Twelve Characteristics of Spiritual Maturity

1. Body awareness – gnosis regarding the fluidity of the material, knowledge of what we can and can’t change,  transcendence of the time trap (physically)

2. Feelings of souldeep pain and sadness for the suffering of all creation, but especially for suffering caused by human failing. Sometimes overwhelming.

3. Episodes of inexplicable bliss despite acute awareness of personal and universal suffering. GRATITUDE.

4. Stability, meaningful work, acceptance, utilization.

5. Deep and easy relationships with people  and ability to walk away from outmoded ones (and the wisdom to tell the difference). Detachment as required.

6. Comfortable, refreshing and regular sleep.

7.    Fewer scattered dreams and far more “big” or lucid dream episodes. recall, and by now, the skill to understand them.

8. Grounded-ness, physical mastery, in increasing levels according to practise; but, you would not have gotten this far without a lot of work, so likely you know how to use rest, exercise, breath and food to adjust your vehicle by now.

9. Decreased “self talk.” You’ll find yourself talking to your Self more often. You’ll suddenly realize you’ve been chattering away with yourself for the past 30 minutes. There is a new level of communication taking place within your being, and you’re experiencing the tip of the iceberg with the self talk. The conversations will increase, and they will become more fluid, more coherent and more insightful. You’re not going crazy, you’re just  moving into the new energy.

10. Feelings of connectedness at the same time, you are detached. No loneliness. Increased  need for solitude but not to rest and escape, but rather, to WORK.
loneliness, even when in the company of others. You may feel alone and removed from others. You may feel the desire to “flee” groups and crowds. As Shaumbra, you are walking a sacred and lonely path. As much as the feelings of loneliness cause you anxiety, it is difficult to relate to others at this time. The feelings of loneliness are also associated with the fact that your Guides have departed. They have been with you on all of your journeys in all of your lifetimes. It was time for them to back away so you could fill your space with your own divinity. This too shall pass. The void within will be filled with the love and energy of your own Christ/Buddha/Gaia consciousness.

11. Intensified passion – but with equanimity, not the scattered pattern of the neophyte. Focused, committed, action directed by love. Now that you know what “love” really is.

12. A deep longing to  stay here and help. And the strength, wisdom, courage and love to endure it as long as it takes.

Excerpt – One Crow, Joy

A soft, grainy-grey winter morning it is, and I am standing, facing south, looking out from my bedroom window at the sleepy little blink of a village called Rupert. Really all I can see behind the thicket or brush and trees, are a few scattered lights, the hint of some dwellings. Directly before me is my own scrubby yard, filled with elder and balsam poplar and goutweed; a little farther down, a clump of young oaks and cedars, and that towering white pine who stands guardian to the south. My friend and ally, I feel this tree forms a barrier between me and the world “below” – the towns, cities and world outside of Rupert – south of the village. Not far behind him, tucked into the small valley formed by one of our myriad rocky hills and outcroppings, is the Community Centre – a humble place indeed to locate one’s spiritual transformation, and therefore all the better. There is a stream in there, very small and red with iron; the yard itself was once tended to with great love and care, but since I have been here has fallen to great disarray. The loveliness closeby  is marred to the point of absurdity by the presence of the World’s Ugliest Fence, thrown up with a minimum of effort by someone who cared not for beauty of this world if it meant some extra work and expense. Still, there is much loveliness remaining; the trembling aspen, whose song brings me more peace than anything I know in the outside world, the wild roses, the willows across the road, framing Indian Creek. My Libran Ascendent cannot but focus on that fence in the midst of the verdant beauty here. ..still, this is not a story about discontent; this is a story about redemption. And so, I will not talk about the fence, but rather,the spirits who lived within it’s confines; the sweetness and joy it contained, and still does.

On quiet, hushed mornings such as this one, it is as though I can still see them behind the Ugly Walls; his face impassive, somber and alert, those old, old eyes; and then hers, alight with the ever-present smile, the seal-like gaze only apparent when her cheerful and  animated meandering finally stopped a moment. I can see them,milling, watching,  wandering – and they are there.

Nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

I stand looking out this window on a softly snowing weekend morning. There is much to do; there always is, but I need this space apart today. My eyes glance down to the old vanity table in front of me, at the items placed so carefully there. Most of them, I recall from where they came; the chunk of crystal on the left side, for example, was the very first  I ever purchased, at a New Age store in Toronto, probably 25 or 30 years ago. The terra cotta candle holder with the angels painted on the side was a gift from an old and cherished friend, one who got to travel everywhere while I just stayed in my room, as the song goes. The amber candle holder I bought in honour of one of the many gods I love, but then it migrated to this space, a shrine in it’s own way too.  The stone angel – I don’t remember her, or rather where she came from.  She’s so perfect though, I am glad for the inspiration that moved me to bring her home.

The heart shaped stones, now those I found on one of my many walks through these hills. And they too are perfect, sitting as they do in their neat and rustic symmetry, in front of the main items on this table; two funerary urns, one periwinkle blue, tall and sleek; one sandstone and sturdy, shorter but somehow more solid. On the blue urn, a Christmas tree ornament sits waving her magic wand; a gossamer fairy, ethereal, beautiful and full of gentle magic, much as the soul she decorates was in her time on this earth. The Sandstone urn has no decoration save an old silver locket draped around its neck, a locket which, if opened, reveals two kinds of fur tucked inside, one short and golden, the other longer and soft black. The fur of the beings whose ashes lie within.

On the left, Lila, and on the right, Luke.  My dogs, my spirit-friends, loves of my heart,  my teachers.  In this silent, soul-filled and timeless morning,  I take a moment to pray for them, only to send love, only to remember. To look back, to where – perhaps – it all began.

It starts, and it goes on forever, with Lila.

Working with Animals – getting started

In my work with animals I am often asked what herbs people should get for a “start-up” kit – not exactly First Aid, which entails specific items for emergencies, but a general kind of “what herbs (and in which form) should I buy or make to get going with helping animals”? So, in this article I’ll make a few suggestions, useful for anyone just starting out, and hopefully some ideas for the more advanced herbalist, too.

Working with cats and dogs is, on one level, much like working with people; before we administer anything herbal, we have to evaluate the individual . We need to consider not just the herbs themselves, but which form to use, and of course, what dose to use. Beyond that, we want to consider if the herb will be used longterm or short, and in the case of the former, carefully evaluate any health conditions the animal may have. This is important with short term herbal choices as well, but when a specific formula or even one plant is used longterm, it may not only exacerbate existing conditions but promote the development of new ones, in the carnivore.  High oxalate herbs should never be used longterm with dogs or cats, for one example. But the core of our work is to establish the form – given the fact many animals simply will not be persuaded to ingest infusion – and also which dose we will use. The latter here is quite simple for me – I start at the low end of the therapeutic range and build levels only as indicated.  I tend to use tincture or glycerite most of the time, but some herbs (Marshmallow comes to mind) are probably most effective given in infusion, so  get creative about how to slip it into the food.  I use  green tripe, special home made recipes, or honey – not peanut butter, cheese and other foods not optimal for dogs. In cases of urgent need, and with herbs such as milk thistle that aren’t so great in tincture – I use capsules. Depending on the animal, herb and condition, we can look to tinctures, glycerites, infusion, capsules and pastilles – but let’s start with a few basics the Animal Herbalist can rely on in a very general sense.

Note: this list does not cover medicine-making, but assumes you are just working with purchased products – at least for now. Because this article will go on forever if I start to recommend doses , I will cover  the range in my next installment; for those who want to start right now, an excellent resource is listed at the end of this article.  For now, here’s the basic starter kit. I’ve emphasized local herbs and those that do double duty, for example chamomile as a relaxing nervine (to help an anxious animal relax) and as a soothing carminative for upset stomach and gas.

Tinctures and Glycerites:  Echinacea, Mullein leaf, Hawthorn berry, Calendula, dandelion (root and leaf) plus, a nervine , respiratory and a urinary formula, and perhaps one for pain. I say “perhaps” because there are many kinds of pain and it is always best addressed according to type; that said, a general formula can be a blessing, in acute or chronic scenarios. If you prefer glycerites to tinctures – there are pros and cons to both – some lovely products available here:
A few examples of formulas I like:

1) This is an excellent nervine formula, but you can of course work with individual herbs and experiment. I encourage you to do so!

