What is it like to be you?

 In Interspecies Awareness and Wisdom

osminog3Like many people here in the US and all over the world, I’m struggling to understand what is happening in my country. I’m sensitive to collective energies, so I have been feeling these waves for awhile, and in a certain way, their expression was not a surprise.

However, the intensity and the chaos of the waves is a bit like being rolled by crashers up on the rocks and the sand. I’m spending a lot of time staying very quiet, at home, and in spiritual practice.

I have been asking myself deep questions about the next stages of my work and my life: how do I teach? How do I live? What, now, is my highest calling, my deepest contribution toward creating a peaceful, kind, compassionate, thriving world that supports and respects all life, human and non-human?

One of the most insightful pieces of writing I’ve read online in the last week is from Charles Eisenstein, author of several books, including The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible.

In his essay The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story, he invites us to source our interactions with each other in empathy by using a compassionate inquiry:

What is it like to be you?

I’ve been fascinated with this question since childhood, asking it of animals, plants, trees, rocks, mountains, rivers, and other humans. This question, and the ways that we might find to authentically hear the answers to it, is the foundation of the interspecies communication work that is the deep calling of my heart.

How do we understand another being? How do we see through their eyes, understand their viewpoint, their perspective, their background, experience, and ways of perceiving their world? How can we step out of our own perspective and into that of another, deeply understanding ways of understanding and being that may be vastly different from our own?

Last weekend, a beautiful group of people gathered here in Arizona for our Deepening Animal Communication Retreat. People on the path of interspecies connection and communication came together to spend three days deeply listening to the Earth and all of the life that she holds. We offered gratitude and received the blessings of the Earth and our community through ceremony, practices, and sharing about how this path of interspecies awareness and connection impacts our personal lives and our world.

One of the exercises we do in this retreat is with an animal who we fear, are repulsed by, don’t like, or don’t know or understand very well. In this practice, we shift from our human viewpoint into the viewpoint of the animal, asking this very same question:

What is it like to be you?

How are we alike? How are we different? What can I learn from your perspective that I may never have considered?

Spider, rattlesnake, octopus, chimpanzee, panther, tarantula came as our teachers. People opened their hearts, set aside their preconceptions, and settled into receiving what these teachers had to share. Here are a few examples:

The spider is a mother, and she cares about the well-being of her young. She wants them to be safe from harm…just like we do.

The octopus has sensors on her tentacles that allow her to read tremendous amounts of information from the water that surrounds her…sensors that are alive and awake and able to perceive vibration, information, and awareness from the water, the earth below, and the air above.

Wild chimpanzees read the differences in human energy from a great distance, accurately sensing whether they come with open hearts and kindness, seeing them as “things” or have violent and harmful intentions.

That which we fear, dislike, or misunderstand becomes open to us as we shift our awareness out of the blinders of our own experience and become willing to receive the experience of another. As we opened to the teachings and perspectives of these animal teachers, something wonderful happened. The world around us became more vibrant, more alive, more real. The language of the creek, the grass, the trees, the clouds became understandable…a symphony of consciousness, awareness, and sentience. The connection between all life extended beyond just the animals in our own families who we know and love, including others that we don’t know and don’t understand, and from there, extending outward to all life, to the Earth herself and the cosmos beyond.

More than ever, I am convinced that this opening into deep interspecies connection, communication, and communion creates the frequency of empathy, understanding, and awareness that is the antidote to the forces of hatred, violence, and destruction that shape our world. This frequency is more powerful than any of the energies of chaos, despair, and separation that appear to surround us.

To me, this empathic, compassionate inquiry is the basis of love–real, authentic love–the kind that opens our hearts, creates space in us for true connection with another, and expands our horizons and our world.

As my yoga teacher, Rama Jyoti Vernon, who has done peace work in some of the most violent places in the world reminds us,

Love is the greatest power in the universe. It is the greatest healer, and it transcends all of the boundaries and borders we have created with our own self-limitations.

Can we hold this? Can we open to the truth that we are already connected…that our connection with all life, including other humans, is embodied in us? How would we live if we really experienced the oneness, the unity of all life, which is easy to speak about in spiritual circles, but so much harder to live and practice? Can we hold within us the awareness that this connection, this unity, is not just part of us, it IS us, and it is available to be experienced and discovered in each moment of our lives?

Our species has lost its connection to so much that is right here, available to us, if we simply begin to reconnect. We do this through our bodies, our cells, our hearts.

What is it like to be you?

As we ask this question, we open ourselves to the possibility of true understanding, true compassion, true empathy, true love. In the words of the beloved Persian poet Rumi,

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

Experience a deep interspecies adventure of a lifetime: Journey to Baja: Pilgrimage of the Heart–Women’s Retreat March 10 – 25, 2018.


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