RELEASING DEEP DOWN DOUBTS
When I first opened to the idea of talking to animals, I wasn’t afraid. Other people did this—I was simply an observer, a reporter. But, as I continued to ask questions, pondering how this communication thing worked, I felt my inner world responding. Part of me was stirring, and I grew nervous and excited at the same time. Deep down, something had been triggered—an ancient memory? a dormant skill?—and that something called to me, quietly, yet persistent and tempting. Well, this is not surprising; this is often how deeper awakenings begin. For as we recognize—and gradually come to accept—that our thoughts and feelings, dreams and awareness are engaged at deeper levels, our surface consciousness begins to wake up to something we always knew but couldn’t quite recall.
The very first time I heard an animal speak within my mind, a thrill ran through my body. I felt myself tingling—energy quickening, thoughts evaporating—in a strange, still moment out of time. There, on the other side of my window: a gathering of birds upon a bush. Window, bird, bush—it is not so much the surface thing that calls to us, but the deeper energy of life force, the deeper call of relationship. It is as if you finally realize that an invitation has been extended to you all along. And, one day, you accept.
I felt the deeper presence of the birds open to me that day. And I to them. It was simple and surprisingly obvious: a coming together of worlds that had never truly been apart—a sudden clarity that we were not just woman and birds, but deeply connected beings. My body gave a little shiver as a too-long silenced self swooped up to consciousness. A part of me came home.
It wasn’t until I thought about the experience that fear set in. My brain began objecting, raising doubts, worries, and all sorts of suspicions. My thoughts wanted to squelch down that initial feeling of communion, of heart-opening connection. Part of me wanted to make it unreal. But why? (Safer that way.) And who was in charge of thinking the worried thoughts? (Clever ego!)
As time went on, I began to notice that one of my favorite ways to avoid opening—both to new ideas or deeper levels of understanding—was to stay busy on the surface. For many of us, it seems easier this way; much safer to explain away events and encounters that don’t fit with reality-as-we-know-it. We almost can’t help it, for we’re trained to rely on logic, linear thought, and explanation rather than fully experience the rich mystery of life beyond the ordinary. Society helps to reinforce this notion, pushing us to “do” (and do it quickly!) rather than allowing ourselves time to “be.” Through conversations with animals (who tend to be experts in be-ing), I began seeing ever more clearly that the social push to rush-rush-rush was simply a huge admonition to keep us from looking deeply into ourselves. (What are we so scared of, anyway?)
As my old canine pal Barney once noted, that desire to hurry up and go onto something else is a defense, an anxious way of avoiding the deeper nature of self by clinging to the surface. Or, as he put it, it is as if you are swimming in deep water, but constantly grabbing for more life preservers, when the answer to your situation is to dive deep and behold the majesty of the undersea world. You busy yourself with 'to do' lists, when all you need really do is let go, sink down into yourself, into the greater reality; trust the workings of the universe, the beauty and humor of interconnections, and allow yourself the luxury of meeting all in a deeper flow of time.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But putting this into practice means letting go of all those cultural indoctrinations and personal doubts that keep us small minded and oh-so-tightly enclosed in our own little world. It means releasing the holds that tether us to convention and what we and others determine is ‘right’ or ‘true’. It also means facing what we fear the most: all those shadowy layers of self.
Alas, I do not know of any magic, sure-fire way to release all our deep-down doubts and fears. Other than experience. And patience. And the wisdom to know the difference between when a doubt is holding us back for good reason and when it’s simply because we are afraid of change.
While working with my initial doubts as to whether this ability to connect with and ‘talk’ with animals was true and real, I began having dreams which seemed a kind of test; or, as I see it now, a means of showing me how to more seamlessly align my inner and outer realities. Eventually, my skepticism faded and I felt deep within myself, Yes! This is real. I no longer felt the need to prove anything.
Of course, we are all constantly treading water in our own belief systems. As our challenges change, we begin to press beyond the limits of old beliefs, growing larger than what our outdated ways of being will accommodate. When I began working with shapeshifting and seeing the world from perspectives other than my own, for example, I encountered new doubts and disbelief, fresh suspicion and skepticism. One night I had a dream:
I am with a friend, standing at the far end of a fence that divides a fancy lawn party from a wild meadow. “Do you want to be a horse?” my friend asks and I nod enthusiastically. So we duck under the fence and begin moving in the meadow like horses, on all fours, neighing and laughing and running as fast as we can. I think this is really silly but I also feel the exhilaration of movement. As I release my judgment and flow into the joy of that movement, I suddenly become a horse. I am so excited! But after just a moment I feel a strong desire to go back to the fence and call to the people. I have the idea that if I do a ‘trick’ like sitting down and raising one hoof to wave at them I can later prove it was really me as a horse.
On waking, I remembered the dream with a small smile which held so many conflicting emotions. Although part of me had used the dream world to experience how easy it is to shift one’s shape of perspective—to become a horse!—another part of me resisted and doubted this to be true, still wanting to prove to others (and myself) that the event was real. It was a perfect reflection of my outer life; something to be challenged many more times until I could finally feel the truth of my own experience releasing the calcification of deep-down doubts.
And so it goes. All manner of incredible experiences will come our way, all ours to enjoy from the very depths of our being. We are the only ones who stand in our way, and so, of course, it is up to us to release ourselves, time and again. Thus we begin to feel and know and become the world anew.
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Excerpted from Shapeshifting with our Animal Companions.
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