Do You See Us?

For Blog

March is Intellectual and Developmental Disability awareness month and I had the good fortune to go to a film festival graciously hosted by Stargazers Theater, to watch some short clips made by, and starring I/DD people.

What struck me the most, was that all the short clips focused on one or several things that made each I/DD person just like us. In fact, halfway through, I was not seeing the disabilities, but all the similarities that we face as a people. Things, hopes and dreams that we could all relate to. None of us like being labeled and put into a box; whether we are being labeled as conservative, liberal, black, white, etc. Yet the disabled are labeled constantly, even if it is an unconscious labeling. Because of their limitations in areas that others perceive to be normal function, they are often overlooked for the brilliance and talent that they have within them in other areas that we may not be so familiar with.

I think about all the people that I know, and I would say that we all have some dysfunction on one level or another. I know many dyslexic people that may not be great at reading or spelling but have great careers in honoring their own strengths. I can be a bit OCD doing daily tasks, which can drive me and perhaps others, crazy. We are not all good at the same things and I think that there is a reason for that. We can learn from one another, and teach one another. When we learn from someone that we cannot understand in the more typical way, such as many I/DD persons; we are moved to open our heart space, as that space is the easiest area to access a new learning, and also the space in which the I/DD person lives from. We can teach each other tolerance of our own inadequacies.

My two sons had IEPs in school, which meant that they had an Individualized Education Program, IEP’s go hand in hand with being I/DD. Both had a form of ADHD. My oldest son struggled the most, and even with the IEP, he struggled with grades and found it too overwhelming to finish high school. They had him on meds to help, but the meds caused another stress factor for him. It was not easy getting to the nurses office to get the meds and make it to his class on time. He was ridiculed and made to feel less than; it was too much for him to stay in the school system and he quit in his mid-junior year. He had always been a great artist, and writer, although he could not spell and do grammar, his content always amazed anyone that took the time to hear him. Another talent is that he can remember every movie that he has ever watched; knows all the actors and how they play their roles. I cannot remember a movie well unless I have seen it several times and it is one of my favorites. Now in his thirties, he still struggles to fit in society, with societies’ views on what success is, but he is still brilliant at those artistic things. He has recently joined a local theater group and has hopes to write a screenplay. This has been a great move for him, as he is seen as the artist that he is, but he still has to unravel what society has categorized him in his own head. You start believing the talk. It takes some courage and effort to walk the walk through the old talk and feelings of being less than. There are many others with this struggle, and worse.

March is awareness month, but I wonder what the awareness really is. Is it the awareness that many people in our society have disabilities? Is it the awareness that they are also capable of doing many great things within society? Or is it more for us, normal folk; awareness of how we think about people with disabilities, or awareness of how we act around people with disabilities. Do we see them for the people that they are? In looking at these questions, I have to admit that I have felt a level of discomfort around some people with disabilities. I have to wonder why. Guilt feels like a likely answer; guilt that I do not share their struggle, even though I have struggles of my own. Fear also shows up; fear of what? Fear of the unknown? Lack of understanding them on my part, and fearing that I am not as authentic as they are? Interestingly, I have not really seen these people and have turned a blind eye to them due to my own insecurities, not for any lack in what they have to offer.

Part of the film festivals agenda was to also rid the world of labeling people with the R word. When I was in grade school, the kids would poke fun and call one another retarded if they did not know the answer to the teachers question. It amazes me that in this day and age, we have not grown beyond our actions of childhood. Calling someone retarded is hurtful and ignorant and it still has to be addressed to our society. Well, I have another R word for you. Restricted. Labeling people comes from a restricted way of thinking. Restricting your thinking is the same as shutting your heart as if your arteries had closed down; no opening or nourishment to allow an active life force to continue spreading. Restrictive thinking does not allow any room for the heart felt experiences or healing. I hope and wish that both R words could be eliminated and that we could all find the comfort and support in one another, as it was meant to be.

Do you see us? All of us, seeing each other perfectly in our imperfections. Seeing inside our own selves to see what needs to be adjusted. Opening the blinds in our hearts and letting empathy, charity and understanding sink in. My strength can support your weakness and my weakness can be supported by your strength. Do you see us as a whole society or are we doomed by a world of yet another separation?



Offerring Reiki to Sick and Terminally Ill Animals

Chia (2)

Recently, I was asked by a friend if Reiki could work on tumors.  It turns out that his dog may have a tumor or undetectable kidney stones as she passes blood when urinating. She is a doggie favorite of dozens of people that go to our Tai Chi classes. She is our mascot and she oversees all our sessions there. After losing two personal dogs and a foster dog this year, I was hesitant to reply.