2) Mountainrose Herbs has a line of herbal formulas I have used with animals over the years, and especially like the Bladder Care and Respiratory Blends here:

3)  For pain, I often combine Corydalis and Meadowsweet with a relaxing nervine like Skullcap. A good formula can help a lot, but look for something with a nervine and possibly an anti-spasmodic like lobelia.  Be aware that cats in particular should not have a lot of salicylic acid, so go easy on both White Willow bark and meadowsweet.  Devil’s Claw is a superb anti-inflammatory and included in many formulas for pain,  but it is contraindicated for dogs n heart medication. One popular formula is a capsule called “DGP” – DoggonePain – and  can be used for most dogs with arthritic soreness. It contains, among other things, Boswellia, Corydalis, Cayenne, Feverfew and Turmeric.

Powdered herb: Goldenseal, Marshmallow root, slippery elm, blackberry root

With just these four, you have a powerful  herb to use topically for infection;  Mallow is the  “bandaid for the stomach” you can use for dogs undergoing chemo or with any kind of gastric upset; Elm is endgangered but has its place especially with IBD and dogs who need extra nutritional support, and blackberry is a superb plant for diarrhea. Give in food, or honey, or  home made capsules if need be.

Dried herb: Yarrow, elderflower, nettle, calendula, marshmallow leaf and root, milk thistle seed, burdock root, chamomile

This list – all of which can be made into infusion, placed directly in food,  or used externally as washes/compresses – covers a wide range of uses. Yarrow, elderflower, calendula and chamomile are all superb herbs for the skin, as such can be used in rinses, compresses, poultices and home made salves. Internally they can be used for infectious conditions(yarrow and elder) for gastritis(calendula and chamomile) and anxiety (chamomile alone or with other nerviness, such as lemon balm, skullcap, passionflower, and others). Milk thistle is THE go-to herb for liver problems or just for general support; think of adding freshly ground seed in small amounts regularly to the diet, or a standardized extract of silymarin for acute conditions.
Stinging Nettle is a classic herb for animals who suffer with seasonal allergies. Make an infusion of the dried leaf and add daily, starting about four weeks prior to the allergy season. (Dietary changes, fish oils, other cooling herbs can ease symptoms a great deal as well).

Essential Oils: I never, ever use these with cats, as they are unable to metabolize them at all,and can die as a result of ingestion. Dogs can handle a little bit in dilution, but for the beginner I really only suggest lavender and tea tree, both of which are very useful but should be used with caution – and never internally.

Additionally you will want to have on hand:  Honey  – sometimes the only way to get that tincture into a reticent dog or cat is to sweeten it. A small amount of good quality honey can mask a few drops of tincture, or you can stir in a powdered herb such as mallow root, or elm and feed it directly.

Rescue Remedy (Bach Flower Essences)

Traumeel – by Zeel, a homeopathic blend used for animals in distress or pain

A good basic salve,  perhaps made with calendula, plantain, chickweed or other mild safe herbs – for skin rashes and insect stings

Green tea bags – for hot spots

Apple Cider vinegar

Therapeutic clay – to mix with goldenseal and perhaps some tincture, apply to abscess or other sores



A thermometer


Scissors, tweezers, magnifying glass


Mason jars for storage (and for any infusions or other medicines you may make)

Cheesecloth, a small and a medium sized sieve

Measuring spoons and cups

Gelatin capsules (for filling with powdered herb)

Plenty of blankets and towels

A hot water bottle (NOT an electric heating pad)

Olive oil and beeswax, in case you are up to making your own gentle salves

And – very important! A good veterinary herbal that can help you make choices about herbs and dosing them safely and effectively. I highly recommend Veterinary Herbal Medicine by Drs. Susan Wynn and Barbara Fougeres. It’s THE reference book for both  the home herbalist, and the clinician working with animals.

Next article I will take a look at conditions, and how  all the herbs in your starter kit can be used most effectively. Until then – hug your furfriends, and eat the weeds.


