The Language of Interspecies Communication
By Barbara Janelle M.A., B.Sc.
I have wanted to write this article for some time but it just keeps getting bigger as I think about all the ways in which information comes from other species. Many of those ways are beyond words and trying to find ways of describing them has been another stumbling block. So I think of this paper as an interim project with the understanding that much more could and hopefully will be written by myself and others on the way communication occurs.
My first level workshop focuses on receiving information from other species. As I have mentioned in previous articles (1), the keys to being able to receive information are developing the abilities to quiet the mind and to attend to what is coming in. This involves living more in present time.
Quieting the mind often starts with quieting the urge to talk and this can be difficult in our world of constant chatter, from verbal to text messaging. When one is talking, hearing is reduced. Developing the habit of peaceful silence is the primary pathway to hearing other humans and members of other species speak. Building meditation and particularly meditative moments into one’s life are very useful habits.
Awareness training is very helpful as well. I was fortunate to have twenty years of Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement classes which made me very aware of my breathing and body. I use this in a mirroring exercise where I start with an inventory of what is mine (how different parts of my body feel) and then notice what changes when I turn my attention to another person or to an animal. For example, if my shoulder starts to ache and I know that isn’t mine, then it is very likely what the person or animal I am focusing on is feeling.
Heightened awareness increases the possibility that I will catch the often very subtle forms of information that come: feelings and knowings that come like whispers. If the mind is chattering or awareness is dulled, these will be missed.
Many people seem to think that animals speak in English and in full sentences complete with punctuation. My own experience is that while we may receive help from guides in translating information into our primary language, animals and other forms of existence send information through a range of sensory language such as images, feelings, sounds, etc.
I use four exercises to help workshop participants recognize this language. (Consider doing each of these exercises either by yourself or with a partner before reading the commentary for each one.)
Exercise 1. Think of a person or an animal that you love. How does that being come to you?
Many participants say they see the loved one in their minds: they get images. Many also report feeling emotions and for some there is a physical warming of their hearts: a body-felt (a change in the body) sensation. Some report feeling an animal’s fur or a parent’s hand: a tactile sensation. Smells, sounds (hearing the person’s voice, the cat’s purr, the horse’s nicker), color, memories (experiences, scenes) are also reported. Most say that the loved one comes with more than one kind of expression. For example, when I think of my mother who died many years ago, I see her in my mind, I feel her hand on my cheek, I smell her, and I hear the music of her voice.
Exercise 2. (2) Participants are asked to close their eyes while I call out a list of things, and to notice how each item comes to them:
– a bird flying
– the doorbell
– writing your name
– the Star Spangled Banner
– ice cubes
– a deer jumping across the road
When the list is finished, I ask what was strongest for each person. Common responses are the strawberries (smell, taste, color, physical sensation of eating them), licorice (taste, and for some an emotional response of dislike) and the dear jumping across a road (image, movement, and for some a memory and a strong emotional response of fear). Again no one item comes in just one way; there is a combination of expressions.
Exercise 3. Working in pairs, describe your kitchen cabinets to each other.
Participants are often surprised that they not only see their cabinets in their minds but that they can feel themselves opening the doors, and for many there is an emotional response having to do with wanting to change them in some way. Again the point here is that we store and use information in a wide range of ways. For many, images are very strong and emotional feelings are as well.
Exercise 4. Close your eyes and invite one of your animals to come into your mind and heart.
In the discussion, I ask how each person’s animal came to them. Again, it is common that most will experience the animal in many ways – image, tactile feel, color, smell, sound, emotional response, etc.
Discussion. These exercises help participants recognize their strengths in working with information. Each person’s experience is unique and valid. Translated into the framework of formal communication, that means that while one person may get a very clear picture on an animal in communication that does not mean that everyone working with that animal will get the same clear image. Each person comes to a communication with particular strengths, background, understanding, and information field. An animal or other life form will meet us where we are, drawing on our ability to receive specific kinds of information.
So far with these exercises we have compiled a list of ways in which information presents and these are related to our physical sensing abilities:
– emotional responses
– tactile feelings
– body-felt sensations
After these exercises, I send participants out to work with trees. Trees will expand the ways in which people experience incoming information.
Here I begin to experience some difficulty in putting into English the myriad of different kinds of feelings. We can fairly easily recognize emotions, ours and those of another person of an animal. We can also identify body-felt changes like “my heart grew warmer” or “suddenly I got a headache.” Tactile feelings are also easy to describe, for example, “I feel the cabinet door sticking when I try to open it.” There are other kinds of feelings that have to do with the rhythm of a place, or of a being. There is also a feeling of “rightness” or order and something out of balance.
Feeling of Place Exercise: Rhythm. In all of my courses, I ask participants to feel how the room or place we are in feels. This is not just a matter of emotional response, nor of noticing body-felt sensations (for example, affect on breathing). When I take this further and send people out to sit for a period of time in two or more places on the land, some will begin to recognize that there is a rhythm to place. Yes, it may incorporate sound and the music of place, but it is much more that that. There is a sense of activity level, movement, interaction among all the parts, etc. (“Etcetera” is such a useful word isn’t it?!!) How do we describe this?
