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Animal Mentors

Animals Are Just Like Us! They Need Friends Too!

Since I was little, I have often felt closer to animals than to others of my own species. This month, in honor of the ninth anniversary of my blog here on Psych Central, I have decided to spend the month featuring some of my first-ever mentors and teachers with a mini-series called "Animals Are Just Like Us! I hope you enjoy it. :-) About eight years ago, a book came out that knocked me on my, um, softer side. The title of the book was "Unlikely Friendships."

The author, previously a longtime writer for none other than National Geographic, chronicled 47 stories of interspecies friendships which made me question yet again why it is so hard for our own species to get along.

I mean, if they can do it....

Here again, I discovered inspiration and mentoring for my own life and relationships by witnessing how sometimes all it takes to make a new friend is summoning the courage to open up and give another being a chance.

A gorilla and a kitten. A bird and a cat. A tortoise and a hippo. A leopard and a calf.

Who would've thought?

And yet the internet abounds with similar sightings - bears and lions, cats and lemurs, dachshunds and ducklings.

With literally zillions of views to their credit, these micro-documentaries each reliably capture the universal interspecies truth about friendship - it is always possible if we are willing to try.

My own extended family to date includes five different species: a cockatiel, a redfoot tortoise, a 3-toed box turtle, a standard wire-haired dachshund and, of course, the resident homo sapiens, who seems to chronically reside right at the bottom of the household pecking order.

But I don't mind. Far from it. In fact, my low position on the flock totem pole gives me the unique vantage point to observe all the ways in which our respective members mobilize to cope and co-exist, even when we are jealous, even when we don't understand, even when we really don't want to.

There is a particularly noticeable bond that has developed between our dachshund, Flash Gordon, and his small redfooted tortoise sister, Malti.

Although perhaps their unfolding friendship isn't so unlikely - after all, they do share some important friendship-worthy things in common.

For instance, they both love to wander around on the lawn. They both like to eat yucky things they find there that they aren't supposed to eat.

They both enjoy resting, napping and begging for food. They are both very independent and strong-willed.

Perhaps most importantly, they are both very cute.

Another unlikely friendship I have witnessed is my own unfolding connection with our flock's resident rescued 3-toed box turtle, Bruce.

Bruce came to us at a particularly tumultuous time in our family's history. Malti, who at the time was only one year old, had just escaped. She


Animal Mentors

Animals Are Just Like Us! They Love to Dance

Since I was little, I have often felt closer to animals than to others of my own species. This month, in honor of the ninth anniversary of my blog here on Psych Central, I have decided to spend the month featuring some of my first-ever mentors and teachers with a mini-series called "Animals Are Just Like Us! I hope you enjoy it. :-) A friend recently sent me a neat article about a bird I know well - at least by association.

Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo first shot to fame when he shook his tail feathers (and, frankly, all of his feathers) to that Backstreet Boys classic, "Rock Your Body."

With more than 6.5 million YouTube views to his credit to date, there is no doubt that something beyond the sheer novelty of it has propelled Snowball into the public eye.

In short, Snowball can dance - and way better than lots of people I know (yours truly included)!

But even more compelling is what appears to be the shared appreciation for good music that offers, as his rescuers describe it, a "very good beat."

I mean, what do you do when you cue up his vid and hear those first few strains of "Rock Your Body" waft out through your speakers? Does your head start bobbing? Does your booty start spontaneously shaking?


Animal Mentors

Animals Are Just Like Us! Mentoring Meet & Greet

My three interspecies loves and life flock mates: Bruce (top left), Malti (top right) and Pearl.

Some of my most empowering and life-changing mentoring experiences have come from my interspecies relationships.

Since I was quite small I've been drawn to birds and turtles in particular, but as I've gotten older, increasingly I find that same connection with all animals, plants, trees and nature itself.

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like animals and nature...


Book Mentors

You Can Only Be Who You Really Are


As an American born and raised, I grew up believing wholeheartedly in the "American Dream," a concept I understood poorly and thus loosely translated to mean that I could and should be able to be whoever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do.

As a child on the wrong end of pretty much every learning curve, this idea felt freeing.