Herbs for Companion Animals – Ottawa Herb Society article

Healing Herbs for Animal Companions

The widespread petfood recalls of 2007 have been terrible to witness and  a revelation for millions, regarding the sorry state of commercial animal feed. Foods pet lovers had come to trust – even some of the better brands – were linked to poisonings, severe illness and death. Five years later, the original crisis has passed, but recalls (foods contaminated with aflatoxin, salmonella, excess Vitamin D and much more) continue to abound.   If anything positive can be said to have come from it all, it’s that more and more  dog and cat lovers have come to realize the  many problems associated with commercial foods, and begun to either purchase higher quality products, make their own food, or a combination of both. For me, as a clinical nutritionist working with mostly therapeutic diets for dogs, it’s been heartening to see the care people take to learn about nutrition and feed their best friends much better quality food. As an herbalist, I hope also to encourage more animal lovers to explore and become familiar with herbs for common canine, feline and equine conditions – both preventively and therapeutically.  While diet is known to contribute to all kinds of health issues from diabetes to cancer, so too can overuse of vaccinations, steroidal drugs, pesticides and antibiotics contribute to many degenerative diseases including epilepsy, arthritis,  a wide range of digestive issues, liver and renal disease, and cancer.

Many of these drugs can be minimized, or avoided entirely with careful use of plant medicine. Before just starting, however, there are a few key points to consider when working with animals. Chief among them are; metabolic uniqueness of other species, dosing, and method of administration.  These three concepts must always be considered and adjusted accordingly for the species and the individual.  Safe and effective use of herbs for animals begins  with these considerations.

Metabolic Uniqueness

Dogs, cats and horses, not to mention birds and reptiles –  break down, absorb and metabolize  plant constituents differently from each other, and from how we do. While it’s beyond the scope of this article to cover even a portion of these differences,  consider the feline sensitivity to salicylates (willow bark, meadowsweet) equine reaction to black walnut (toxic) and the canine predisposition to calcium oxalate crystals and stones ( many plants are high in oxalic acid).  Diets high in oxalate can negatively affect calcium absorption, and with many home made diets already borderline to low in this essential mineral, it’s important to watch the oxalate content of any herb given longterm. The idea here is to  know your species; for a herbalist familiar with plant use in humans, this can mean simply reading up on the specifics of the animal, their species, condition and breed. For someone starting out with herbs, it means learning the Constituents of the plant, as well as the animal’s unique tendencies and reactions. .Dosing too is critical here, as we consider how very much smaller (or larger!) our companion animals usually are. Once I have ascertained which plants I want to use for a specific animal, I will most often start almost homeopathically small, dosewise, unless we are facing an urgent scenario.  Beyond species and breed, individual dogs, cats, horses have widely differing metabolic rates. I work from the lowest –amount- needed principle. As with humans, many herbs are ineffective at too low a dose, very helpful at the right dose, and potentially toxic at too high. In general beginners should stay with that group of plants we consider safe. I’ll cover a few of these at the end of the article.

Delivery Method

This is a topic animal herbalists often disagree on;  I recently attended an AHG webinar with the acclaimed author Greg Tilford, who states categorically that glycerites are his favorite method of delivery, because they are well tolerated and can even be “squirted directly in the mouth”. With much respect for Tilford I use glycerites as a last resort. In my own practise, I’ve found low doses of alcohol-extracted tincture, well diluted, to be well accepted in food, and even higher ones if the food is particularly savoury. For herbs best delivered on an empty stomach, or for sensitive animals who won’t touch tincture, there are other options. I use freshly ground milk thistle directly in food as a hepatorestorative, for healthy dogs,  two or three times a year.  I make herbal honeys with many  plants, or pastilles which can be administered directly or in food, I infuse fresh and dried leaf and flower in water and ladle it into small meals throughout the day. Obviously, I don’t use honey or elixir with diabetics, alcohol tinctures with liver disease, or infused vinegar with some gastric disorders. The key here is to cultivate a wide range of tools in one’s kit and apply them with skill to the individual – again, species, but here, condition and compliance. The delivery method must suit the condition, the dose should start small and increase cautiously, and the animal has to accept the method. I have a cat with asthma who loves her complex respiratory (alcohol) blend right in her food. She’s always been a good eater, other cats will not even take a taste of  their favorite food if there’s a few drops of  tincture, but will accept a herbal honey or glycerite readily. There are multiple factors to consider when selecting one or more herbs for your companion animal. They can be challenging. But each one is a teacher.


