Author: Pam

The Healing Moves in All Directions

The Healing Moves in All Directions

 

I shared distance Reiki sessions weekly for several months with Sid, a beautiful standard Schnauzer who was infected with cancer. During our first session, he had told me what his human had already sensed: that he did not want surgery.

 

His human and I agreed that the Reiki sessions were keeping him comfortable. His spirits were good, as was his appetite. He was at peace.

 

One evening after sharing a session with Sid, I sensed that I was being asked to lie down. And so I got out of my chair and lay on the floor.

 

Immediately, I felt Sid’s presence on my left side.

 

And then, on my right side, I felt the presence of my beloved Shambalah, my Earth-mother dog, who had passed several years earlier.

 

Both creatures placed their noses on my heart. I had been under a great deal of stress for several months, but all of that dissolved, flowed out of me. I was loved; I was floating; I was at peace.

 

 

 

Mondays this summer, I have been assisting with cookouts for homeless persons in my county, persons forced to sleep in their cars or in the woods or fields because the rotating shelters are closed for the summer. I have attended five or six times now, and while I am not required to attend each week, I look forward to it. I do not experience our time together as “helping the homeless” but as lunch with friends.

 

I have been moved by the strength and courage and dignity of the people I have met. They have lost just about everything, but they stand tall, greet us with open faces and hearts, and freely express their gratitude for the meals we share.

 

I have been particularly moved by one woman’s story. In 2008, she lost her job as an executive assistant at a chemical company that manufactured ingredients for paint. The company had suffered crippling losses due to the burst housing bubble and the decline in the auto industry. A large number of employees at her company were laid off.

 

She had unemployment for awhile; she had her savings. When it was all gone, she left her apartment. She told me that she hadn’t yet been asked to leave, but she was out of money, and there was no job in sight, so she just left.

 

I asked her what she did with her belongings. She said she donated them to the St. Vincent DePaul resale shop, a charity. She gave everything away.

 

Now, she is living in her car.

 

She applies for jobs almost daily. She is tired; her rail-thin body says she doesn’t get enough to eat. But her heart is filled with love for those around her and with gratitude for what she has. “Thank you,” she says, “for this meal. I don’t know what we would do without you.”

 

As we load up our cars to leave, the thank you’s come from all directions, the smiles, the hands raised in good-bye. See you next week. Take care. Be well.

 

No matter what is going on in my life, what stresses or hardships, I always leave this Monday cookout with an open heart.

 

I have learned, both from two-leggeds and four-leggeds, that gratefully receiving can be as important, as life-affirming, and as healing as giving.

 

I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

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The Divine Life of Animals

The Divine Life of Animals

 

 

I know that animals have a connection to the Divine because over the years the animals in my life have changed me: They have been my teachers, my healers, my guides; they have forced me to grow as a spiritual being.

 

I know because when I was 19 and lost, a white dog was left on my doorstep, a dog whose light shone so brightly, it burned a hole in my heart and saved me.

 

I know because 20 years later, a horse came to me in my sleep and set me on a new path, a horse I didn’t meet in the flesh for three years, who then turned me upside down, emptied me out and said, “You were headed over there; we are going this way, now.”

 

He brought me to my work with animals, assisted me with healings and with classes, and continues to do so, years after his passing from this world.

 

I know because 11 years ago, another white dog came into my life, told me she was mine, that she would teach me about my “wild nature.” When I resisted—because she was, after all, a little, white dog, she said, “You want a big, quiet dog.”

 

“Yes”, I said.

 

Her reply? “What will a big, quiet dog teach you about your wild nature?”

 

This little dog, Elika, is the beat of my heart. She assists me with my classes—or maybe it’s me who does the assisting. She has taught me to laugh more freely, to find joy in the ordinary, to play with wild abandon.

 

 

 

About 10 years ago, a woman called me for help with her cat, who had been urinating on the woman’s possessions—not her husband’s, only hers. The problem had become so severe—the cat had recently destroyed a shearling coat the woman’s husband had bought her for Christmas—that the woman was seriously considering relinquishing the cat to a shelter.

 

When I asked the cat about her behavior, she became indignant. She said that the woman had been treating her like a pet. She said that she was not a pet; she had come into the woman’s life as a guide and teacher. But the woman wasn’t listening. The cat was trying everything she could to get the woman’s attention.

 

I shared this with the woman, and shared ways of opening her heart so that she could hear what her cat was saying. Two weeks later, the woman called me back. She said she’d been sitting on the couch with her cat every evening, listening. She was deeply moved by this experience. She didn’t share with me what they said to each other, but the peeing on her belongings had stopped.

 

 

 

Leroy, a beautiful but severely underweight Belgian draft horse, was rescued by a woman in Connecticut. He had been an Amish work horse, worked until he was just about used up, and then sent to a feedlot—the first stop on the way to the slaughterhouse.

