From My Notes: 2006-2007
By Barbara Janelle
Communication with other forms of existence presents learning experiences. A communicator who examines these experiences and their implications increases the opportunity to grow in understanding and skill. We can learn from both positive and accurate consulting experiences, and from inaccurate and problem sessions. The following ideas and experiences are currently expanding my own understanding.
Feelings: A Gateway to Understanding
A lot of information comes as feelings. From animals’ emotions, to the feel of an animal or situation, to the feel of information, to changes in my own physical and emotional feelings while in a consultation, all offer huge pieces of information and must be given attention. Noticing feelings, and indeed actually feeling, as well as owning and accepting one’s feelings, provide valuable insights for communicators.
Layers of Information
A client asked me, “Do animals lie?” My immediate response was “No,” but on further examination I will say that there are layers of meaning and sometimes very subtle clues presented that should alert the communicator that there is more information that is not yet being presented. There is also the context of time that must be considered because animals work largely in the moment.
Case 1. Some years ago, a participant at a clinic asked me to check in with her elderly dog at home a few hundred miles away and find out if it was dying and if she should go home to be with it. The dog did show me that it was starting the process of leaving and that it wanted her there. She left midway through the workshop and went home. Some months later I learned that the dog got better and lived for many more months.
Did the dog lie? No. The owner’s absence was stressing the animal and weakening its health and that was information presented in that moment. Her arrival home supported the animal and it returned to a better level of health. The context was, given these conditions, “I am dying ‘now.’ ” The conditions changed when the owner went home.
Case 2. Good Boy was a wonderful grey tabby who I had worked with for some time. With the guidance of a superb homeopathic vet, he overcame severe and frequent epileptic seizures. He became more confident and social with family members.
At 16 ½, he began to develop flea problems and have seizures again. Flea infestations indicate that the whole body is compromised. With the holistic vet’s help, Yuen clearings, Therapeutic Touch, Tellington TTouch, etc., his health improved and then went through several more up and down cycles. Toward the end of his life, I twice got information from him that was not accurately reflected by his physical state. In one case he showed himself to me as very bright and told me he felt very good. However, he was very weak physically and in quite dire straits. Another time, he told me clearly that he was dying, but this was countered by improving health and behaviour (going outdoors on his regular rounds). I began to doubt myself and to wonder what I was missing.
In looking back at the first piece, I recognized that the image he showed me of his bright self had been floating and there was no sense of the physical environment presented. Yes, he felt fine because he was disassociated from his body. I had not paid attention to the subtleties in the images he gave me.
In the second, he had made the decision to leave but he was doing it his way: first a return to a level of energy that allowed him to visit his old haunts and to give his owner one more, happy period with him. When he did eventually die, his physical health took a very rapid turn for the worse. I had received the information he gave me about leaving but had not gone into his body to see what its current state was. Recognizing that information comes in layers and going deeper to elicit more is important and useful to do.
The Subtle Feeling of Information
Paying attention to how information feels, as well as to the layers of meaning, is important. There is a solid feel to accurate information, a “yes” that resonates in the body. However, information may also come with feelings of teasing incompleteness.
Recently I did a body scan on a dog and found that the front legs were not very well grounded but that the hind end felt strongly grounded. There was a feeling of stiffness and solidness in the hindend. I left it there and did not go into each leg to check. Then I learned from the owner that the dog had only one hind leg, I reviewed the image and recognized that the legs were not differentiated: the hind end was a solid unit in the image I received. If I had pursued this by examining each leg, I might have picked up on there only being one physical hindleg. It was interesting that this was not a critical piece of information in the consult. Had it been, the push for me to explore further might have been stronger.
Body sensations that I have learned to pay attention to include both the part of my body that I am speaking from and the tone of my voice. Accurate information comes from my chest or belly and is accompanied by a deep voice. If I get the sense of talking from my head or throat accompanied by a light tone of voice, then I know that my own assumptions are getting in the way and the information that I am giving is tainted with my own preconceptions. Over twenty years of Feldenkrais Awareness through Movement classes have helped me develop a strong body awareness that stands me in good stead with my animal communication work.
A communicator must follow the subtle feelings of something unusual to get full information. It is all too easy to stop at immediate images and dismiss the subtle feeling that there is something more. When I recognize this feeling, my work becomes more accurate. However, recognizing the quality of information is an ongoing challenge!
Describing Information versus Interpreting It
A habit that I continue to try to change is leaping to interpretation too quickly. In a recent consult, during the initial few minutes of connection, I understood that the animal was focusing on itself and its world in a very narrow way. I immediately interpreted this as rigid understanding and limited adaptability. As the consult continued, I saw that there was a physical problem and that the animal was in significant discomfort. Only then did I understand that the rigid focusing was due to pain, not to a way of seeing life.
Describing information and leaving interpretation to later in the session (if at all) allows for more and clearer information to come. Interpretation is always done within the framework of the person’s understanding and experience. The owner knows the animal better than the communicator and often will understand things better. As a communicator, I do try to distinguish information from interpretation and encourage the owner to examine both within the context of his/her own understanding.
The Context of Time: Different Universes
By and large, animals live in present time and humans live in extended time with awareness of past and future. (1) An animal (or a person) is a pool of experiences and in communication we dip into that pool with intention to access specific period(s).
In conversation with animals, the context of Now is always apparent. However, most humans cannot turn off their extended concept of time for more than a few minutes, if even that. As these two universes try to interact, it is remarkable that we manage to do as well as we do.
