I hope this finds you and yours well in all ways. As we move through these intense times and energetic upswings, I would like to share something we created last month. It’s a short meditation-y video message that came through after enjoying a nature adventure with Hocus and Mr. Beaux.
“Each soul you meet is an aspect of yourself, clamoring for love.” ― Eric Micha’el Leventhal
Wherever you find yourself at this moment in time, know that everyone calls for love as you do; the form may vary greatly, but we are all calling for love. Know also that you are here on purpose, for a purpose. If you are floundering to find out what that role is, know that you do have one. Trust. Flow. Allow. Observe. See what unfolds. Your Soul Knows.
And our soul also knows we are All a thread in a grand tapestry.
The idea that we are a mere thread in a larger grand tapestry may be easy to embrace to some, but what happens when we extend this idea to every being around us. Can we accept that every living being has a role to play? Can we set aside our myopic view and choose to becoming open to seeing the big picture? Can we set aside our judgement and accept every being? Can we see each soul as a single thread weaving through the tapestry of life?
What would change if you knew that every being has a role to play? How would life unfold if you knew that each thread mattered? What if every being was a divine thread weaving their way? Would you see them and yourself in a new Light?
This has been a poignant lesson lately. My hope is to plant the seeds of remembering Who we All are, and that we are not at really separate and at odds with one another; we are all co-creating a beautiful tapestry as One.
“All differences in this world are of degree, and not of kind, because oneness is the secret of everything.” ― Swami Vivekananda
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.
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.
“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:
positive and negative behaviors
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Being An Extension of Love
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.
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
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 videos below describes what I am talking about.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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.
“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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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