Enlightenment Over Greek Food – How I learned to get out of my head


I’m not as smart as I think I am and from time to time I still need to be beaten over the head with the most simple of concepts.

The case in point here is the experience I had this weekend while attending the Landmark Forum. First I want to address the Forum itself. In a word, it’s amazing. You will have a love/hate relationship with it until 7 pm on the last day, but really, you need to go anyway. Thats how amazing the last three hours are. The preceding 36 hours are preamble, but necessary in order to get the punch line at the end.

I sat through the preamble throughly enjoying the human drama I was inflicting on my life under the auspices of coming clean about what a jerk I’ve been to the people in my life.  And really, I was a jerk to all of those people, especially my mom. But the drama was addicting and necessary to understand how unnecessary it all really is. Truly. And that was part of the joke. Hang on, I’m getting there.

Now, I read a lot. Incessantly, actually. Nearly every new age spirituality book tells me that the meaning if life is that there is no meaning of life. Either we are making it up, or we’re just energy expressing itself, or we are all just light and information.  Any way you slice it, there’s a whole lot of nothing around here. You would have thought I would have gotten that. But I didn’t. I intellectualized this information along with everything else. Just like I had intellectualized people, my diet and every New Year’s resolution I had ever made. This intellectualization diminished the impact that anything would have on me.  It was as if compartmentalizing things could render them safe and entirely mutable.

As we neared the last phase of the Forum, the “good part,” I was excited.  The ramp-up to that moment was exhilarating, and I was ready to find out why I had spent three days sitting in the world’s most uncomfortable chair.  And here it is: Life is empty and meaningless, and the fact that it’s empty and meaningless is empty and meaningless.  Huh?  I knew that. I had read it hundreds of times before – this world is an illusion, a figment, anything we make it.  So why did I just spend $500 and three days of my life just to get to this point?

To say I was annoyed was an understatement.  At the break I marched up to the Forum leader and proclaimed, “I don’t get it.”  I was near tears and feeling a burgeoning sense of futility.  The Forum leader just smiled knowingly and handed me off to another participant to assist me in sorting out my frustration.  So why was I so frustrated?  Because I was operating under the delusion that it was anticlimactic.  How arrogant of me.  And yet there I was standing firm in my place of know-it-all-ness.  As I poured out my frustrations to my new friends over gyros and hummus, one of them turned to me and said, “I get that you get it. But don’t you see that ‘anticlimactic’ is an illusion?”  I still don’t know what it was about that particular combination of words that was so magical, but I broke down laughing and crying all at the same time.   My arrogance was a blindspot for me, and I was viewing the world through that veil.  I had no idea what a presumptuous smarty pants I had been up until that point.  That was the joke, and it had set me free. In no way am I perfect, but I feel as though I am closer to leading a life free of juvenile constraints I’ve put on myself as a defense mechanism. And that was worth the cost of the Forum.

Staying, Chapter 7 – Animal Souls

Humans have long revered animal spirits. The earliest petroglyphs depict humans interacting with animals, not only for basic survival needs (hunting for food or furs), but to represent the spiritual experiences of shamans. Indigenous peoples all over the world worship animals for their physical traits and roles in the spiritual world. In some native North American cultures, for example, the bear is worshipped for its strength and knowledge. Ancient Celtic cultures also worshipped the bear as the primal mother, or Bear Goddess. Some animals, like the owl, are seen as omens or bearers of truth.

Our western culture has removed the mysticism and reverence of the natural world and replaced it with fear. Now, instead of embracing natural systems as a part of ourselves, our culture seeks to subjugate and control it. Often using chemicals or simply denuding the landscape so that it will no longer support wildlife. Human habitat and wildlife habitat are now considered to be mutually exclusive and are increasingly forced against each other, often with disastrous results for both parties. Reverence is replaced by feelings of danger, worship with persecution.

Yet, still wildlife captures our imagination. Watching wildlife becomes fascinating for many when they encounter it. As a park ranger, I’ve seen traffic accidents occur as people jostle to get a picture of a deer. We have a fascination with zoos, animal-centric TV shows, and dancing penguins. It is an interesting juxtaposition; wildlife is fascinating, as long as it doesn’t get too close.