Our yellow lab had been diagnosed with diabetes and was blind and was riddled with fatty tumors for about 4 years of his 10 year life. He maintained well and never complained as I gave him his twice daily insulin shots. He refused to be anything different than he was prior to his diagnosis, right up until the day before he passed away peacefully in his sleep. He did not value Reiki much; over the years I offered it to him and he would just leave.  Too much fuss and fanfare for him, just let him live his journey as he thought fit.  I heard him telling me to “just leave him alone” the night that he passed as I was tearfully telling him how much I loved him and would miss him. He was not being rude; he just wanted me to know he was not only  capable of handling his death but that he wanted that right.

Next was our big bull mastiff foster. He came to us obese and full of cancerous tumors, dumped by his family. He, however, loved his Reiki and whenever I was teaching a Reiki class, he was right in line to have some of that energy offered to him. Numerous times over the ten months that we had the good fortune to have him, I thought he was in an active dying stage. I would call my Reiki students and they would offer him remote Reiki and time after time, he rallied up and was great for another few months. He stayed with us until his body could no longer tolerate the assault of his disease. Still, he refused to leave; I offered him Reiki, this time, to comfort his soul for the journey that would part us. He was our foster dog, but he was every bit a part of our family as well as a part of those who frequented my farm; we all loved him and he loved us. He did not mind my tears as we set him free.

Our cattledog was the last one to leave us in 2014. He also loved Reiki and was a favorite of my Reiki students to work on. He would set aside his nervous little self and would completely succumb to the energy for as long as you wanted to offer it to him. He would run to me when he realized that I was starting my personal Reiki healings and meditations to lie by my feet and go into a coma with it. That was a daily ritual for us for several years.  His illness was quick and unexpected. He was his normal self one day then critically ill the next without hope of recovering. He was not a dog to live with limitations; he came into our lives as a rescue in a bright light and left us in the same manner. Reiki again, helped us deal with that time we spent waiting in the ER after making the decision. Peaceful and surreal.

Also this year, I had been called in to help several dogs recovering from their chemo and radiation treatments with positive results. Then, I had several sessions with a dying dog and his family; to help ease his spirit. Although the family wanted him to stay forever, they wanted him to be able to leave when he was too uncomfortable to stay. We all believe that made his transition much easier on him and them. And lastly, another call to assist a friend and her dog as they said goodbye for the last time. In all situations, I feel that the Reiki energy was the glue that held the love in the forefront over such difficult times.

With the experiences that full recovery is not in my control, I skirted the issue of his question because I suddenly I felt the responsibility of saving this dog, and it was huge. How do you explain to someone that “Yes, I can help”, when you are not sure what the long term answer will be, but yet you know you can help? Helping, however, is not is not the real answer we seek; we seek cures, and I am sure that the answer he is seeking is that of a cure.

Why some animals and people live on despite their illnesses, or go into remission, or are lost prematurely, we may never know. In the end, it all boils down to faith in the universal plan of things. Faith is not based on proof but on the belief that all will all turn out as it should. With this faith, we need to remember that what we do that makes a difference even if the difference is not always the one we wanted or expected.

So yes, my answer is yes, Reiki can help tumors. Not just the physical tumors but the mental tumors that hold on to us and grow in us by limiting our faith to only what is known or for sure. It can dissolve those doubts of ‘should have, could have, and if only.’ It can dissolve the tumor of fear and restriction that I felt within me when he asked this question. I can say that Reiki can help and mean it.

**Just for clarity, all the above dogs have been treated by veterinarians.  Reiki assists in helping the body heal itself but is not a substitute for good veterinary care and many vets are in full support of its value to the healing process.**

Leading From Behind

IMG_20150111_133221888Here in Colorado Springs, our winters are fairly mild. We get a dose of cold and snow, then all goes back to 50s and sometimes 60s; even in January, where we are now. Naturally, I am excited to get one of those nice days to brush the dust off my saddle and think about doing something with my young Half Arab. Both of us are getting pretty tired of the arena, even though we have not used it much in the past cold weeks. I look out in back of my barn and scan the 1500acre field that has been calling us. The cattle have sadly departed on that big bad truck to meet their fate, and no antelope to be found. Today may be a good day to take a stroll on that open prairie. All saddled up and as we ignore the arena path and go straight to the field, I can feel the anticipation of my young horse. I sense the pumping of blood from his feet with each of his steps, while my blood is draining from my face and wonder if this was a good idea. After all, the last time I attempted to take him out there with two other horses, it was a ‘hike a ride’ as he was showing off his heritage in his young body: the Saddlebred quarter of him, prancing with legs and head high, and the Arab other three quarters; eyes bugging and seeing all. I had vowed after that day that I would introduce him to the field more regularly, which I had not. This time I came out prepared, with a long line appropriately attached through his bit to a ring in front of his saddle then around to the other side of his bit. A method I had learned from the Jean Luc Cornille clinics that I had participated in this year. I would simply start out on the ground, until it looked safe to mount. I would use this new found tool in an opportunity to lead from behind, allowing my young horse to have some thought in our training process. I wanted to see what he would do and where he may go, if given some say in the matter. As we walked off from the barn and his buddies I saw the investment of this opportunity in his eyes. They were not eyes of a horse that is looking to find a way to get out of this task, but they were the eyes of a horse that is searching for the correct answer. He stepped off slowly with some apprehension and the short steps that go along with that, but as he realized that he was able to have a dialect in this conversation, his steps got longer and the tension he had been carrying, dissolved. I saw his spirit get lighter and the ease of which he walked across this land, was the ease of a horse that may have been out there many, many times; which he had not. We walked out on that huge prairie for over an hour, with neither one of us feeling overwhelmed or tired. It was a huge step forward in our relationship process. We both learned to trust each other just a little more, and did so without any real rules or restrictions on each other; we just shared this huge space while walking together in this new adventure. We came back to the barn in quiet peace and inner happiness of our accomplishment. And it occurred to me upon returning that I never even thought about getting on to ride. I was simply swept away in the moments of time that we were thinking and moving as one. Surely this was nirvana. Later, I thought of how this leading from behind would mean to people. How we talk to each other is an important thing in any relationship. How we express the dialog really does matter. Are we willing to give up the stiff reins just a bit and not ride each other so hard so that we can all see the best of one another?  Lets all make that journey across that field together. Nirvana awaits.