 

At his new home, he stood immobile, completely turned in on himself. He refused to eat or drink or join the small herd. He would not allow the woman, who had rescued many horses and knew what she was doing, to touch him.

 

When I shared my Reiki hands with Leroy, I was almost overcome by the density of his grief. He had given up. He was all alone, lost.

 

When I spoke with him, I apologized for the way he had been treated. I promised him that he would never, ever have to work again, that this was his forever home, that he was safe, that he was loved.

 

But by the end of the session, he had completely given up his grief; he had allowed himself to let go of all of the abuse he had suffered in the past. He allowed himself to step into the light of the present. His human caregiver was able to touch his shoulder. He ate. He joined the herd.

 

Leroy only lived for nine months more. One morning, he simply died. I will never forget him. He taught me how easy, how incredibly easy it is to walk away from pain and not look back.

 

 

 

After my beloved Nikos died, the horse who awakened me one night and led me to this work, I didn’t work for several months. I was devastated and needed to heal before I could assist others.

 

The first horse I worked with, Mikey, was living with my friend and hoof trimmer, Erika. She had rescued Mikey the day after I had to put my Nikos down. Ownership of Mikey had been in dispute in a divorce case, and the judge had ordered the horse put down. Nikos, at about the time of  his death, told Erika to rescue Mikey.

 

So several months after Nikos’ death, standing in Erika’s barn, I began to work with Mikey’s body and to explain what I was doing. But very quickly, I found I was unable to speak. My words felt like wet clay in my mouth; I was speaking in slow motion. I remember a brightness above Mikey’s head. When I found my voice again, and looked at Mikey, my work was done. His neck, which had been pencil thin from muscle tension, had released and was full and strong. The tension in his back was gone. And his coat, which had been a dull brown, was now brightened with red.

 

“What happened?” I said.

 

Erika answered, “Nikos was here.”

 

 

 

One summer afternoon, when I was still living in Chicago, I took a walk to the lake. As I sat on the rocks, I noticed a creature swimming in circles just off the shore. I dismissed it as a duck, but there are no ducks in Lake Michigan. I soon realized it was an injured seagull, its broken wing dragging behind him. I could not bear the thought of him dying alone, and so I spoke with him and asked him to follow me to the beach about half a mile away, the beach where I knew a flock of seagulls lived.

 

He followed me—he in the water, me on the rocks along the shore—staying a few feet behind me. There were obstacles along the way that I helped him to navigate. When I got too far ahead, I would sit and wait for him to catch up. He would pull up beside me, face me, treading water. Then we would continue, and he would drop behind me again.

 

It took us close to an hour to reach the beach. When we got there, he ran up on shore, his wing dragging. My instinct was to move towards him, but he ran me off. I spoke with a young lifeguard who was going off shift in a few minutes, and who promised to ask his boss what to do. I knew that by the time I got home, researched who to call, called, and got someone out there, the chances of evening finding the bird were slim. He was a kind young man. I trusted that he would do the right thing.

 

That night, as I sat at my computer, writing, I felt a strong presence in the room, a presence demanding that I get up from my desk, go into the living room, sit on my couch, and lay my Reiki hands on his body. It was the seagull, Sydney.

 

I shared a treatment. And he left.

 

The next night, at the same time, he came again. And I shared my Reiki hands again.

 

The third night, at the same time, he came again. This time, instead of just leaving when he had received what he’d come for, I saw him spread his wings and flap them with great power. Then he was gone. I knew that I would not see him again.

 

Up until that moment, I had been a person who struggled with needing answers to questions that could not be answered. But Sydney changed that for me. I didn’t know if his wing had mended or if he had died. I didn’t know if he had died days before. I would never know what happened to him. But I knew that he was healed.

 

 

 

I know that animals have a connection to the Divine because the things they teach us, share with us, have nothing to do with money or power or prestige or even recognition. The things they teach us

 

Compassion

Patience

Loyalty

Courage

Forgiveness

Respect

Joy

Gratitude

 

 

these are all faces of the Divine. The animals teach us that they are reflections of the Divine. And, if we listen, they teach us that we are, too.

 

I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

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Tomorrow

Tomorrow

Chorioptic mange, from mites, the kind that jump species. The goats gave it to the horses, who gave it to me. The vet didn’t believe the horses had mites; he insisted they had a bug allergy. This didn’t make sense to me since the goats had the same symptoms, and now my head was starting to itch.

 

Three hundred, thirty-five dollars later, and a call to a specialist, he had to concede that the culprits were mites. I treated the horses; the goat owner treated the goats. The next day, the insides of my arms erupted in red blisters.

 

During this same couple of weeks, I was dealing with a woman whose barn I was supposed to be moving into weeks ago. It’s a sweet place, with a large indoor arena and, if I ever get there, I’ll have the place all to myself. But I can’t move in until fence repairs are done, and for weeks she hasn’t moved forward on them.