As with humans, animals can metabolize quite differently from one to another, with variations reliant on a number of factors.  My personal protocol is to familiarize myself with the veterinary dosing suggestions and work from the lowest to the point of efficacy – just as I would with a human. With many herbs, the range is huge with the safe and gentle healers most people use outside of clinical settings; consider the range for administration of dried Dandelion leaf; “ 50 –400 mgs per kg bodyweight,  divided daily” – that’s a wide range indeed. We must also consider the potential for an allergic response – it’s just as important with animals as with humans to take a good history if working clinically, or to bear in mind your own friend’s sensitivities before choosing herbs. Lastly, duration of the therapy will depend on whether the condition is acute or chronic, and I always dose for a week and then rest, unless working with very gentle trophorestoratives /tonics such as milky oats or hawthorn.

One guideline, which I may or may not use, is to dose by  using an amount proportionate to the human recommendation, if the dose for a 150 human is 15 drops BID and your dog weighs 30 pounds, use3-4 drops BID (of tincture). Because this method is safe, it is fine to use in most cases, but the risk is lack of efficacy. When I cover herbs for specific conditions, as well as on my blog, I will always provide a more precise dose and duration range. When in doubt, less is more, and check a good reference. I recommend Veterinary Herbal Medicine by Susan Wynn and Barbara Fougere for a clinical ,but reliable source of information.


This last section is personally important to me, as I have grown to prefer the use of local, abundant plants (for both human and animal medicine)  over the popular commercial herbs; some endangered, (slippery elm, goldenseal) others simply  come  from very far away (Devil’s Claw, most TCM formulas). While there are times when only a herb such as Goldenseal will do, in an overwhelming majority of cases, we have plenty of marvelous plants right here that can be used alone or in formula, with great result. I will discuss herbs for specific conditions in upcoming issues, but a brief overview here might be helpful. Some local and abundant plants I use all the time would have to include:

1)      Plantain, evening primrose,calendula and mallow (IBD, colitis, skin conditions)

2)      Hawthorn and Motherwort  ( cardiotonics)

3) Stinging nettle, goldenrod, ground ivy (allergy, kidney disease)

4) Dandelion, Burdock, Balmony (liver tonics)

5) Gravel root, mallows, agrimony, stinging nettle seed, corn silk, juniper berry, uva ursi, aspen ( kidney and bladder conditions)

6) Elderflower and berry, yarrow,elecampane, usnea, mullein (feline rhinitis, kennel cough in dogs, any viral or bacterial infection)

7) Goldenrod, mullein, elecampane, coltsfoot ( asthma, rhinitis, kennel cough)

8) Vervain, skullcap, milky oats,  wild chamomile,  wild lettuce, mullein, peach leaf,St. John’s Wort, rose ( anxiety)

9) Teasel root (Lyme disease)

10) White oak bark, self heal,  plantain,sage (periodontal disease)

11) Raspberry leaf, false unicorn, beth root, shepherd’s purse (uterine tonic)

12)  Bacterial diarrhea( blackberry root powder, raspberry leaf, wild garlic)

13) Comfrey, usnea, calendula, plantain, aspen, rose, St. Jon’s Wort  (wounds, bites, rashes and stings)

14) Male fern, mugwort, pineapple weed, elecampane,wild garlic  (internal parasites)

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor does it imply that the commercial herbs have no place in our natural care for animals; certainly Devil’s claw, goldenseal, yucca, turmeric and assorted other plant healers from other parts of the world are indicated in many cases. Many holistic vets have taken an interest in Traditional Chinese Medicine, using herbs from very far away indeed. For the home herbalist wishing to replace or minimize veterinary drugs and chemicals with gentler methods, I like to emphasize the abundance and availability (and efficacy!) of local plants. In future articles I will look at common canine and feline issues, and how one can use herbs both preventively and therapeutically for each. Natural – gentle – and effective.