But there is a loophole of sorts. We have our pets. Some of the deepest, most transcendent relationships in our lives are with our pets. They touch our souls and fill our lives with unconditional love. These relationships are iconic and timeless. Animal souls and human souls intertwine in life, and occasionally they do in death. Animal souls can remain on the Earth plane just as human spirits can, although they we needn’t worry that they are trapped here. They often remain on, or return to, the earth plane to be near their loved ones, as my beloved cat, Shadow, had done.

Animal Communication

For as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve been in the company of animals. Cats, dogs, birds and horses were constant companions. In fact, some of the first psychic communication I began to receive was from animals. While riding horses, I found that they can be especially chatty. The herd mentality of prey animals is to be as communicative as possible in order to thwart an attack from predators. Herd animals, like all animals, tend to communicate through mental images and emotion, however herd animals feel like they are chatting constantly, the herd completely linked. Predators, such cats and dogs, on the other hand feel to me like they are communicating in succinct bursts, like transmitting an impulse of thought. Different animal communicators may have had other experiences in their work, but this is how the communication with animals works for me.

Since animals don’t use human language to communicate, we cannot expect them to communicate this way. If you are attempting to talk to your pet, first be open to what they are naturally trying to tell you through their body language. Feel the energy of what they are saying. When you tune into their energy this way you can then “hear” more of their communiqué. You may see pictures in your mind’s eye or feel their emotion through your heart chakra. Allow this process to develop naturally.

Shadow’s Story

When I was in college, I did everything I could to establish myself as an “adult.” For me adult-ness meant having my own apartment, my own car, a full-time job and a full-time course load at the University of California at Davis. To complete the picture, I adopted a cat named Shadow. But from the beginning, I knew something was wrong with him. He was prone to awful coughing fits and spasms. I later learned he had a herniated diaphragm, the result of trauma he sustained early in life. None of that mattered, though. We were deeply in love with each other. We went through three moves, several jobs and eventually adopted two new kittens to round out our little family.

Then one summer, during a particularly severe heat wave, I began to noticed that the normally rotund Shadow was losing weight quickly. At first I thought it was the severe heat, but a trip to the vet confirmed the worst – Shadow had an aggressive strain of oral cancer and he didn’t have much time left. There wasn’t anything left for me to do, except take him home and let him tell me when he was ready to go. Early the next morning, Shadow died in my arms. I was completely devastated; it felt like a piece of my heart had died with Shadow.

Over time, the pain subsided, and I moved on, got another degree, a house and a career. And then I got Floyd. My sister, who knew I was looking for another cat, found a small, rambunctious orange tabby at the local animal shelter where she worked. I went down to meet him and I knew he was meant to live with me.

From the very beginning I knew that Floyd was special. He was a spunky orange kitten, and although I had two other cats and a dog, the bond between Floyd and me was unmistakable. We were inseparable from the day I brought him home. As time went on, I began to notice something very, very familiar about him. Then it dawned on me, Floyd had the same mannerisms as Shadow had. The meow they each used to get my attention, the way they slept next to my head at night, the way they played with their food. It was all the same. And then I realized, Shadow came back to me; his soul was in Floyd’s body.

This was an amazing realization for me. Not only had Shadow reincarnated, but had reincarnated specifically to find me again. It was as thought our souls had called out to each other to be reunited.

For those of you who have lost a beloved pet, you should know that it is absolutely possible to be reunited with your pet in life. Be prepared, however, they may not take on a form you would immediately recognize. I have heard stories similar to my own, one in particular where a woman found her beloved thoroughbred gelding had reincarnated as a small gray pony.

If you don’t find your pet again in life, do not give up hope of “seeing” your pet again. Animal spirits can stay near their human companions after death. My mother’s house currently plays host to all of her feline companions, both living and dead. Pets even come up during readings wishing to express their happiness and love for their people.

The love we get from our pets is unconditional and lasting. The bond between us transcends the physical world and gives us insight into the very fabric of existence. Pease don’t take that love or their presence in your life for granted. If you feel called to do so, I urge you go adopt one of these precious souls at your local animal shelter.