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‘… release all desire for specific agendas, befriend nature, open our hearts to a new kind of love, and see what happens.’

It is said that winter exemplifies the art of letting go, leaves have fallen and blooms not yet active. “Let go” is often referenced, yet what does it really mean? To find a definitions, I googled it and the lyrics to a song from Frozen were all that came up. For me, conditioned or true, the phrase has a painful feel of loss to it. Perhaps, it’s the word ‘go’ which sounds as though everything will take leave. I’ve come to prefer the word release. It implies an opening, a freedom. If we release that which is still appropriate for us, it doesn’t go anywhere, it is simply no longer tethered to us by invisible clinging. Back to the tree analogy. A tree releases its leaves, so that when the time is right the leaf does in fact fall, yet it typically lands just above the roots to decompose and nourish the tree’s future growth.

Last night Z, my dog, and I were walking down the driveway in the dark. The road was pure ice. Z had gone running off in excitement because we were headed to the neighbor’s where her ‘bffs’ live. I heard some scuffling and thought maybe Z and slipped on ice. I continued walking and also to hear the shuffling, so I turned on my phone’s flashlight and asked Z if she was ok. As the words came out of my mouth, a huge bird flew off the branch just above my head. It was slow and had food in its talons. Being that it was dark, my guess is that it was owl, which we have plenty of in the neighborhood. That said, it certainly wasn’t silent—as owls usually are, so perhaps a hawk. Either way, it brought me a great sense of honor—the kind the human world rarely does. Why? I don’t totally know the answer. It does touch a primal aspect of me that is deep and old. This facet of self is the one I hope to inspire awakening, for it knows the truth that humans are simply one part of a whole organism we call Earth.

In 2011, I did a month-long solo road trip. Solo meaning alone in the car, not alone the entire time traveling. I went to a conference and camped among 100s of women, having the pleasure of meeting some lovely ladies whom I’m still in contact with. While I had freeze-dried coffee to make wherever and whenever, I also went in to the coffee shop of most towns. The perfect way to get a feel for what a place is about, especially reading the bulletin boards. (Since then, I’ve had the idea of traveling the country stopping at coffee shops each day. Somehow weaving a story about the variety of people met along the way—similarities, differences and that one common thread.) Also, I met up with friends—new and old. Additionally, there were long stretches of time when I was my only company. That time was spent mostly writing, partly visiting the idea of fiction. Doing so intrigues me, yet I’m not sure of my patience and dedication to work through the large quantity of bad stories needed to reach a level of competency that feels worthy of my taste. That aside, for a week I sat and slept next to the Intercoastal Waterway, just north of Charleston, SC. This whole trip was spent sleeping outside; no tent, just out under the stars. Photo below shows where my sleeping bag sat during this stop, where upon waking I opened my eyes to witness extraordinary sunrises. During the day, I sat next to a tree that hung out over the water (also in photo) and started a story. It was about a maple that wanted, felt compelled to, find friendship with humans. This tree was always trying to woo people as they walked by on the path he lived next to. The humans never heard this tree’s whispers, too much were they in their heads. Trees don’t speak to thoughts, they speak only to hearts. After years of pushing with no reward, Tree pulled into himself, staying there for years—sad at his lack of success. Eventually, long after his discouraging release of an agenda, a woman came and sat next to him with her back against his trunk. Her heart was broken, for the man she adored had fallen in love with someone else. This woman did not hear the tree because he was currently silent, but each of their broken hearts responded to the other in their silence. The woman then started talking to herself out loud. Tree was still somewhat asleep, but with time he began to feel her presence and eventually understand her words as well. He sat quietly with her while she spilled her heart out, believing no one could hear but herself. The deeper the girl went in to her heart, the more awake Tree became, until eventually they were both aware of the communication between them. So began their long-term relationship. The actualization of two dreams took place the moment each dropped their agendas for other people. It was then that they found the relationship they longed for, though with a different species. Both hearts became full of and open to love.

I had forgotten that story. Then during two workshops I facilitated in January, it came up unplanned. Perhaps it is time to revisit—my own writing of it, as well for us as a collective. Are not many hearts breaking in today’s modern world? Perhaps not for an unrequited love, but for the death of what we thought was real and valuable. Maybe it is best to release all desires for specific agendas, befriend nature, open our hearts to a new kind of love, and see what happens.