 

Each week, I called to check on the progress and listened to her say that she hadn’t called about the fence posts yet. She was too busy. There was a dog show to get ready for. A friend was coming to visit. Her car broke down. Her life was a wreck. My stomach in knots, I offered to do it for her. I called around, found the best price. She said her guy would be out last Sunday to do the work. He didn’t show.

 

He was supposed to show today. He did. The posts had been delivered. Everything was ready to go. He walked around a couple of minutes and then announced that he can’t do it. The ground is too hard. He needs machinery. Well, yes. We are in a drought. Six weeks ago, the ground was fine. Now it’s like cement.

 

I was supposed to move my horses yesterday. I have three bales of hay in the barn where they currently live. I have cancelled a hay delivery to the new barn twice.

 

I have spent the past two weeks searching for another place.

 

I wore the insecticide cream for 15 hours, as directed. The mites should be dead. But the once-blistered patches burn like fire.

 

Today, we of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Woodstock, IL, said goodbye to our interim minister. The Rev. Jennifer Slade is one of the most loving, compassionate, intelligent, powerful women I have ever met. She touched my heart in ways that I will never forget. My heart aches to see her leave.

 

I came home and took a long nap. When I woke up, there were still tears. My beloved dog, Elika, licked them away, washed my whole face, laid her little head across my neck.

 

We took a short walk, because the heat is too intense for our normally long one. When we got back, I began to make calls.

 

Tomorrow, I will make a big tossed salad and take it to the weekly cookout for homeless persons that my congregation has organized. We will eat and talk and laugh; we will listen to music and play with the children. I will give thanks that I have a place to live, that I have the opportunity, if only for a few hours, to make someone’s life a little brighter.

 

 

 

 

I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

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Nurturing the Spirit with Play

Nurturing the Spirit with Play

 

 

“The Spirituality of Play” was the title of the sermon given by the Reverend Jennifer Slade at last week’s service at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in McHenry, Illinois. Spirituality/Play/Sermon? These three words may not seem to quite fit together.

 

But the sermon, mind you, was only partly spoken. The rest was sung—yes, Broadway show tunes, including “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music and a wonderful song from You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, with Rev. Slade leaned against the piano in a perfect imitation of the love struck Lucy, singing to the intense and indifferent Schroeder.

 

The message was to fill your life with joy, to step outside the box, to take risks, to not worry about what others may think.

 

Rev. Slade truly walked the walk.

 

Play can take so many forms, from building a sand castle with your daughter on the edge of the beach, packing the wet sand into buckets, to competing in a strenuous sport that pushes your body past what you thought was its limit, to allowing yourself to create something, anything: music, poetry, food, an idea, a class, a community.

 

Much has been written about the healing power of laughter and of music and of art. There are art therapy classes and music therapy classes; there are even laughter workshops because people seem to have forgotten how to laugh!

 

There are therapeutic riding centers where physically, mentally, or emotionally challenged persons can find joy on the back of a horse. Trained dogs (and in some places, miniature horses) visit the elderly in nursing homes, the sick in hospitals, spreading joy, taking one out of oneself for awhile.

 

And this is the essence of play: losing oneself in moments of happiness.

 

But, you may be saying, what does any of this have to do with spirituality?

 

Here is what the 14th century Sufi mystic Hafiz said on the subject:

 

Laughter

What is laughter? What is laughter?
It is God waking up! O it is God waking up!
It is the sun poking its sweet head out
From behind a cloud
You have been carrying too long,
Veiling your eyes and heart.

It is Light breaking ground for a great Structure
That is your Real body – called Truth.

It is happiness applauding itself and then taking flight
To embrace everyone and everything in this world.

Laughter is the polestar
Held in the sky by our Beloved,
Who eternally says,

“Yes, dear ones, come this way,
Come this way towards Me and Love!

Come with your tender mouths moving
And your beautiful tongues conducting songs
And with your movements – your magic movements
Of hands and feet and glands and cells – Dancing!

Know that to God’s Eye,
All movement is a Wondrous Language,
And Music – such exquisite, wild Music!”

O what is laughter, Hafiz?
What is this precious love and laughter
Budding in our hearts?

It is the glorious sound
Of a soul waking up!

 

 

Play indeed nourishes the soul. How will you invite more play, more laughter, more joy into your life?

 

 I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

If you have received this post via email, just click on the title to respond.

 

Lucky Two

Lucky Two

 

 

When I walked into the barn that evening, Nancy, who owns the property where I keep my horses, was staring up into the hay loft. I was surprised to see her there, as she’s usually finished feeding and cleaning up after her two goats (Nibbles and Nana) by the time I get there to care for my Tara and Fuersti. I rarely see Nancy. To be honest, this elderly woman hasn’t been very pleasant to me the five months my horses have shared space with her goats. (Oh, and what an event their first meeting was. The goats had been raised with horses and loved their company. When I brought my horses to the property, the goats approached them with what looked like joy, but my Fuersti was so terrified that he stood glued to the spot, trembling. I’d never seen anything like it.)