As an adolescent discovering a marked difference between my aptitude for writing and my aptitude (or lack thereof) for math, this idea felt worrisome.

As a teen who routinely excelled in music classes and roundly underperformed in pretty much everything else, this idea began to appear downright daunting.

By the time I entered young adulthood, it seemed pretty clear that I wasn't living up to my full alleged potential. For a variety of reasons, I struggled to make it through college. Five schools and countless majors later, I emerged only to struggle through my first job and then pretty much all the jobs after that.

After taking what can only politely be termed the "scenic route" towards my job today - an actual dream-come-true job as a work-from-home freelance writer and author, I can look back and see that my life path likely was always leading me here. I mean, I was a whiz at reading, writing, spelling, just totally in love with words from day one.

And I basically sucked at everything else.

It would have been so much easier if I had just accepted that I can only be who I am. I can't be everything, anything, because I didn't get all the skills and talents. I only got the ones I got. So be it.

But I couldn't accept it back then. In fact, I couldn't even accept it last month. But then last week, in my current favorite book, "Your Heart's Desire" by intuitive author and teacher Sonia Choquette, I read the words that totally changed all that.


Relationships

The Art of Listening With All of Your Ears


I have more than one set of ears.

WOW.

When this thought first occurred to me the other day, I was genuinely surprised I hadn't realized this before now.

After all, I've had 48 and a half years to date to figure out that "I" means more than just my physical body with its two physical ears.

It didn't take me nearly that long to learn that, in addition to my physical self, I have an emotional self, a mental self, a relational self and a soul or spirit self.

But until only recently, I didn't realize that each one of these selves has also come equipped with its own handy set of ears.

This means that, instead of two ears, I actually have 10 ears.

That is a lot of ears!

And they are always listening. In fact, they live to listen....literally.

Like pelicans flying in a "V" formation, one set of ears will take the lead for a time, battling the headwinds but also charting our collective course. Then, when the circumstances shift to indicate another set of ears is better suited to take point, they will swap places.

When I first wake up in the morning, often it is my spirit ears that are in the pilot's seat. We meditate, and as the rest of me begins to come to, my mental ears take over for a shift to recount the events of the evening just past (including its usual assortment of vivid dreams). This recounting then often triggers emotions, causing my emotional ears to perk up and move into place for their turn to lead.

Then my back or bladder or tummy gets testy and my physical ears finally assume command for a spell.

And so it goes.


Book Mentors

Learning to Live Happily Without Attachment

I will admit this is a tough post to write, and I haven't even started to write it yet. The reason it is tough is because of the words I'm using. Attachment. Non-attachment.

What do these words even mean?

When I think of "non-attachment," an image of the Dalai Lama, with his gentle sweet smile and vibrant maroon robes, automatically comes to mind.

Yup. So not me.

Often I think non-attachment is for monks and nuns, for renunciants and minimalists, for people who get really happy when they see five identical shirt and pant sets or a single set of long maroon robes hanging in their closet every day for the rest of their life. Right?

So then I think attachment must be for me, with my vibrant closet packed with thrift store finds, including velvet tennis shoes in several colors.

When I think of "attachment," I think of that time I lived in an ashram for six months and they didn't allow pets. As if. The days when I would go anywhere for any reason if I couldn't bring my precious trio along have long since passed, never to return.

And yet - non-attachment. It is alluring. I know I need it. For that matter, it is one of the primary lessons one of my favorite long-time mentors, Don Miguel Ruiz, teaches in two of his four agreements: don't make assumptions, do not take anything personally.

Unfortunately, when I look back at my life to date, I see attachment everywhere.


Book Mentors

Using Loneliness to Get Comfortable in Our Own Company


I have loved Cheryl Richardson's work for decades.

In fact, her book "The Unmistakable Touch of Grace" was perhaps my first-ever exposure to the idea that grace, intuition, the divine, benevolence, whatever you want to call it, was actually aware of my existence, let alone willing or even eager to help me out.

I have read and re-read that book until it started to wear out. One of my particular favorite stories involves a phone call she got when she was just starting to launch her (now world-famous, thanks Oprah) coaching business. She was feeling that awful feeling so many of us get when we go to put ourselves out there and no red carpet appears.