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A Trip to Africa

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Africa. How do I tell about my trip to volunteer at a lion conservation program in Zimbabwe? Was it all I expected? Yes and no. Because I am a romantic, I had visions of it being a place vastly unlike here. That’s not the case. However, a fundamental difference I found was the perception of time. Westerners tend to believe that time is limited—making plans based on efficient use of it. For Africans, time is unlimited. Their plans seem to have a loose schedule. During maintenance projects, their approach caused frustration. However, during tasks when the lions were the time-keepers, such as lion walks or cubsitting, we all moved at lion speed (usually slow and often at a standstill) without question or desire to improve it.

Capturing a moment in a photo, that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, is something I adore doing. So it was with excitement that I packed my camera and three lenses to Zimbabwe. At the end of my first full day there, the camera could no longer read memory cards. A film crew was at the park filming a series on the lion program (to be aired in the UK starting Jan. 1). Their cameraman looked into my camera and disappointingly discovered one of the pins that reads the cards was broken. Something fixable, but not in Zimbabwe. So there I was in Africa—on what seemed like a three-week photo shoot—without a working camera. Truth be told, there was quite a bit of self-pity. But what this circumstance allowed me—forced me—to do was simply and fully engage in the moment. Instead of striving to better an image already taken, I was simply enjoying the experience of sitting with a lion, walking alongside an elephant, or watching zebra and giraffe from horseback. Meaning I was more in ‘Africa Time.’

In the wild, lions move around only a few hours a day. Preferring to lounge in the shade, groom members of their pride or sleep. Over the last fourty years the African Lion population has decreased by approximately 80-90%. I can’t help but recognize that over those same forty years, our culture has seemingly lost touch with our ability to slow down, enjoy our families and experience simple lifestyles—the very characteristics lions epitomize. I wonder how the lion population would be affected if our society was able to embrace lion behavior and remember to relax and appreciate the art of leisure? I’m willing to give it a try, are you?

Know Self

During volatile times, it is tempting to become one-sided, creating further division between ourselves and those who don’t see life the same way—even if unintentionally. Recently, I have witnessed friends with admirable openness and intellect become close-minded,judgmental and a bit fanatical. The two issues on my radar are the presidential election and Standing Rock. With the rise of social media, and changes in media in general, we hear much news in sound bites. This often bolsters opinions, while leaving other facts out. That is perhaps even more dangerous to a society than not having any information at all.

No matter who is president or what happens with the pipeline, let us not forget personal responsibility. If the earth is important to you, make actions that honor her. The government make regulations, humans carry out actions. If health is a priority, take care of yourself in body, mind and spirit. The government’s healthcare doesn’t give out health. If human beings are your thing, treat every one of them with kindness. The government has no way of stopping this no matter which side you sit. If you oppose the pipeline, keep in mind the reason they want to build it is supply and demand. It is out of alignment to oppose the transportation of oil, but not consider the gas mileage of your car or to use plastic without thought (plastic starts as crude oil, natural gas or other petrochemical derivatives.) It is wise to remember the earth is 4.2 billion years old and she has an order of her own. We are simply a part of that system. When we tap into natural order, we find peace, belonging and harmony at its root. Government is a construct of humans. If our goverment began with the same root system as nature, and I believe it’s possible that was the Founding Father’s goal, it has swung out of balance. The following is worth meditating on… “While our ancestors have been around for about six million years, the modern form of humans only evolved about 200,000 years ago. Civilization as we know it is only about 6,000 years old, and industrialization started in the earnest only in the 1800s….” Compare that to the planet’s 4.2 BILLION years and consider the intellect of experience.

As a lifelong participant of the personal improvement era and healing community, I have become weary of seeking problems to solve within myself and others. Instead, it feels important to know who we are under all those supposed problems and act in alignment with that essence or soul. Sages and mystics have given guidance on this for mellennia. Still, this morning I contemplated how to know who we are beyond the mind labels in my own way. This is not a linear method; rather a commitment to experiencing self as itself. From there we can make the changes desired with this essence awake. Is self nature or nurture? Both.

Here are my five suggestions to get to know self.