In the context of Now, animals are aware of things that we do not usually recognize. The concert of life is one of them. Most animals are immersed in the harmony of existence that is both heard and felt. On a recent trip to Yellowstone National Park, I drove too close to a bison by the side of the road. I heard the catch in the rhythm it was immersed in, and felt the animal shift awareness to include (“the noisy, fast-paced human”). Many years ago, my cat Houdini described “Singing the Web of Life,” that celebrates life and provides an “atmosphere-resonance” necessary for life and matter to exist on Earth (2). The bison was engaged in this Earth Song.
In meditation not long ago, I asked for one of my animals to step forward to give me some information that would be helpful to me at that point. I was expecting to see one of my two living cats or possibly one of my two old timers who had died in 2006. Instead all of the animals I had ever had in this lifetime stood in front of me and I saw myself within this group.
I understood that we are all of the same Group Soul and that there are characteristics that we hold in common – an intensity and directness, a quality of searching for truth and a will that drives that, complexity and integrity, and more than a bit of impish humour. It is also interesting that the cats, dog and horse that I have had have all had large amounts of black in their coats, and my hair, before the grey set in. was quite dark.
This added to previous experiences of seeing myself in this lifetime, in more than one body simultaneously, and of encountering many people and their animals who shared the same heart and spirit. I understand that many if not all of us are members of larger groups sharing the same soul and holding many similar characteristics.
In my own life, I see the progression of animals as my partners and teachers: Muskie came first and taught me about love and loss, Little Sam taught me about individual paths, Sam taught me about partnership, Wimsey taught me about focus and intelligence, Fudge taught me about hope, Houdini taught me about the communicating world and Magic Bailey, my most profound teacher, taught me about honouring myself and others. What are the gifts that Machu Picchu and Nikolas bring now in this new phase of life?
Deep Centering: A Gateway
In The Vision by Tom Brown, Jr. (3), he describes being chased by a pack of wild dogs in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. His mentor, Stalking Wolf (Grandfather) had told him about the “void of veils” that one can enter in a meditative state: a place where one becomes invisible to all in the physical world. Tom sat down on a log and went into a very deep state of meditation. When he emerged from it, there were dog tracks all around him, but he had not been attacked.
While in Yellowstone Park in June, I sat in my car at the edge of a large meadow one morning, and did a watercolor painting. When I paint, my focus is so deep that three hours can fly by as if it was five minutes. Part way through my painting, I looked up to check on a color and could not see the meadow because my vision was blocked by a bison. I looked to my right and left and found bison on both sides, so close that I could have extended my arm to scratch the one on my side of the car. I was still engaged in my painting and returned to that focus. When the painting was finished, I looked around and there were no bison in sight.
On many occasions in teaching workshops, I have led participants in meditations of following the breath for several minutes. Always, upon opening our eyes, we find the birds have come and insect noise has increased. On one memorable occasion, a group of a dozen people sat in a stable courtyard in the early spring in Ontario Canada. There was a huge tree behind us, just coming into bud. When we came out of meditation and looked up, there had to be close to a thousand starlings in the tree, all silent!
Do we become invisible or do we become participants in the Web of Life – non-threatening and reassuring other forms of existence. I do not know the answer. I do know that meditation is a gateway to connecting with infinite order and compassion, and to understanding beyond our limited knowledge.
Deep Centering: A Gift
A meditative state is a profound gift that we can give animals that are nervous and upset. One of my early experiences with this was twenty years ago. I was working with horses in a barn with a metal roof when a severe thunder and hail storm hit. The sound was incredible and the horses were on the verge of panicking. I stood in the middle of the barn where they could all see me and I went into a meditative state. The owner told me later, that all the horses settled down and watched me for the duration of the storm.
A couple of years ago during a workshop, another thunderstorm caused a lot of concern among several of the dog owners there. One Golden Retriever named Thumper was noted for going berserk in thunderstorms and several others in the group were usually very upset by storms. I asked all the humans to close their eyes and focus on their breathing. When we emerged from meditation at the end of the storm, Thumper was lying on the floor watching us and the rest of the dogs were sound asleep. Thumper’s owner reported that at the next thunderstorm, Thumper came to her and sat at her side quietly through the storm.
Last week, the roofers came. I had made reservations at a local cat hotel for my pair of 10-month old cats. However, Nikolas refused to get in the carrier (or rather he got in it but then ran out quite miffed when he understood that I was going to close its door!), so both cats stayed home for the removal of the old roof and the putting on of the new roof. The noise of removal was substantial, but both cats settled down with me as I went into meditation for the first many minutes of work on that day and the next several days. They did not like the roofing noise (done with nail guns rather than hammers) but they handled it well.
(Also interesting is that the cat hotel would not have been appropriate for Nikolas and Machu because there are a lot of cats in a limited space, and I think that they might have come home with some bad habits. I have learned to trust things that happen even though they go counter to my wishes at the time.)
A simple exercise that pet owners can use when their animals are nervous is to inhale and (imagine) exhale through their feet. This calms the human and the animal will feel it and calm too: a gift for both.
We walk on the frontier of human understanding and awareness when we engage in interspecies communication. Learning continues if we will only explore our experiences more deeply and be open to the wisdom of other forms of existence.
However, the truth is that everything is occurring simultaneously, although we seldom act as if we believe this.
Barbara Janelle, “Earth Song,” Species Link, Issue 25, October-December 1996. Also in Barbara Janelle, Our Healing Power, Self-published, 1999, 2004
Tom Brown, Jr., The Vision, Berkley Books, New York: 1988
B. Janelle/ July 2007