Then she got a phone call - on her land line - and she actually answered it (this being pre-smart devices, let alone texting). The stranger on the other end politely asked if they could speak to "Faith Richardson."

Of course, it took Cheryl a bit to figure out this was an unmistakable touch of grace. But once she did, and after it began happening regularly, she wrote her book. And then I found her book and read it dozens of times. And now here I am today, still learning from her because (thank goodness) she is still writing and teaching.

Unlike with most of my social feeds, I'm pretty picky about my Instagram feed, because I use it to stay connected to my highest priorities of living a conscious, connected, intuitive, joyful life of service. And I need a lot - a LOT - of help to keep working on this, and Instagram is often where I go first thing in the morning and last thing at night to rediscover what I've forgotten in the long hours in between.

So my feed is full of mentors - Don Miguel Ruiz, Yung Pueblo, Sonia Choquette, and of course Cheryl Richardson.

Recently she answered a question from a reader who asked about how to deal loneliness by replying:

It's important to distinguish being alone from being lonely. Often we must go through a period of 'loneliness' to learn how to be in our own company.

I will admit I was familiar with the first bit - yes, there is a difference, and quite a distinct one, between being alone and being lonely.

But the second part was a big surprise.


Book Mentors

A New Definition for the Word ‘Discipline’


I have always loved words. I love nearly everything about them - their construction, the nuances of meaning they can convey, how they can combine and recombine in endless fascinating ways.

But I must admit I like some words much more than others.

For instance, the word "discipline" has never been one of my favorites.

I think this is because, for me at least, discipline brings to mind images of hardship, self-denial, sweat equity. So while to exert discipline may be admirable and even effective, it sure doesn't sound like fun.

I just took a look, and it seems my ambivalence is fully supported by textbook definitions of the word. According to the dictionary, "discipline" means to be taught to obey the rules by using punishment as a form of course correction.

Yuck.

So imagine my surprise when I recently came across this message in author and intuitive teacher Sonia Choquette's wonderful book "Your Heart's Desire:"

Choices....may require discipline on your part, but don't confuse discipline with punishment. Discipline means to learn, not to hurt.

You could have heard a pin drop inside my astonished brain just after it digested these words.


Book Mentors

Finding Strength and Solace in Life’s Slow Moments


I have been studying how intuition works for several months now, practicing techniques I'm learning through Sonia Choquette's books and other books as well.

And yet it continues to surprise and sometimes outright shock me when my intuition actually works.

Intuition is an odd word. It has different definitions depending on who is doing the defining. My favorite definition at the moment is "to notice," although I also like the definition "inner teacher."

But noticing is where I seem to have the bulk of my struggles. Reason being, my inner teacher can lecture all day, draw me pictures, send me GPS directions even, but if I'm not noticing it won't do me much good.

I especially tend to struggle to notice when things are moving fast, when I am jumping from one project or appointment to another with little time for respite in between.

But when life slows down, the noticing gets easier, at least in theory. In fact, the slow pace tends to send me into a place of anxiety, and that anxiety serves to fill up the empty spaces so I don't notice my life has slowed down as much.

Speaking of slowing down, recently I was wandering around Instagram and happened across a quote that stopped me in my tracks. The quote read:

do not be afraid of slow moments. 


Relationships

The Gift of Missed Connections


Lately it seems like Netflix has been featuring a lot of movies about suddenly-single people who are struggling to "get back out there again" and put their lives back together after a breakup.

Or maybe it is just me, suddenly noticing these types of flicks because, frankly, I might as well be starring in them.

Just like I never really noticed how many other people were buying new cars until I bought one myself a couple months back, now all of a sudden it seems I can't get away from the newly-single dramedies playing out all around me.

The thing is, they were a lot funnier before I started watching them for dating tips.

And even though I'm not quite at the point where I really want to start dating for-real again, I am very keen to make new friends and open myself up to fresh future possibilities.

But as I go about the process of inviting new people into my inner circle, I am finding it feels pretty much the same (i.e. terrifying, panic-inducing) whether the person is a new potential friend or a new potential dating partner, or perhaps both at some future point in time.

In other words, acceptance feels like acceptance and rejection feels like rejection, regardless of what type of connection it is.