  • Spend time alone every day. This is the greatest commitment to you. It can be for as little as 15 minutes, so long as it is intentionally alone quietly focusing on you.
  • Do whatever allows you to feel the most intimate with your inner world. Writing, meditating, walking, sitting by a tree, and dancing are a few of my ideas. Additionally, I and others offer personal and group meditations which focus on inner experience. There is no right or wrong, whatever works for you.
  • For periods of time drop any sense of improving upon yourself or your skills. If writing, just write. Do not work on creating a final draft. If walking, don’t compare your distance to a different day. Just be in the moment intimately with your self as is.
  • Engage all your senses. We spend a lot of time THINKING and analyzing. Take time off from these responses and explore other areas. Sense the energy that animates your body. Do not pay attention in order to find problems (that is the mind), listen with your cells instead.
  • Last but not least, continue to come back to this energy. When out and about in the world and around others in everyday life experiences, flash back to your time alone and bring up that same feeling—the one you know as your personal frequency. As human beings we are integrations of a variety of facets; soul, spirit, body, ego, thought, etc…. While we are all Divine, we are also individual expressions of that Divine. The energy you are “dating” during your alone time is your unique recipe of above facets plus more. The “parts” may work harmoniously, or they can go off in a variety of directions—leaving us fragmented. It takes awareness, not willpower, to bring them in to collaboration.

Go forth and express your personal recipe and ALWAYS remember to act in alignment with your deepest beliefs. It is not enough to think them or post about them on social media. Henry Ralph Thoreau said “simplify, simplify.” A profound way to do this is by taking actions in alignment with our souls. Simple, not easy. However, it is a way to find peace inwardly, which will then express outwardly. Exactly what the world needs now.

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In a conversation about a child’s education, I briefly stated how important it is to encourage creative expression rather than competition. It was not a well-thought-out statement at the time, but it brought a flood of thoughts afterwards. It became clear that to me creativity is not only the arts, but also the way we think and how we live. Creativity allows us to be more adept at problem solving, building business, articulating emotions and even sports. While competition tends to foster comparison and separation, true expression focuses on personal experience and authentically sharing that with the world. I do not believe competition is inherently bad, but in my opinion it is best approached as a journey of self. It seems that if we emphasized expression to the young, they would more likely approach competition this way in the long run. It might be worth noting that my competitive drive is strong. So much, I shy away from competition as it brings out facets of myself I’d rather not nurture. Meanwhile, making music or dancing brings out great amounts of love for life. My soul is satisfied so long as I lose myself (read ego) to the music. Meanwhile, when there is the potential of winning or losing getting ‘lost’ seems too large a task for me. That said, others such as tennis player Roger Federer, seem brilliant at using sport as their canvas.

 

Throughout my life there have been times when my heart hurts so much it is overwhelming. The pain has hit at times of great loss; a breakup, the death of a dog, not getting the part I wanted in a play, or whatever…. Other times the sadness was brought on by no outward circumstance at all. This morning I was flooded with this latter kind of deep feeling. I have done enough self-development to know that ignoring these spells—and I use that word purposely—is futile. For 1. There is nothing wrong with feeling deeply regardless of our society’s distaste for it. 2. Outrunning an internal experience rarely works for the long run. 3. Intellectualizing emotions actually pushes them deeper and they can come out inappropriately. 4. Discomfort of this kind is usually the first sign of a major wake-up, and in this day and age we need to wake up regardless if it’s painful.

 

So, I walked into the woods along with my dog and my sadness. Deep in, I sat down among the hemlocks in the arms of my beloved sun. At first I just sat and allowed the sensation of silence to wash over and through me. Then, not knowing what else to do, I spoke out loud saying “Greetings Mother Earth and Sibling Trees. I have come to you in sorrow, its source I cannot discern. I come to you now to ask for help in healing this wound regardless of its origin. If instead of needing healing it has a message, please then help me to hear.”

 

Now I hope not to lose anyone with this, but I received the following response; “Katrina, thank you for honoring us with your truth and asking for our help. We are always hoping to be heard and used for our wisdom not only our bodies. What you are feeling is an excess of emotions. You are labeling it as sadness because it has overwhelmed you, but it is not exclusively that. In addition, not all of what you are feeling is yours, some of it is ancestral and some universal. Avoid the temptation to run for cover, and allow these emotions to take place just as you would a thunderstorm. You don’t try to stop a storm, instead you watch it move through knowing it will end, the sun will shine and all that remains will thrive because of the rain. Do not banish any specific emotions forever, for just as more storms will come, so too will feelings. However, by expressing, healing and releasing them as they come through, they will not stagnate and interrupt your life flow unknowingly. Allow what will happen to happen as it will. That is the way of nature; and you, our dear, are nature. Sometimes the strongest tree falls, yet the forest remains. Any death will be shocking at first but frankly what grows lives, what doesn’t dies. It’s very simple, yet humans tend towards preferences and judgments, while clinging to never-ending goals that they believe will satisfy their true longing for peace and love. Emotions are a blessing of the human experience, yet they are not necessarily connected to truth and will often muddle your perception. Be mindful of that as you move with your flow. Don’t get fooled in to believing that you will feel only joy and bliss when on your path. Being vulnerable to pain is an indication you are open, free and natural—which is true strength. We thank you for being courageous, authentic and honest. Continue your balanced dance with paradox, knowing that you are the only person in charge of your story. You have been given the gift of life, use it wisely.”