Feeling of Place Exercise: Rightness/Balance/Order. I began formally working with this many years ago when a friend asked me to walk her garden and make suggestions for increasing its harmony. I found myself able to feel the balance of each foot length of garden bed and to identify small areas that needed some change to increase the harmony. Now I invite upper level course participants to walk a garden or the interior of a house or building and sense where things feel balanced or not. Years ago, my third level Therapeutic Touch students could feel this by energetically sensing with their hands.
Feeling of Place Exercise: Recognizing Energy Flow. In my friend’s garden, I was also able to feel the energy flow in the garden (in many ways this is similar to sensing energy flow within the Feng Shui framework). I could identify where the flow/energy movement was good, and places where it changed abruptly and became sluggish. This is another exercise I am experimenting with in my advanced classes.
Energy Level. In working with animals, I am often aware of how energetic the animal is as well as how dynamic the energy field is.
Discussion. To the list of ways that we receive information we now add:
– feelings of rightness/balance/order
– awareness of rhythm
– sense of energy flow or movement
– energy level
As we explore these different kinds of feelings, we approach the experience of “knowing” and the increasing difficulty of putting our experiences into words.
Some of my early experiences with knowing came in Therapeutic Touch treatments. I would scan the field and know there was something off in an area and yet not be able to describe it energetically. For example, I could not say there is a build-up of energy here, or a lack of energy or something amiss with the rhythm. There simply was something not right and it was usually very subtle. In many instances it provided the key to the entire treatment.
In a recent workshop, the participants had started to work with a dog. I was watching the dog and his person and thinking that he was such a lovely animal and that there was such love and trust between the pair of them. Suddenly, I knew this dog was incredibly brave and absolutely had to say that even though it interrupted what the group was doing. The drive to do this was fiercely intense and I repeated it twice more. I did not receive pictures or feelings from the dog; I simply knew this to the depth of me. I have no idea what it pertains to but for some unknown reason, it had to be spoken out loud.
A year ago some friends and their dogs were visiting with me. We were enjoying an evening discussion when I looked over at one of the dogs and said, “Her hearing is very good and she relies on it even more than sight.” We continued with our conversation and I forgot about what I had said. Months later my friend called to say her dog had developed a severe eye problem and lost her vision in one eye. While my friend was upset, she remembered the information about how important hearing was to her dog and that helped her to accept what had happened. That information had come out of the blue for me and it did not come with any of the usual images, feelings, sounds, words, etc. I just knew it and again spoke it upon knowing it.
In many of these cases, I am in an open state but not consciously engaging in communication. Many communicators have described similar experiences to me often using phrases like, “I couldn’t put into words how I knew.” As for myself, I am intrigued by how the information reaches me by bypassing my own input and evaluation and the fact that it is often tied to an intense demand to speak it out loud.
When Words Come
In my own experience, words make up less than ten percent of the language of communication. I am aware that other communicators receive more information in words. My friend Penny Case in Nashville, TN receives information primarily in words. So I am not sure how this section on words fits for others and would be very interested in hearing about other communicators experience and understanding.
An experience many years ago helped me to understand how I receive words. I was having lunch with Penny, a fellow TT teacher and with Peter, a well respected psychologist in Canada. Penny asked me to do a communication with her two dogs and I did. She then turned to the psychologist and asked, “Peter, how is Barbara doing this?” Peter replied, “There is a being behind Barbara’s right shoulder who is taking the information from the dogs and relaying it to Barbara so she understands it.”
I was surprised because I had been aware for some time of a being (a guide?) behind my right shoulder and I always felt loving support from him (he feels male to me). I believe that the words and phrases that I get come through this being and I have learned to trust them completely even though I may not understand fully what they mean.
Interpreting the Language
In a communication a lot of information can come in very quickly. For example, I often get an initial image of an animal that includes posture, how much of its body the animal is in, interest and participation in life, energy level, level of confidence, and so on. There may be a word or phrase as well. All of this comes in a few seconds and I then spend many minutes describing to the person what I am seeing/sensing from the animal.
I stay alert for metaphors in what the animal is showing me. I have found it useful to take training in working with dream language and to apply some of these tools to interpreting communications. For example, mentally giving a title to the communication can help me to see the larger picture.
I recognize too that there will be things that I do not understand but that may have great meaning to the person. So one of the big challenges for me as a communicator is to clearly describe what I receive and to indicate where my own interpretations are being added because these may not be accurate.
As a piece of homework for myself after a session, I look at what the story of the communication is and ask why this animal and this person in my life right now? What am I being asked to explore in myself?
While I have identified many ways in which information comes, I am sure there are many additional ways as well. It would be so useful to engage in discussion with fellow communicators on this topic. To those of you with an interest in this, please consider writing on this topic so that we can build our understanding of communication.
1. Barbara Janelle, “Interspecies Telepathic Communication”, First Published as “Shared Wisdom,” Species Link, Issue 41 Winter January-March 2001
“Animal Communication: A Journey,” TTEAM Connections, Vol.4, Issue 1, Jan-March 2002
2. I borrow Exercise 2 (with some of my own changes) and Exercise 3 from Crystal Hawk, a Canadian Recognized Therapeutic Touch Teacher and Practitioner who uses them to teach visualization techniques for Therapeutic Touch.