Can Meat Eaters and Plant Eaters Be Friends?

IMG_20140715_152753671_smIn my first post, Out With the Old, In With the New, I mentioned how working with animals daily had led to me finding a more open heart. It had always been easy to find an open heart concerning animals, but I was surprised to find that my heart was also opening to people. Even people that do not share my passions or beliefs. The nameless numbers of people I had never given half a thought to; people that I would have just dismissed, ignored or even feared. And now, I am seeing more likenesses than not; whether we share the same beliefs or passions, we are all integral to each others’ being and to each others’ journey together.

I have joined numerous Facebook groups in order to connect with people that share my passions and beliefs. To name a few: animal welfare, dog and horse rescues, breed specific groups, motivation/inspiration groups, vegetarian/vegan recipes, and a vegan humor page. One thing that stands out in all of the groups is the conflict that goes on within each group. People have different opinions even though they share the same passions. I understand that. But what I did not expect, was to see the anger, and almost brutality in comments on the vegan humor page. And this is where my topic comes into play.

I am not vegan, but had hopes to turn in my vegetarian hat to become more vegan-like one day; to be totally free of consuming any animal products. And it is not as easy as it may sound. Making the decision would be easy, in comparison. Just pick up anything in the grocery store and look at the ingredients and you will know what I am talking about.

It would seem to me that almost every vegetarian or vegan person originated from being a meat eater. Meaning we all shared the same thoughts as a meat eater and probably the same passion for the same recipes. Then something inside shifted for some of us, we could no longer partake in the eating of meat. All of the vegetarians or vegans I have known, or known of, have become so for ethical or moral reasons concerning the animals involved; not so much for health reasons, although that would be a compelling reason to become one as well. Lots of documented, scientific research to support that. But that is another subject all together, perhaps for another time.

For me, my plant eating days started shortly after finishing my first Reiki Master/Teacher course; it was a spiritual awakening that I had been waiting for, although I did not know it at the time. I would mourn for the giraffes, elephants and big cats that had been shot for fun by tourist hunters that I saw posted on Facebook, and my heart sank when I saw the groups of cattle in the back field of my house being rounded up and put on the big one way semi-truck, but yet I could sit idly by and much on my burger. But no more; I could now see that I had been suffering from speciesism, a close relative of racism, but in the animal world. I would never had entertained the thought of eating a cat, dog or horse, as that would have been revolting.  I can only imagine the outrage that would have occurred over that; another Facebook group would be up, only this time, against me. Now I can see that the cow could easily be the horse, the pig could be the dog and the chicken could be the cat. All species were the same. The meat was no longer just a package in the store that I could conveniently pick up; it now had a face with meaning. Finally my actions were aligned with my spirit.

Then take into consideration, the Groups that were started to educate and support that cause. I like people that are passionate about their cause, but some of their comments scare me. Perhaps not scared by the comments, as everyone has a right to voice their own opinions, especially in a public forum; it was the judgement in the comments. Seeing people so invested in being sweet and responsible to the animals could certainly be quite brutal to each other. We pick between ourselves who is the better person, has the best religion, politics, by the way we eat, and the list goes on, even within the groups we support. This system of judgment is a heart closer. It is no wonder that we have trouble being compassionate about the ones that do not share our views. But that does not mean that we should not try.

One mans’ journey is not any better or more important than that of another. We all learn and evolve in our own time through our own experiences.   We can have empathy for each other, as we all have a different path to walk and be happy when we are able to make changes that are good for us as well as being happy for those making their own changes. I say that the meat eater and the plant eater should be friends, we are all in this together.