 

With that there was silence again. Deep within there was a true sense of belonging to this world. After sitting in the quiet for a spell, I remembered again the thoughts about personal expression and saw that at its core there has to be this sense of belonging in order for us to feel safe to show ourselves. Hence, I emphasis the importance of being with nature or whatever helps you feel your strongest connection to the world. From there, it is possible to fearlessly express yourself creatively in whatever way most fulfilling—writing, caring for animals, making films, teaching or whatever. As Howard Thurman put it “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” There is no need to prove that we belong by creating outer success or receiving the approval of others, although both may come naturally. The simple fact that we have life coursing through our hearts has already proven our inclusion and value. Everything we choose to do with our life is simply a way of honoring the gift. Perhaps in the end, that is all that is meant by creative expression—articulating the life that animates what would otherwise be just a pile of bones. So I end with a question in the words of Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  No matter your answer, may it be sourced by the song that is yours alone.

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Soul Vs. Ego

Every person’s life tells a story, and every person has his or her story about life. One of my stories has been the choice between soul and ego. After years of believing that you picked one or the other, I’ve concluded they are both integral parts of human life. Just as the brain, lungs and heart have separate functions in a body, so too do the soul and ego. As such, these two facets have distinct priorities and which one we give our allegiance to creates a different life focus. For example, egos search for goals, definitives, comfort, winning, accomplishments, and end results. While souls seek authenticity, creativity, expression, depth, experiences, growth, journeys, and expansion. Because of their potential contrasts, sometimes our souls and egos divide, causing a splintering that is similar to a business meeting where all in attendance have separate agendas. Human life is full of paradox, as exemplified in breathing, the very thing that keeps us alive. For we cannot breathe in without breathing out and vice versa. There is nothing better about in or out, they are equal in their opposites. Embracing this, and its implications, may be a giant step to wholeness.

I recently had a portrait photo session with a talented photographer who had taken one of my “Calling Council” workshops (6 weeks of modern shamanic journeys). I note the latter, because she wanted the portrait to show that side of me—the teacher, my ancient self, and dare I say my soul. I brought with me a selection of feathers and skulls that touch and open my heart. As of now, I have seen only two of the photos, both amazing—one especially unique (see below). In this one image I can visibly see the presence and strength that I had otherwise only felt. At the same time, it also shows me that a photo is simply an image of a moment in time. Our lives are a string of ongoing moments—some powerful, some weak and many more in between. While a photo says more than a thousand words, it is still only a morsel of the person or situation. We all have endless depths below what can be seen on the surface. It is our responsibility to swim in those depths and learn what makes up ‘us’ regardless of whether it touches the outside world or is understood by anyone else. It is wise to remember that all others have the same expanse below what we see or understand about them, as well.

I took an online class on branding to boost my writing, public speaking and workshops. This would not normally be my cup of tea, yet I respect the teacher and decided to go for it based on that. Creating a brand had previously felt artificial. However, this class, in addition to the photo session, made me realize we are always projecting an image. To do so mindfully is actually more authentic than simply letting chance create it. While it is also true that the image is just a fraction of who I am as a whole, I’d like it to be a representation of the place where my inner and outer worlds intersect. Being clear about our presentation to the world does not equal control over how others see us, nor is that of any significance to our soul. Egos want to be seen in a specific way—happy, successful, beautiful. While souls want to experience the happiness, success and beauty. Being true to our inner world, sincerely, compassionately, creatively, is doing our part. The rest is out of our hands. In the end, we only have our own heart to answer to.