 

So Nancy was in the barn staring up at the hay loft (which is empty by the way; we both keep our hay on solid ground). When she heard me come in, she turned, shaded her eyes from the early evening sun beaming in through the front door, and mumbled something about her stubborn cat.

 

Nancy has two barn cats, a white one whose name I don’t remember and a black one, Lucky Two. (Why Lucky? Because Nancy rescued him from a bad situation. Why Two? Well, there had been another Lucky, also rescued from unpleasantness. Nancy is very good to critters; it’s people she seems to have a bit of a problem with.) Lucky was the one staring down from the hay loft, meowing his fool head off.

 

“He won’t come down,” she said, not amused. Each evening, Nancy puts the cats in a room on the side of the barn to keep them safe from coyotes. It’s a good-sized room, with food and water, a clean litter box, several cat beds, and a window they can sit in and survey the yard. It’s rarely a problem getting the cats to go into their room; they just follow Nancy to the door and go in, anticipating their dinner.

 

But this silly critter (who’s lucky now?) was apparently stuck in the hay loft. He’d lived at Nancy’s place for a year and a half and had never ventured up there before, but there he was. Beneath the loft were two large bales of hay stacked on top of each other. I threw a small bale on top of them, climbed up, and tried to get Lucky down, but I couldn’t quite reach him. Another bale might have brought me close enough, but I’m not a fan of heights—or of falling onto a concrete floor backwards—so I got down.

 

Nancy figured Lucky would get down on his own. I wasn’t so sure, as his previous caregivers (and I use the term loosely) had removed his front claws. If he did manage to get down, we’d just have to hope he had the sense to stay in the barn, to not go out prowling and become coyote food.

 

When I got to the barn the next morning, Lucky was still in the hay loft, meowing pitifully. I carried on a conversation with him the whole time I was there. I told him that Nancy would be having someone come over that day to get him down (which she had told me she would do if he didn’t get down himself).

 

But that evening, Lucky was still in the hay loft. I couldn’t believe it. I started stressing that this old woman was just going to leave this poor cat up there!

 

Long story short, it turns out that Lucky had been retrieved from the loft earlier that day and then had gone back up. He was retrieved from the hay loft two additional times over the next few days: once by the woman who delivered my hay and once from some folks from the Conservation District who were tending a native plant garden on Nancy’s property. After each rescue and a  night in the cat room, Lucky climbed back up.

 

After the third rescue followed by “Oh, I think I’ll climb up here again and cry pitifully until someone gets me down,” Nancy had had enough. She called me at home (which she never does; it seems she goes out of her way to avoid me, sometimes leaving me unfriendly notes, like the one telling me to put my baling twine in my own garbage, followed by removing the garbage barrel from the barn). She said, very nicely—as I had initiated two of the rescues—to leave Lucky up there. “He’s a smart cat,” she said. He can get down. If he’s up there for two days, we’ll have to do something, but leave him there for now.”

 

“OK,” I said. “I won’t do anything unless you ask me to.”

 

That evening, when I went to the barn, Lucky was still up in the hay loft, meowing as though he had been abandoned by every living creature on earth. Instead of carrying on a conversation with him, asking him to come down, telling him how sorry I was that he was caught up there, promising to get him some help but asking him to try, I simply said, “No one is going to help you. You have to get down yourself.” Then I turned away and ignored him.

 

Fifteen minutes later, the darned cat was down, standing by the barn door, waiting for me to walk him to the cat room and let him in, which I did.

 

I wrote Nancy a note about what had happened. She responded, “Yippee! Cat smarts and human smarts have saved the day.” Yippee? Who was this woman, this writer of friendly notes?

 

As you might expect, although I have to admit that I did not, Lucky climbed up in the hay loft a couple more times over the next few days, and cried pitifully when I walked into the barn. But when I told him he was on his own, he somehow, miraculously found his way down. The last time, he hit the ground with a bit of a thud. I’m thinking he may find some other way to amuse himself now—at least for awhile.

 

Since the week-long drama of the goofy (but very sweet) barn cat, Nancy has begun to speak to me, even smile at me. Which makes me wonder if Lucky Two isn’t actually even smarter than either of us women thought.

 

I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

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Which Voice is It?

Which Voice is It?

 

 

Re-examine all you have been told.

Dismiss what insults your soul.

    – Walt Whitman

 

In my last post (That Inner Voice), I talked about listening to, trusting, and acting on your inner voice. At the end, I asked this question:

So my question to you—horse people and dog people and cat people, all people—is this: Do you do your own research? Do you weigh alternatives? Do you listen to your inner voice? Or do you follow the crowd, make snap judgments based on emotion, follow the advice of the “experts” even when you know they’re wrong?

