Eastern cultures have known this for centuries.  Our western world is just catching onto this fact.  But this fact is not limited to humans.  Because physical movement shifts energy, physical movement supports the chakras of all living beings.  Animals of all shapes, sizes and species benefit from positive movement and motivation.

But are we, as animal guardians, providing this opportunity enough?

The body and mind are not separate, and we cannot treat one without the other.” ~ Dr. Candice Pert

 


Back in another life, during my Audubon Zoo Dayz, I was an Enrichment Coordinator. Providing species-specific enrichment for everything from parrots to poison dart frogs was my passion!  So now, providing this necessary, science-based enrichment for companion animals is second nature to me.  My hope, is that once you learn how, this will come naturally to you, too!  Knowing how to do this is vital if we want to provide a healthy environment for our animal companions to thrive in captivity.

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blue poison dart frogs (Dendrobates) enjoying novel multi-sensory enrichment (hunting for fruit flies out of a seasonal pumpkin)  Seriously. How adorable are they?

 


So what do poison dart frogs have to do with disco, cats, and dogs?  A lot, actually.

We now know that offering a coconut foraging feeder to captive Dendrobates (poison dart frogs) produces new behaviors.  This particular kind of enrichment feeder produces the greatest increase in frog activity in both traditional and new exhibits.  The increase in mobility is most likely due to a coconut feeder’s complicated nature, which randomizes the release of insects into the exhibit.  The complexity of the enrichment increases both mental and physical aspects of the frogs.

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Now think about how we can create something like this at home or in shelters, and why it’s so important.  If something as simple as placing prey (fruit flies) in a coconut feeder for frogs to foraging and hunt from, creates more desirable behaviors and healthy mental stimulation, what can we offer to our companion animals??

The possibilities are endless!

They key is to make things simple and safe, but challenging for the animal.  Create choice, offer control, and add complexity.   The goal is to elicit species-specific behaviors and to stimulate their natural abilities, senses, and enhance cognition.   This is what proper enrichment offers.   Enrichment is as integral to animal care as veterinary and nutrition programs.  The scientific principles in which structured enrichment programs are created are not reserved for lions, tigers, bears, and sea lions in zoos and aquariums.

Enrichment Is For Everyone.

And considering the high number of unhealthy pets in homes, increasing behavioral problems, and animals surrendered to shelters every week, I say we aren’t doing enough enrichment.  But we can change this.  And when we do it will shift everything.  Not only will we shift the energy within the animal, which will result in healthier bodies and minds, but we will create a more empowered way of living for each animal within the home.  We will also shift the energy between guardians and the animals.

We create a total shift for everyone on every level.


“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”

― Frank Zappa


 

There is enough craziness and fear unfolding around the globe.  Why don’t we bring some joy and humor into our home?  Why don’t we pull our focus from that insanity and consciously create really fun but safe ways to shift the energy with our animals?  There are amazing souls right under our nose!  Let’s engage with them more!  Let’s focus on the joy and love that’s waiting for us!

That is where we can choose to focus our energy.


Creating fun games that are tailored for the individual animal/group are one way that we can pull away from the drama and fear in the world and create harmony at home.  We can create our own music that moves us all!  Music moves us and gets us groovin, but what can we offer our animal companions to get their bodies and minds movin’ and groovin??

Enrichment.

I have talked about enrichment at great length before. But if you haven’t read those posts, here’s a quick run down on enrichment:

  • promotes naturalistic behaviors
  • stimulates the mind
  • increases physical activity
  • reduces stress
  • promotes overall health
  • increases an animal’s perception of control over their environment
  • empowers the animal with more choices
  • provides constructive ways to occupy their time

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Enrichment is “the act or process of increasing the intellectual or spiritual resources”.

All of that is so important, but one of my favorite by-products of proper enrichment is the bonds it strengthens. – both between animals of the same species and between different species.  This has been a powerful tool in our home.  One of our favorite ways to shift the energy of our group while building bonds that last is by providing species-specific enrichment every day.

For the 3.0 cats (3 males) and 0.1 dog (female) in our family, this was not only a way to shift stagnant energy in their body, but it was a tool to build a bridge between them. We created conditions to create a fun, harmonious, and happy home.  Hocus Pocus and King Albert once had a very combative relationship, but these kind of enrichment activities (and other tools) have dramatically changed their relationship to one based on trust. Physical challenges in older animals were addressed and healing occurred.  Minds were stimulated and stagnation faded.

Behavioral enrichment is the environmental enhancement of the lives of animals in a managed setting by providing them with mental and physical stimulation to increase natural and healthy behavior.

