This morning as I sit down to write what is a somewhat emotionally challenging article for the Spring Issue of Plant Healer Magazine, I find myself musing on the many ways in which I have personally been affected by my work as an animal empath and healer. Those who know me, know I don’t use words like “Healer” lightly – this word in particular is often bandied about by people who have no business using it at all, in my opinion, and it carries with it a huge responsibility. My belief is, that once we use a word like healer or teacher, we need to be sure we are embodying that which we purport to be, otherwise it’s hypocrisy… and in many ways, an insult to others who do walk these paths with integrity. I can often become caught up in the need to run a business and make income, and this takes sacred time away from my life – so frequent check-ins are important. I had the opportunity to do one such check- in over the Christmas Holidays, and I found, predictably, a few areas that need evaluation. (I’d worry about myself if I didn’t – the goal of embodiment is not perfection but authenticity, and who among us doesn’t need ongoing work?) These areas, in my own life, include resisting the impulse to anger, when confronted with values or behaviours I find undesirable, and my recurrent difficulty in reconciling the work I do professionally with the demands and prerogatives of the Inner Path I walk. But perhaps hardest of all, is remembering the importance of focus and intention in ordinary,daily life – the good, the bad, the (sometimes) really REALLY stinky.
I work with animals professionally, but they also form the central hub of my daily life and spiritual practise. And by that I don’t mean meditating on Animal Guides, wandering through the forest listening deeply, studying the mythological and folkloric attributes of various species, or lighting candles on a shrine to Flidais, all of which are lovely and meaningful and yep, spiritual parts of my life. What I mean here is, the other stuff, the gruntwork – cleaning the litter, cooking the food, prepping herbal formulations, washing the bird cages and snake tanks, traipsing through snow to get the dogs walked, TTouching an ailing feline, filling bird feeders, making sure I spend time with them all (including the snake) and generally honouring their needs to the best of my ability.
This is where my focus, my intention, the purity of my heart and my discipline to not waver, are tested. Yes, there are days I’ve wanted to run screaming into a snowbank when it all became to much, but I didn’t. There are moments nearly every day where I would give my eye teeth to have somebody else do the work or at least help out, for a bit.But whoever said that waking a Path of Spirit, with your whole being,was going to be easy, or fun all the time? If we are not challenged, if we don’t have to face head-on, the Shadow aspect of our goals and dreams, and grapple with it all – where is the growth?
I estimate that every day, including walking dogs, I spend between 3 and 4 hours on animal duties, some of which are a pleasure and others, not so much.I have fibromyalgia, so there are days this work takes much longer, as I have to take constant breaks to manage anything heavy or demanding. And I fight the resentment on those days – that I have FMS, that it all takes SO SO LONG, that I feel relatively alone in this task and always the pressure to get to my day job…but still. My goal is to perform all of it with focused love for my calling, and steady, conscious gratitude I am able to do the work I do at all. Once I get to my desk, there are flurries of emails from people who respect my knowledge enough to reach out for help, and that is humbling.. Once I get to the forest, there are mossy meditation seats and hidden woodland altars to be fed, prayed or meditated over….once I can put my feet up at night, there is a ridiculous stack of books by my bedside to inspire, inform and delight me, with magical tales of Animal Medicine from all over the world, or simple stories about how an animal changed one human’s life, and so on. I often start my day by pulling a Medicine Card and considering the meaning, how I might need it that day, what I might need to be on the lookout for (within or without). And it’s all good, a blessing….but, the real test of commitment is what we do when we don’t feel like doing it, when it’s smelly or late or tedious or otherwise unrewarding. I can’t say I’m always this perfect person, scrubbing the poopy bed or reeking litter or shoveling the yard full of dog droppings with gratitude and glee…but, I hold the goal in my head and heart, keep clear and conscious about my sense of calling and blessing – and day by day, one task – one breath! at a time – I am getting there.