This was one response, from Sue:

I ask questions and I do my own research because it’s what I’m driven to do by nature and by training. I question the vet, I question my doctor (and if she’s really unlucky she gets 10-16 pages of research to read for her edification), and I don’t necessarily accept what I read at face value, either. I listen to my inner voice–and I also have to discern whether it’s my authentic inner wisdom speaking or whether it’s fear posing as my inner voice.

 

Ah, fear. The great destroyer.

Of course, fear isn’t always a bad thing. It’s that voice inside of you that says, “STOP! That’s really dangerous; you could seriously hurt yourself if you do it!”

But how many times has fear prevented you from doing something that would introduce you to a new experience or a new idea, something that would help you to stretch and grow, to nourish your mind, your soul?

The woman I talked about in “That Inner Voice” said she knew that barefoot was best for horses but that she couldn’t take her horses barefoot until her vet realized it was best. She said she hoped he’d catch on soon. I was stunned by this and wondered why she would not have acted on her knowledge and conviction.

Sue’s post got me thinking about fear and the part it may have played in this woman’s failure to act on her inner wisdom. I came up with a few possible reasons she succumbed to fear, reasons that I have at one time or another experienced myself:

 

Fear of being wrong and of either hurting your animal or—the more likely fear—of looking foolish

Fear of being different and, consequently, scorned or ridiculed by your peers

Fear of being abandoned by those in authority, such as the vet,  whose approval, and services, you don’t want to lose

 

So how can you determine whether what you are hearing is your “authentic inner wisdom speaking or whether it’s fear posing as [your] inner voice”?

The animals have taught me a great deal about this. Coupled with my Reiki training, the animals have taught me how to maintain my inner balance, to keep my center still, so that I can think not only with my mind, but with mind and heart together.

I have learned to recognize the first, tiny pricks of fear, which start deep in my belly. Recognizing the fear, I take steps to address it: by breathing, centering, and asking myself what it is that I am truly afraid of—the big fear, the one underneath the little fear. Writing about it can often help or talking to a friend or taking a walk in the woods or sitting on the shore of a lake.

When I am hearing my true inner voice, I sometimes get chills down my neck or an expansive feeling in my chest, as though it is filling with fresh, sweet air. My mind, having done its job of research and inquiry, lets go of the information, and I experience a quiet, solid knowing.

My horses have helped me to more clearly hear my inner voice. I am forced to be calm around them. Prey animals, horses are acutely aware of their surroundings. If I am stressed, they will become stressed. If I am anxious, they will become anxious. If I am fearful, they will become fearful.

The same is true of my Elika, a high-energy little dog. If I become stressed, she mirrors that stress. If I become anxious, she becomes concerned that she should be anxious, too.

And so the animals that share my life have taught me to slow down, to center, to be aware of my thoughts and my emotions. Doing so has helped me to calm the static, to acknowledge and confront fear, the noise that can keep me from hearing my inner voice.

My animal clients have taught me that if I am to hear them accurately, I have to calm my mind, have to listen with my heart. This exercise in calm, quiet, non-judgmental listening has helped me to more clearly hear my own inner voice as well.

 

How about you? Are you aware when fear may be clouding your judgment? Do you know when you are listening to your authentic inner voice?

 

I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

If you have received this post via email, just click on the title to respond.

 

 

 

 

That Inner Voice

That Inner Voice

 

The “Huge” Tack Sale

 

A few years ago, forgetting that I’m not a shopper, I drove for 40 minutes to get to a “huge” tack shop sale in a wealthy suburb of Chicago.

 

I tend to get overwhelmed by large amounts of stuff, and so I avoid department stores, big box stores, and huge sales. But I convinced myself that being surrounded by horsey stuff would be different.

 

It wasn’t.

 

And because this was a “huge” sale, the store, which was ordinarily pretty upscale (which is why I wanted to take advantage of the sale), had shipped in tables and racks and more tables full of cheap t-shirts and baseball caps and socks—all with some kind of horsey image, of course—stuff they didn’t ordinarily stock.

 

I quickly made the rounds, realized that, even with the sale, I still couldn’t afford most of what was in the store and that I didn’t really need anything anyway, picked out a t-shirt that I kind of liked—so that I wouldn’t have driven nearly an hour and a half with nothing to show for it—and got into the humongous, slow-moving line.

 

While I was musing about whether I should just chalk up the wasted time to a lesson learned and not waste any more, the woman ahead of me mumbled something about the line, and we struck up a conversation. About horses, of course.

 

If you’re a horse person, you know that horse lovers who are complete strangers can talk for hours about horses, can talk as though they’ve been friends for years even when they don’t know each other’s names. Dog people and cat people can strike up conversations about their four-legged companions, too, of course.