Now to the disco.

In the short video below, “Wake-and-Hunt” (not to be confused with Wake-and-Bake)  😉 you will see one example of how we do this.


“Ah, music,” he said, wiping his eyes. “A magic beyond all we do here!” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone


Of course the cats and dog aren’t dancing to disco while they do these foraging activities, but you can see how excited they are to participate!  Seeing their energy shift from stagnation to determination, and boredom to curiosity, is similar to shifting our energy via the right kind of music!  We just need to find the right tune and melody, so to speak, for each individual.

Seniors, in particular, really need to be encouraged to behave, explore, and be stimulated in constructive ways that mimic the experiences they had when they were younger. Nose work is one way that we can do that.


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Casey, the critically endangered lowland gorilla enjoying his birthday carrot cake

For 18 years I have been creating I.E.P.s (Individualized Enrichment Programs) for animals of all shapes, sizes, and species, so it’s now second nature to me.  I often forget that this kind of program isn’t in everyone’s go-to-tool box.  But it should be!  I believe that proper, individualized, species-specific enrichment can be more powerful than basic training.

Choice, control and complexity are key.

Providing conditions in a captive animal’s environment (home, shelter, zoo) that parallels a life were they would normally have endless choices is empowering.  It’s life changing!  Science and experience have proven that by providing this for all species of animals living in captivity, we have the power to reduce and eliminate a myriad of medical and behavioral issues.  When we create conditions that enhance cognition, encourage movement, and improve overall well-being through resources that tap into the individual species’ senses, we can change lives!

With the right kind of movement and music to match the soul, we shift out of pain and suffering into bliss and joy.  – Conscious Companion

You don’t have to be a professional in this area.  You can learn how to provide safe and species-appropriate enrichment to the animals with whom you care for, in your shelter or home!  It does require some planning and creativity, but the effort pays off in the long run.  I will be creating a free E-Book that discusses this in greater detail, but for now:

You can View one example of how we created an I.E.P for one of our geriatric cats here. 

You can view another IEP for our younger cat here.

You can download an overview of our Guidelines for planning an Individualized Enrichment Program here.

Dog and cat foraging enrichment

You too, can create and provide this kind of fun but carefully created mental and physical stimulation for your animal companions every day.  Heck, even once or twice a week could completely shift so much energy in your home!  But before you do, please remember to ask these questions:

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We need to ask important questions BEFORE providing this kind of food enrichment.
A successful food enrichment program is goal-oriented and considers The Big Picture.

  • Do we have a goal in mind?
  • Is the enrichment for one cat? Multiple cats? A cat and another species?
  • What behaviors of each do we want to encourage?
  • How will these behaviors be encouraged?
  • Will the foraging enrichment be created (or purchased)?
  • Is it safe? (see unsafe/failed enrichment here)
  • How will we implemented it?
  • How will we evaluate the response and the effect?
  • Are there any diet restrictions?
  • Health issues?
  • Is there any oversight that should involve a feline nutritionist or a feline health practitioner?
  • Are we utilizing the 5 categories of enrichment? – If not, why?


“There are two means of refuge from the misery of life — music and cats.” ― Albert Schweitzer


You might have noticed that I am highlighting cats in this post.  I am because the majority of people believe that cat’s don’t need as much mental and physical stimulation as dogs.  But this is untrue and very harmful.  Another misconception is that senior and geriatric cats don’t need to get moving daily.   Friend, they DO!

Some Cat Stats at a Glance:

• Cats are currently the most commonly kept pet in the United States
• Cats far outnumber dogs in homes (96 million cats vs. 83 million dogs).
• Cats are mislabeled as low-maintenance pets.
• This leads to cats housed in suboptimal environments.

• Cats are the number one animal euthanized at shelters due to “behavioral issues”.
• Cats with medical or behavioral issues were the ones most likely to be re-homed to an animal shelter, (instead of being re-homed with friends or family members.)

When the environment of house cats don’t match the conditions they need in order to thrive, medical and behavioral issues arise.  Medical issues lead to behavioral issues which leads to a stressful household.  It can be a vicious cycle.  All of this can lead to a weakening of the human-animal bond, which often results in the owners surrendering the cat to a shelter, tossing the cat onto the streets, or euthanizing the cat.

Sub-optimal conditions are associated with increases in dozens of health and behavioral issues. Aggression, attention-seeking behaviors, and stress-related behaviors can be results of suboptimal conditions of captivity.  In fact, House-soiling is the most frequently cited behavior problem for cats, followed by aggression toward people. Below are just a few common conditions created by sub-optimal conditions for house cats:

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Joint problems
  • Chronic lower urinary tract issues
  • Behavioral and mental health problems

 

The Reality is that house cats and their conditions don’t match.