A place both my soul and personality simultaneously ignite is listening to music—especially live. Sometimes it’s popular musicians with big names, more often it’s people who just love music. They don’t necessarily make a living from it or gather fans, but to these people not making music is a kind of death. I was recently at a show with a variety of performers each with a different sound. The one similarity among them was that they exposed their souls with their music. It’s been said, “Perhaps the best mark of personal heroism is not astounding courage or accomplishments, but authentic self-expression…” While, these locals weaved soul in to each note and lyric, some big musicians miss depth in their performances simply because performing regularly alleviates the vulnerability that often exposes souls.

What is your story; meaning what are your beliefs, assumptions, expectations, desires, memories, wants, relationships, friends, childhood experiences, and how does it all fit together? What we tell ourselves and repeat aloud to others becomes our reality, becomes the glasses through which we see the world, defines our decisions, and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Can you examine the stories you tell the world and yourself, discerning where there is truth and conversely falsity? Can you open to what your life is and the endless possibilities of what it could be? Like many valuable exercises, this will be ongoing. In part because we miss things the first, or even 100th, time around. And also because we change constantly. I’d like to mention one caveat that I am quite familiar with, which is the desire to bypass the parts we don’t like within the picture. There is a cultural ideal of seeing only the positive or looking at things from a spiritual paradigm. While that can be admirable, this method often overlooks angles that are dictating fundamental life experiences including our emotional needs. In a world of pain, this positive or spiritual bypass is a constant temptation. Yet, it can be a detour on the path to genuine happiness and wholeness. In our efforts to leapfrog to something better, we can avoid a crucial part. The writer Parker Palmer puts it “I deny my inner darkness, giving it more power over me, or I project it onto other people, creating ‘enemies’ where none exist.” While there is no need to dwell on these facets, recognizing their existence opens us to releasing them. Palmer also says “Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.” As I see it in this moment, happiness and wholeness are not about being all smiles and laughter. Instead, they are a deep-rooted sense of well-being that sustains through feelings of sadness, hurt, anger, joy, and circumstances that overwhelm.

I’ve asked a lot of questions and here are a few more; what lights up both your soul and your ego? What unifies your emotions and your intellect? What nourishes your body and spirit? The answers may be the foundation of your story, your chance for joy and a life of wholeness and fulfillment.

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SolsticeFullMoonLast night was the most beautiful full moon on the summer solstice. I’ve heard conflicting reports as to how long it has been since the two have coincided, some say it was in 1967 and others say it is 70 years ago. Either way, it was a powerful and rare event. It proved to be strong enough to take my Grandmother home. She was 3 days short of her 101st birthday. At the very time of her passing, we were having an enormous lightning storm. In countless cultures and myths lightning was ascribed as heralding the Divine. To me it is a representation of the power when heaven and earth unite. While Nain and I are much alike in that we spill on our clothes, say phrases incorrectly, love singing and are always writing. We are also opposite, in that she was an extrovert doer, I am an introvert thinker. With her now having more influence in the spirit world, may I take on her follow through in matters of writing.

To honor my dear Nain, may she rest in peace, I am including an essay I wrote in 2005, 11 years past…..

In June, our family celebrated my Grandmother’s 90th birthday. Nain (the name we grandchildren have always called her, meaning Grandmother in Welsh) was a very influential figure in my life. At the age of 39 she had three teenage daughters and a daily radio talk show for which she was responsible for gathering the guests, organizing the questions and hosting. At this very busy time in her life she found out that she was pregnant with my uncle Dave. This was the fifties and she had the lifestyle of a woman in the 21st century.

Nain is responsible for me discovering writing as a method of expressing my inner world. For that one thing alone, I can not thank her enough. Most of what I write sits in journals for only me to explore. But without having that outlet, which is often my method of prayer and meditation, I would likely be constricted in life, with no way out.

As a child, I felt misunderstood by Nain. Mainly because when we were together, my introverted personality was continually asked questions, and requested to speak up and look her in the eye when answering. She had me walk with books on my head in order to stand up straight and walk with purpose.

As I look at my Grandmother now, beautiful at age 90, I marvel at how all situations can be seen from various perspectives. In younger years, it seemed as though she didn’t know the true me, simply because she asked me to do what didn’t come naturally. Yet, as an adult I can see that she knew exactly what my personality needed in order to find strength among the world. By asking me to step outside my comfort zone, she gave me the courage to be more than what I thought myself to be.

By teaching me to look people in the eyes, Nain was purposely improving my ability to show respect for others. However, in many cases our teachers have no cognizance of their lessons for us. This does not make the teachings any less profound. Quite the contrary.