 

But with horse people, it’s different. We tend to get down to the nitty-gritty of care and training pretty quickly, almost as though we have to convince each other that our way is best. Maybe this is because we all have a dark suspicion that we have no idea what we are doing.

 

I’m a firm believer in listening to your inner voice, trusting your instincts. Education is very important, too, of course. Lots of fabulous folks over the centuries have worked with horses; there is no need to reinvent the wheel. But sometimes the advice of the experts isn’t always right.

 

At the Barn

 

That fact came to mind today when my horses’ hoof trimmer came to take care of their feet. Fuersti, my gelding, and Tara, his half sister, live outside with a shelter. I only bring them into the barn and put them in stalls to feed them and so they can wait for their hoof trimmer. (Whether or not horses should be caged in barns is one of the issues horse people argue about. My inner voice says that horses, who we love for the beauty of their movement and who need to move to stay healthy and sane, should not be confined any more than they are already confined with fences.)

 

I walked into Fuersti’s stall and asked him to lower his head so that I could put the rope halter on, attached to a lead rope. Ordinarily, this is a non-event. He lowers his head, I put the halter on, and we walk out of the stall.

 

But today, for reasons only Fuersti knows, he wanted to dance around, bob his head up and down, and just generally act like a clown. I asked again, he danced and bobbed more. I backed him up a few steps and was going to ask again, when I changed my mind and said, “OK, then forget it, Fuersti.”

 

To his total surprise, I walked out of the stall, closed the door, and went to get his sister out of her stall. Fuersti’s eyes got wide. He stood completely still. But it was too late. I was gone. He called after me. Too bad, buddy.

 

I said to my trimmer, You know, I’ve heard so many trainers say that you can’t train horses this way, that they aren’t like dogs. (Which is true, of course; they are nothing like dogs.) When a horse acts up, many will say that you need to reestablish your leadership role. But with Fuersti, if you ignore him, he immediately gets the message and straightens up his act.

 

Fuersti stood quietly in his stall while his sister was trimmed. When it was his turn, he lowered his head, allowed me to put on his halter, and quietly walked out of the stall.

 

He had to clown around a little bit while he was being trimmed—because he is, at heart, a clown and because he adores his trimmer and simply has to flirt and show off—but for the most part, he behaved well.

 

My horses don’t wear shoes. Their feet are trimmed by a highly trained barefoot trimmer, who understands how the equine foot is put together and how it works. Whether or not horses should have metal nailed to their hooves is, unbelievably, another issue that horse people argue about (although not as much in recent years, as more and more horse people are learning about hoof mechanics). This brings us back to woman in line at the huge tack sale, which you probably thought I’d forgotten about.

 

Back at the Sale

 

So I’m chatting about horses with the woman in front of me in line, and somehow we get on the topic of feet; I don’t remember why or how. But here’s the amazing part: I told her that my horses go barefoot, and she said she knew that was best, had no doubt about it at all, but that her vet still thought that horses needed shoes. She said she wished her vet would come to understand that barefoot was best so that she could take her horse barefoot!

 

The rest of the wait in line was no problem for me because, stupefied, I had fallen down, cracked my head, knocked myself out, and not come to until it was my turn at the register.

 

No, not really.

 

What really happened is that I asked the woman why her vet had to say it was OK to do something that she knew was best for her horse. She looked at me in utter disbelief.

 

 

My Question

 

So my question to you—horse people and dog people and cat people, all people—is this: Do you do your own research? Do you weigh alternatives? Do you listen to your inner voice? Or do you follow the crowd, make snap judgments based on emotion, follow the advice of the “experts” even when you know they’re wrong?

 

This is a sincere question. Really.

 

 

I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

 If you have received this post via email, just click on the title to respond.

 

 

 

 

What Reiki is Not

What Reiki is Not

 

 

Last week, a woman “Liked” my Winged Horse Healing Facebook page and promptly posted a spam message advertising retreats that she offers where, according to her, the horses are the Reiki masters.

After I got over my brief flash of annoyance that a so-called Reiki master (which she claimed to be as well) would spam another professional’s page, I got to thinking about this notion that horses, any animals, can be Reiki masters.

Eleven years ago, my sweet dog Elika came into my life. I was told that she was mine (although, at the time, I didn’t want a little, white dog) and that she would assist me with healings and with my Reiki classes. She came to me two weeks before I taught my first class and has taught every class with me since then. She is an amazing teacher. I cannot imagine teaching without her.

My Nikos, the bay Thoroughbred who was my equine partner for six years, the being who led me to this work and who told me that Elika was mine, was a masterful teacher. With the most subtle movements of his body, barely noticeable, he could redirect a student’s focus.

Nikos also assisted me with healings when he was alive and continues to do so although he passed from this earth six years ago. Elika assists me with healings every day. My horses, Tara and Fuersti, assist me with healings and classes as well.