The conditions house cats are kept in are often the least natural to their species. Our feline companions are very similar to their closest ancestor, the African wildcat, in terms of their behavioral needs and instincts.  Therefore, the conditions of house cats should parallel those of their closest wild ancestor, the African wildcat.

Scent is another biggie that’s overlooked in companion cats.  A cat’s sense of smell is 40x stronger than ours.   Scent is crucial when it comes to social situations, locating prey, and  maintaining safety.  Scent is also crucial when it comes to evaluation of food.  If more cat guardians gain a better understanding of the vital role that scent plays in a pussycat’s life, they can use this tool to enhance their feline friend’s life!

“Importantly, a better understanding of cat chemical signals has critical applied implications, as scent (and marking) plays an important role in many species-typical cat behaviors, problem behaviors, and can also serve as enrichment if properly understood and applied.” – Vitale Shreve and Udell

Providing various scents for cats to find is very enriching to cats. We can use everything from catnip to canned food.  Some other great options are  silver vine, honey suckle, local bird feathers, potting soil, beach sand, etc.  Encouraging cats to harness these innate abilities and natural instincts is necessary.

Senior and geriatric cats, in particular, really need to be encouraged to behave, explore, and be stimulated in constructive ways that mimic the experiences they had when they were younger.  Nose work (like you saw in the video above) is one way that we can do that every day.   When we set the scene for a cat to use his/her exquisite senses we are helping our house cats to live a life worthy of their ancestors. We are allowing house cats to THRIVE.

That is why we provide these kind of fun enriching activities every day!

Albert foraging yard

The goals of enrichment are to offer a sense of control by allowing animals to make choices and to stimulate species-appropriate behaviors

Animal guardians can learn about who their pet is as a species. We can learn their individual hunting styles, personal preferences, and dislikes /fears.  Guardians can provide proper species-specific conditions inside their home that parallel the animal’s natural life in the wild.  People can learn how to help their companions to thrive inside!

  • We can change lackluster homes into thriving environments!
  • We can enhance the lives and longevity of our animal family members!
  • We can enhance the bond between animals and their guardians!
  • We can build bonds between every species in the home!
  • We can keep animals in homes.
  • We can Build Bonds That Last!

My challenge to you is to allow yourself to let go of the drama and stress of life by creating a peaceful kingdom at home.  Let laughter and joy become the centerpiece of your home.  Create memories that last, well after your beloved moves on.  Create harmony by enriching their environment … and yours.

There doesn’t need to be any pressure.  There is enough pressure in this crazy world; we need not add any to our life.  The idea is to create therapeutic, enriching, and fun activity time together every day.  We all need more fun!  Funk it up!  Help them get their groove back! And yours! Create the time to add in more playtime, more ways to bond, and to release the stress of life.  Together.

 


You know you ought to slow down

You been working too hard and that’s a fact
Sit back and relax a while
Take some time to laugh and smile

Lay your heavy load down
So we can stop and kick back
It seems we never take the time to do
All the things we want to do

The S.O.S Band (video)


 

I am curious.  What kind of fun mental and physical games do you play with your animal companions?  What has worked well?  What kinds of exciting enrichment opportunities will you create this week together?

My hope is that you will choose to create moments of joy together and memories that last forever.  My hope is that you will create your own musical masterpiece together and dance to your own tune.  My hope is that you will turn to your beloveds when the world is too much with you.  My hope is that you can find peace within your animal kingdom at home.

Be well.

Be at peace.

Let your heart be light.

Let your animals be your greatest teachers.

Let go and remember to laugh with the ones you love!

Abstract background blue,yellow and orange


 

Recommended Videos and Links:

 

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.” ― Arthur O’Shaughnessy

 

Just Out of Our Awareness

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Saatchi Art, Subversion II

 

Have you ever been somewhere – maybe a room in your house, a store, a public place, or at an event – and you became aware of something in your presence, but long after you arrived there?   You thought you could sense (see, feel, know, touch, or taste) all that was in front of you.  You were certain you were sensing everything that there was to sense, but then, either someone, something, or you brought your attention to something.

In an instant you saw, felt, or sensed something that you were unaware of.

You had no idea that person or object was there until it came into your awareness.  You were so sure that it was not there before!  It could not have been!  You were so confident that you were aware of everything around you!  But there it is.  There it was.  Right there beside you all along.  It was there, but somehow out of your awareness.

This is where our beloveds are.