Have there been times in your life when you felt misunderstood at the moment it happened, only to find out later that the person or circumstance knew what you needed better than you did? If so, be grateful. If not, look again.

photo-4This photo was taken around the time I wrote the above. Please do love your family even when they drive you crazy. They won’t be around forever and either will you.

Many blessings to you all.

A Carolina CrowAfter years of having Ravens in the neighborhood, a pair built a nest just behind our house. Ravens are larger than crows and have a distinctive croak to their caw. In his book Animal Speak, Ted Andrews says, “With Raven, human and animal spirits intermingle and become as one. This is reflected in its deep, rich shiny black. In blackness, everything mingles until drawn forth, out into the light…. Raven has the knowledge of how to become other animals and how to speak their languages.” For this, I’ve loved any sighting or croak of a Raven over the years and have been thrilled to see and hear them almost constantly currently. I usually know when someone they don’t like is around, a hawk for instance. Or if one is off to get food, we all hear about it—mostly from the babies still in the nest.

After a couple months of observation, I wanted to step up my interaction with the birds. Wondering if other people had become friends with their neighborhood Ravens, I googled “befriending Ravens.” It was a surprise to find the consensus was that doing so was a very bad idea. Upon further reading, it’s the use of food that people are opposed to. There was not even mention of another scenario for befriending a wild bird. Generally, giving food to wild animals is frowned upon because once they discover humans are the source of it, they have been known to terrorize other humans in hopes of receiving more food. This in turn, can result in death for the animal when the unsuspecting person believes they are being attacked.

I spend a lot of time with my dog, Z. More than a couple hours apart is uncommon and too long. I do leave her most days to be with my horse, Tom. Some days Z comes to the barn too. The three of us don’t have lengthy conversations, we don’t have like minds, we don’t even walk on the same number of legs or perceive the world in the same way. Yet, that we are absolute friends is indisputable. I share all of my food with Z and carry tasty horse nuggets for Tom. Yet, delusional or not, the treats do not feel like the basis of our friendship. If Z and I go to a friend’s house, she will climb up on the sofa to sit next to me, no questions asked. If I leave Tom alone, he will call and fuss until I return. Neither has anything to do with food. So, when I thought of and desired to befriend the Ravens, food never crossed my mind. First of all, I wouldn’t know how to associate myself with it and I don’t have any interest in figuring that out. What, then, was I imagining befriending the birds to be like? I wasn’t expecting the Ravens to come give me a hug or sit down for a cup of tea and a long talk. Rather, I was simply interested in being acknowledged by them and to allow our spirits to intermingle as Ted Andrews suggests Ravens are capable of. More than likely they already knew of my presence. Animals, especially wild ones, are superior to humans in that regard. They have to be, so they know where to find dinner and are aware of where danger is. I often take my computer to the porch and work outside. So, every time one of the birds flew overhead, I waved and said “Hi, Raven.” Or I’d state a saying I created “IAYEIW” which is an acronym for “I appreciate your existence in the world” and pronounced “I-You.” Most of the time, I saw some kind of flight change like a slight pull down of the wings, or an acrobatic shift. Rarely, but sometimes, there would be no ‘nod’ at all. I can’t tell the birds apart, so maybe one bird ‘waves’ and not the others. I don’t know and don’t really care. I’m just happy to see them and when it happens to feel seen in return.

For all our hubris, humans underestimate interspecies relationships. We seem to believe that the only reason a different species would befriend us is for what we provide them—food for instance. Sadly, that is sometimes the case amongst our own species as well. Is it possible to simply enjoy another’s company without asking anything of them? Wanting them to be something for us or behave in a certain way? I’d like to believe my relationship to my animal companions is like that. However, I also truly enjoy what they provide me, which is a sense of unconditional love, appreciation and acceptance—actually coming from the “love” hormone, oxytocin that releases every time we are together. Would I be able to continue with my adoration if it seemed they didn’t return my affections? I hope to never know from experience the answer to that.

It seems likely that interspecies relationships (which are not always friendships) are the first step towards recognizing and knowing deeply that all life is connected. Not for our similarities but because we are alive on this humble planet together breathing the same oxygen. Literally, just as I finished typing that sentence, a butterfly landed on my heart center. I sat still happily taking in her medicine. We shared something—exactly what I won’t diminish by labeling or guessing. I simply know I am better for that moment, hopefully the butterfly is too.

In love of animals, Katrina

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