But my beloved animal companions are not Reiki masters.

Some years ago, a friend came to my house for an overnight retreat. She was going through a rough time and just needed to get away to the country to catch her breath. She was anxious and ill at ease when she arrived, and so I suggested she go upstairs to the guest room and take my Elika with her, that she spend a little peaceful time while I began preparing dinner.

She didn’t come back down for nearly an hour. When she did, she said that Elika had followed her into the room and insisted on sitting in her lap, and then lying on her chest. (Elika is not, by the way, a lap dog.) When my friend, who is a Reiki master, came downstairs for dinner, her mood was lighter; she was smiling; she was less anxious; she was hungry. She marveled aloud at Elika’s healing power.

 

My Co-Teacher & Healer, Elika

 

Animals have a tremendous capacity to heal. An animal lover yourself, you already know this. Our beloved animals are especially gifted at healing emotional wounds. And, if we listen, they are powerful teachers as well.

But they are not Reiki masters.

A few years ago, I met a man who owned a martial arts school. He was well respected in the community. Several of my Reiki students had been taking classes from him for years. He told me that he, like me, did Reiki. I asked him what level he had studied to. He said he’d never taken a class, that he’d taught himself. I told him he wasn’t doing Reiki. He—the person who had never taken a class and who could not explain to me what Reiki is—disagreed. Oy.

My point here is not to be grouchy—really. My point is that there are many, many paths to healing. Each of us has the capacity not only for self-healing but to assist others in their healing process. Each of us can lay our hands, or our heads, on the body of another being and bring peace.

Too often, Reiki is used as a generic term for “energy healing.” But Reiki is a specific spiritual practice. It is not a religion; people of many faiths are Reiki practitioners. But it is a practice that involves an attunement by a Reiki master for each of the three levels, that involves an understanding of the Reiki precepts (or principles), and that—most importantly—involves a commitment to daily self-healing. It is through this daily practice that the practitioner truly comes to understand the beauty and power of Reiki.

If everything is Reiki, then nothing is Reiki. True Reiki practice is then both misunderstood and cheapened.

And so, while the animals are powerful teachers, powerful healers, and while I cannot imagine conducting a class without them—one can see that they are not Reiki masters. They have their own path, their own method of healing, one that I would dearly love to understand but that I will, for now, have to be satisfied with having experienced.

 

I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

If you have received this post via email, just click on the title to respond.

 

If you would like to learn more about Reiki, this page on my website is one place you could begin: http://wingedhorsehealing.com/wordpress/?page_id=828

 

 

 

 

Look into My Eyes

Look into My Eyes

 

 

In the photo, the matador is decked out in white and gold, pink socks, red cape. He is sitting on a ledge in the arena, his head and eyes downcast.

The bull, his flesh pierced with multiple, brightly colored spikes, stands several feet away from his torturer, his nose extended towards the man. The animal’s eyes and posture look soft. I am struck by his apparent concern for the man.

The caption reads:

“And suddenly, I looked at the bull. He had this innocence that all animals have in their eyes, and he looked at me with this pleading. It was like a cry for justice, deep down inside of me. I describe it as being like a prayer – because if one confesses, it is hoped, that one is forgiven. I felt like the worst shit on earth.”

This photo shows the collapse of Torrero Alvaro Munera, as he realized in the middle of the his last fight… the injustice to the animal. From that day forward he became an opponent of bullfights.

 

This photo traveled like lightening on the Internet. I myself, deeply moved by both the photo and the message, posted it on my  Winged Horse Healing Facebook page.

Those of you reading this are already animal lovers; you would not think of torturing and slaying an animal for sport. Because you are humans, however, you have probably at one time or another become angry with an animal companion, raised your voice or said something unkind. Then, seeing the confusion in your animal’s eyes, you have apologized.

But what of the animals whose confused or painful gaze we don’t see? What of the animals confined to factory farms, who never see the light of day, many of whom who cannot turn around in their tiny cages or who cannot lie down in comfort? And what of the animals in the wild whose territory we humans continue to encroach on? We take over the land of the coyote, build along the habitat of the alligator, and then shoot them when they come into our yards. We round up our wild horses, shoot our wolves from the air because they, quite simply, are in the way of our human business.

What would happen if each of us looked into the eyes of an animal, literally or in our minds, and saw into his soul?

What if we walked around in the body of an animal for awhile, looked at the world from her eyes?

What would happen if each of us looked into the eyes of other humans, especially humans we disagree with or feel threatened by, looked deeply into their eyes and recognized our shared humanity, recognized the light of the Divine?

