By Joan Ward

What happens during one of your sessions with animals and their people?
During a session I don’t "do" anything other than witness the story being told and holding a quiet receptive space for illumination. Something comes through into the quiet space, which is beneficial. Sometimes the animals voice comes into the quiet space and sometimes an "overview" of what is taking place and why.

Living with lots of cats and having just had a houseguest with cat allergies for several weeks I wonder if you have some insight?
There are exceptions to everything, but generally speaking, when people have allergies to animals, particularly cats, there’s some level of fear of intimacy, from dramatic to subtle. Because animals are our spiritual partners, they can bring aggravation or irritation to help us look more closely at our issues and lessons.

When I make flower essences for allergies, I’m always addressing fear of intimacy. Sometimes, the essences alone help, especially if the person is open and can see their pattern or is ready enough to change that they have faith in what is seen during a session. The change can be dramatic.

Allergies are often about contraction around life. Someone may adore the presence of cats and their physical sensuousness, but have intimacy issues with people. The cats, on a spiritual level, are drawing out the person’s deficits in regard to relationship with others. Cats are associated with the feminine.... the nurturing, receptive, loving part of our nature. This is true with both men and women. Perhaps the person loves animals but has been hurt by people and is angry and rejecting of human affection. Allergies can mask the fear of intimacy, in an overall sense. 

It’s the same if we over-dote on animals--they will direct our attention back to our deficits in interactions with people. They love our love, but they want us to encompass all beings with unconditional love.

Cats often humorously target people with cat allergies or people who don’t like them for all kinds of reasons. Often they are offering spiritual assistance but sometimes they like to push peoples buttons because its kind of fun. I remember my Aunt Sally, who made a great fuss about disliking cats. In photos of our yearly family gathering we would all be seated in the backyard on benches with bushes behind. In all those photos year after year the family cats would be peering out of the bushes with Cheshire cat grins just behind Aunt Sally. They got quite a kick out of targeting her!

On a deeper level, because of the spiritual bond, when cat allergies arise, we don’t want to band aid the allergy problem, but we want to look for something deeper--which is usually fear of intimacy. It may be a plateau with people or a partner, with other humans, or with the Divine. Sometimes people say, I’m not interested in relationship.  But we can’t get out of it, can’t escape it. This is a realm of relationship. Even a hermit relates to his or her own thoughts and to God. If we are willing to look deeply, there can be amazing transformations. Cats are very mystical in a special way. The consciousness of cats knows that we cant get out of here without surrendering to intimacy of relationships, especially if we adore cats and are allergic to them. I love this topic! Allergies to animals are a symptom that is part of our karmic profile. It happens from the inside, rather than being triggered by something without. Often people feel that their soul resides somewhere in the body...but it is more true to say our soul contains the body...the body is a result of karma and contains all our unresolved patterns. Its cause-and-effect carried forward into the Now. Animals can often see our soul patterns/karma and help us clear them up.

We live in a realm of sacrifice. Everything feeds off of everything else. For example, Lymes disease. The common view is that the spirochetes, which are transmitted to the body by a tick bite, attack the body creating disease and often killing the host. Having almost died of Lyme’s disease I can clearly see that I called in the disease to me by a tight-ness in the karmic pattern I carried forward. I was allowing life to go on a trajectory that wasn’t beneficial to me or anyone else. The tick as a messenger of grace, deposited the spirochete in my system. A freight train of patterning had been building speed and it took “fierce grace” to derail it. I came just short of dying and then was reborn. When we can’t change through will, we have to give way to a greater power.  If we surrender enough, we are reborn out of the womb of surrender.
Can you say something about feral cats in particular and what they teach?
This seems to be an accelerated time with tremendous heartache over relationships. Cats are the epitome of relationship. Feral colonies are very intimate if left undisturbed. I have watched over a feral group in the alley behind my house for several decades. They are very intimate with one another. I have learned so much from them about courage, steadfastness, dignity, intimacy and proper boundaries. They are magnificent creatures.Many people who care for feral cats seem focused on what they perceive to be the suffering of such creatures and this prevents them from learning what the feral cats have to teach. Many women see their own suffering, personal or collective, reflected in what appears to be the ‘plight’ of feral cats. All women carry memories of living on the streets with not enough to eat and many hungry children to care for. So if you are caring for feral cats besides feeding them and taking part in vaccination and spay/neuter programs, It is most important to take a look at what they mirror for you and how you can release these old patterns.
Caring for feral cats and other areas of animal rescue and care can be heartbreaking at times, but it is hugely spiritually growth-full. It awakens Compassion in a safe way like almost nothing else. My darling friend Andrew Harvey says "Don't follow your bliss: look where that has gotten us. Follow your heartbreak." From the time I was a child animals broke my heart. Through their life and passing, through the cruelty inflicted on them in general and their inability to speak in their own defense and mostly through people's ignorance of their spiritual purpose. What Andrew is saying is whatever breaks your heart is pointing to your life purpose.What happens when we follow our heartbreak is unexpected. Almost all people want to help when they hear stories of suffering. But if we just go through the motions and sweep the pain under the carpet, we miss the gift. Much of my work is helping people see the gift in heartbreak. Heartbreak ties in intimately with our life purpose. It illuminates what we are already doing, or helps us switch to something more appropriate.