The ones that passed away.  The ones who left without a trace.  The ones who left suddenly, tragically, or peacefully.  The ones who “left us behind.”  The ones who we loved more than anything.  The ones who we will always love.  The ones who we miss.  The ones to whom we said our last goodbye.  The ones who love us unconditionally.

They are here with us, just out of our awareness.

Our beloveds have never really left us.  And they certainly didn’t leave us behind.  For who they are, and who we are can never really be separated from one another.  Who they are is spirit eternal.  They are Life in the truest sense of the word.  Eternally connected to us in life, and after their body’s death.  Eternal Light.  Always and forever with us.

But just out of our awareness.

The Nourishment of Nature

“We often forget that WE ARE NATURE. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”

― Andy Goldsworthy

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strolling along the top ridge of Torrey Pines Nature Preserve here in SoCal

Hello friends!

I hope this finds you and yours well and at peace.  It’s been over 2 months since I last shared with you.  Life here has been, well, eye opening.  So much has happened in just two months!  I have so much that I want to share with you concerning aging animals, behavior, healing, animal companions, energy, and conscious communication!

But not today.

Considering the current state of affairs around the world I was inspired to share something that I believe we all need right now: Nature

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a cactus in bloom after the much-needed rain here in southern California

How’s your nature-intake-level?  Are you practicing the self care habit of unplugging from nightmarish news, and enjoying a hiatus of sensational social media?  I am. And it feels frigging GREAT.

When was the last time you headed out of the house for a walk in the woods?  Do you make time to smell the intoxicating scent of a freshly blooming rose?  Can you remember what it felt like the last time you sank your feet into the sand?  Have you ever hugged a tree? When was the last time you allowed yourself to really experience the gifts and healing powers of Mother Nature?

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Tree Hugging in Ireland!

Today we are less connected to Nature than ever before in human history. Our busy lifestyles and hectic schedules don’t allow us the freedom to find rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation in nature.

Yet that is exactly what we need.

My Cherokee ancestors knew that being in tune with our Mother Earth is one of the most powerful tools we have. Being in nature allows us to develop a more fulfilling, peaceful, and enlightened life.  Being In Tune with Nature allows for a deeper connection with all Life – including our animal companions and our fellow earth travelers.


If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my heartbeat.

-Vijali Hamilton


Nature Heals.

Nature Connects.

Nature Nourishes.

So why aren’t we out there on a daily basis? Are we making excuses for why we can’t be outside?  Are we disconnected from the purest source of nourishment? What takes our focus and time? Have we forgotten what nature has to offer us all?

We have never truly “lost” our connection to nature; we have forgotten how to engage it. When we fail to have reverence for nature and connect with the energies of all that nature encompasses we lose something valuable – our intimate connection with each other, with wildlife, with the Earth, and with All That Is.

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Sunset at our house

Nature is a refuge. She is solace. A teacher. A healer.  When we connect with nature we are connected to All Life.  We are open to receiving. We are able to giving.  We find balance. We are open to discovery, learning, healing, and enlightenment.

The reason is quite simple: We are part of nature; we are not separate from it.

But we often feel so disconnected.

When I appear to lose my connection, I appear to be separate from All that Is.
But when I am in nature I Am tuned in, tapped in, and turned on!

I become consciously awake.

Then I remember.
I laugh at my forgetfulness.
I give thanks.
Thanks for remembering the Truth.

I Am not *Part* of Nature.
I Am nature.
She is me.
The roaring winds
The turbulent seas
The peaceful sunset
The strong trees
They are me.

What I do to nature,
I am doing to me.

You are nature.
Nature is you.
All that you see is you.
The beauty.
The destruction.
The rebirth.

How we treat nature
How we view nature
How we give to nature
How we take from nature
It’s all a reflection of ourselves.

Interconnectedness.

We do not exist independently
We are not separate from everything else.

There is no “else”.
We are not separate from anyONE.
That belief, my fellow earth travelers, is the illusion.
A trick of the ego.
Untruth.
Harmful in every way.

We have forgotten the Truth.
But we can remember.

GO into nature.
Listen. Feel. Know.
Sit in silence.
Remember.

Let Nature heal you.

Let Nature inspire you.

Let Nature show you.

Be open to the miracles and magic.

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Sunset at Torrey Pines with brother Raven

Do not accept this little, fenced-off aspect as yourself.  The sun and ocean are as nothing beside what you are.  The sun beam sparkles only in the sunlight, and the ripple dances as it rests upon the ocean.  Yet in neither sun nor ocean is the power that rests in you.

– A Course In Miracles