 

Today, wanting to learn more about the torrero (not yet a matador) who changed from torturer to animal rights advocate, I did a Google search on Alvaro Munera. I learned that Munera quit bullfighting because he was gravely injured by a bull who tossed him across the bull ring, severing several of his vertebrae and putting him into a wheelchair for the rest of his life. He was only 18 at the time. The photo, it seems is not even a photo of Munera. The article and the photo are here:

http://fiskeharrison.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/this-photo-is-not-what-it-seems/

 

On another site, in an interview, Munera says he wanted to quit the ring twice as a young teen, but was discouraged from doing so. The interviewer did not ask him about the photo, so I can only surmise that it had not surfaced yet.

Facts matter. Journalistic integrity matters. Hoaxes spreading like wildfire on the Internet are a problem.

Yet, the meaningful message is that Alvaro Munera no longer tortures animals. He now advocates for them. For whatever reason, something in him shifted. He was able to see the world from the perspective of a living being whose perspective had once meant nothing to him. Surely, this shift in him has made the world a better place.

And so I ask again, what would happen if we made the effort to look into the eyes of other beings—two-legged, four-legged, eight-legged, winged, finned—and recognized each being’s simple wish for peace?

 

I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

If you have received this post via email, just click on the title to respond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Picture of Health

The Picture of Health

 

My skull hurts.

It’s March 15 in Northern Illinois, it’s nearly 80 outside, and I have the worst case of the flu that I can ever remember having.

I’ve been flat on my back for two days, except when I drag myself into my car, drive the six minutes to the barn, and feed my horses. We only recently moved there, so I don’t have anyone to fill in for me. The elder woman whos property it is is too unsteady on her feet to help, and I don’t think she’d want to even if she could. Sad.

But a beautiful neighbor, 15-year-old Ashley, walked my Elika this afternoon. She’d walked her for three days last summer when I was tied up at a horse fair, talking about Reiki, about Animal Communicatio. I’d wished Elika could come with me, but of course she couldn’t. Ashley was a godsend. A lovely girl, home schooled, who smashed all of my bigoted perceptions about the home-schooled. It’s good to be reminded that we can be wrong. I relish that.

Today is Thursday. This bug hit me on Monday night. I was working on my taxes, getting the numbers together so I could hand them off to my accountant, and I felt a tickle in my chest. Uh-oh, I thought. What the heck is that?

By morning, I knew. I was drenched in sweat, every muscle in my body ached, and I had a wracking cough. On the front page of the Chicago Tribune, a story warned of a nasty flu bug that had hit the area: fever, chills, muscle spasms (muscle spasms?), wracking cough. They said it could last up to a week.

I never pay attention to stories like that, with their drama. I figured I’d be fine in a day or two. I was a perplexed that I’d even gotten sick to begin with, though. I rarely get sick. And when I do, when I feel something coming on, like a tickle in the chest, I go to bed and sleep it off. Not this time.

Then I remembered. Two years ago, as the result of an accident with one of my horses, a freak accident—it absolutely was not his fault—I ended up with five broken ribs and a fractured spleen. The ribs healed. The spleen had to go.

The surgeon assured me that adults don’t need their spleens. He was a nice guy, and he’d saved my life (if my spleen had ruptured, I could have bled to death in a matter of minutes), but I wasn’t buying this. I didn’t imagine  that the Divine just inserted extra body parts into us for the heck of it. Then he said that if I ever got a sore throat, I should immediately go to the doctor for a throat culture because when you didn’t have a spleen, sore throats could quickly turn into Strep.

This didn’t make sense to me either. What was so special about sore throats? You either needed your spleen or you didn’t. And how could a simple sore throat turn into Strep? Wasn’t that a specific bacteria? I may not have heard him correctly, of course. I was drugged to the nines after begin sliced open—30 staples—and I already told you about the broken ribs.

The acupuncturist I went to for help reducing the swelling in my optic nerves (my head hit a wall hard enough to knock me out; I hadn’t been wearing a helmet because I wasn’t riding) told me the spleen is part of the immune system.

So yesterday, lying in sweat—and yes, I got those muscle spasms; as I lay on the couch, my legs were jumping four or five inches in the air; I kid you not—not even able to open the window and get a cool March breeze because we’ve messed up the weather so much it’s July in March, I figured that, while I’d been able to continue fighting off infections even after I’d lost my spleen, when exposed to a super bug, I didn’t really have a fighting chance.

I’d gotten sick in December, too, upper respiratory. I thought it was due to stress, and breathing a huge amount of sand dust in a cruddy riding arena. But now I realized that I’d been exposed to hacking, sneezing, nose-blowing people both in December and for the past couple of weeks. What had happened? I’d joined a church!  A church!

So what’s the moral of this story? I’m too sick to know for sure. Here are a couple:

Please, when you’re sick, STAY HOME. Don’t spread your viruses around, some of us have compromised immune systems, and even if we didn’t for heaven’s sake use some common sense.

And when you’re well, give thanks, every single day for your good health.

 

 I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.

If you have received this post via email, just click on the title to respond.