What do you feel keeps people from regarding animals as equal partners?
It can terrify people to see animals as equal spiritual partners; equal souls inhabiting different forms. What to eat?! We have to give up all our precious beliefs. There is great resistance to go there, its just too big, but we must if the world is to change....if we are to survive.

Theres the joke about the two little boys who got in trouble on the farm and so were sent to shovel a huge pile of horse shit behind the barn. One grumbles. The other says, With all this horse shit, there must be a pony in here somewhere. Gangaji, the teacher of Advaita has a book titled A Diamond in Your Pocket. Same story only different. We are looking for what we have already. Animals help us find the pony or diamond. For most of us who love animals, we receive unconditional acceptance from them. All mistakes are seen through as the diamond. They reflect back clear-seeing. I read a beautiful story about an actress who took her dogs to the movie set every day. She was young and glamorous and the guys always whistled at her. But on this one movie she was made up to look old and the guys didn’t whistle, but the dogs looked at her in the same adoring way, they saw right through the disguise to the diamond.

The next level animals want us to graduate to is to love other human beings in the way we love them, with the hope that we all see the diamond in one another. We miss the full impact of the lesson animals have for us if we don’t expand our love to humans.

Do different species teach different lessons? 
Relatively, yes. Ultimately we are all One and the only lesson is love. I say this cautiously, but cats and dogs play quite different roles in our lives. The canine path is devotional and unconditional. But cats aren’t devotional, they can often take us or leave us. Their path is on of wisdom and power, which gives them so much more latitude to present lessons to us. Dogs hold the blueprint of where we are in current development (ego). Cats hold the blueprint of vision, of what we are becoming. Weneed both. It is quite a help to have both a cat and dog companion. Of course, sometimes you find cat in a dog-role, or a dog in a cat-role. These roles do not in any way diminish one species or another. Animals have no trouble surrendering to their purpose. For humans, ego gets in the way. Animals surrender to divine impulse and are willing to be helpful to what is most beneficial.

We have the ideal that animals take on our physical and emotional difficulties, that they absorb from us, but maybe it’s not like that. Maybe it’s a reflection of human resistance to feel the full impact of the suffering of the other being and its equality, rather than denying what is right before us by diverting our emotions. If we face each situation directly in the moment, animals can help us not stagnate.

Joan :  
In Non Violent Communication we emphasize the importance of diving into the pain, meaning that if we let ourselves receive empathy - a very intimate process - until we come to the place of no words, a calm and vast space opens up. There is nothing-to-do. Later, out of this space, arises the most effective strategies. But if we keep sidestepping our deepest pain, we will keep making actions that wont change it. Sharon:  This is so beautiful! Back to Andrew Harvey. If we follow our heartbreak, not wallow in it, but face it directly and deeply, we will be led where we need to go. 

This is so beautiful! Back to Andrew Harvey. If we follow our heartbreak, not wallow in it, but face it directly and deeply, we will be led where we need to go. 

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