The music we carry

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Music can engage and soothe animals, including those in shelters. (Image by Mirko Kaminski from Pixabay)

When my father-in-law was at St. Anne’s Home here in Fort Wayne, I noticed how the birds in the lobby aviary responded to music coming from the dining room. Sometimes they seemed unaffected and kept flitting around and chattering.

During a selection of piano oldies, though, they perched quietly, cocking their heads now and then. The human audience, whether transported to another time and place or enjoying the present moment, seemed equally content.

Since then, I’ve seen videos and heard accounts of grieving whales soothed by violins, a sanctuary elephant next to a piano while a man played “Ave Maria,” and shelter dogs chilling to live cello music. Like the care center birds, the animals were responding not only to the music, but to those making it and the others hearing it.

Science has demonstrated the effects of music on the brain, and music therapy is part of many human health and wellness settings. But I don’t think the benefits end with the last note of the song. There is something about music that keeps healing even in the silence, even amid the noise in the world. It might even replace the noise in our heads.

And how many of us have had songs stuck in our heads? More on that in a moment.

A few months ago, I dug Chant, the popular 1994 album by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo, out of the CD cabinet and loaded it into my iTunes. Gregorian chant is prayer sung in Latin, generally without accompaniment. Its development is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great during medieval times, but there is some scholarly uncertainty about that. Regardless, to listen to it is to step into the eternal. You don’t have to understand a word of Latin to know that each chant is about God’s presence in any circumstance.

I began to include the chants in my personal meditation and in my work as an animal communicator and animal Reiki practitioner. Sometimes I have the music playing softly from my stereo or the phone in my pocket when I need to focus, or refocus.

My teacher, Kathleen Prasad, says chanting unites breath with sound in a way that calms and heals. Where fear and sadness constrict, chanting expands. “The more expansive you become, the more easily you can feel emotions without being knocked over by them,” she says in her Animal Reiki Source blog. Animals will feel this expansiveness, she continues, and want to share your strong, balanced space. I am finding this to be true.

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Mildred and I shared Reiki and a bit of Gregorian chant. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

On my rounds at Summit Equestrian Center recently, I sat down in the shade, pulled up iTunes on my phone, and clicked on one of the chants — I believe it was Kyrie Fons Bonitatis (Lord, fountain of mercy). Mildred, a goat who has seen a lot of living, had been lounging on the grass nearby — but now her head swiveled around, ears alert. It wasn’t her “What is that infernal noise?” look (I know that one). Mildred recognized what she was hearing. She listened with me as we shared Reiki, and soon she closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun.

I wondered if, in her storied life, she ever spent time in the pasture of a Benedictine monastery. Or, on this day, did she simply tune into a sound and energy connecting her to her creator? The particulars didn’t seem to matter much to Mildred. All I got from her was that she liked hearing it again and it made an already beautiful day — moment, really — even better.

Even though I wasn’t doing the chanting myself, allowing that expansiveness to move from God through the monks through me and Mildred was truly a gift.

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket or any other receptacle. So when I don’t have the actual music playing, I try to carry the energy of the music with me. You could say I keep it “stuck” in my head and heart to share with the animals, however it may benefit them the most.

Think about this … and feel free to share:

  • If you leave a radio on for your animal friends when you leave the house, what music do you choose?
  • If you sing or play an instrument, how do they respond?
  • How does having a song (or chant, or other music) stuck in your head make you feel and respond to others?

 

 

 

 

 

Four things to know before hiring an animal communicator

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A mischievous kitten might have some valuable insights for you. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

Most people who contact me for an animal communication session are trying to solve a problem — a seemingly intractable behavior issue, adjustment to change, or painful end-of-life concerns. I’m sure many of them never thought they’d consult an animal communicator — what is animal communication, anyway? — but here we are.

It’s hard to make decisions when you’re upset, dealing with a million other things, or both … so here are a few points to consider.

1. You’re already on the right track.

Considering a discipline based on listening to the animal and his or her needs means you are willing to listen and learn. Maybe animal communication is a new concept, but you love your animal. You’re willing to at least think “outside the box” in order to help.

Even if you decide working with an animal communicator is not the right move at this time, you’ll be closer to finding what will help. So stop, take a breath, and give yourself credit for this alone. 

2. Do your homework AND trust your gut.

Referrals from people and businesses you trust are time-honored for a reason. You can also contact local metaphysical shops. Some, like Catalpa Tree Shops in northeast Indiana, maintain directories of healing arts practitioners. A worldwide directory of animal communicators, with paid listings and ads, is on Penelope Smith’s Animal Talk website.  (I am not currently listed here, as I did not find it especially helpful before, but you never know.)

Whether you get an animal communicator’s name from a friend, directory, or random Google search, spend some time on his or her website and/or social media pages. Pay attention to how you feel as you read. Are you calmer, or more anxious? Clearer or more confused? Does the person follow the Code of Ethics for Interspecies Telepathic Communicators, or any other code of ethics or guiding principles?

3. No one is 100 percent accurate.

I am human and can’t do everything perfectly. With God’s guidance and my own self-care, I can be present, clear, and helpful to the animal and his or her family. Any animal communicator claiming 100 percent accuracy is probably best avoided.

4. What you can learn will almost certainly be worth the investment.

There are no guarantees in this line of work. However, if you’ve chosen a communicator with whom you feel comfortable, chances are very good that you’ll find a valuable takeaway. It could be information you can act on immediately, such as moving the litter box to a quieter place or telling your horse where you’re going as you’re loading. It could be insight into how your animal views her place in your household, or his feelings and needs as his life on earth is drawing to a close.

Animals see our gifts and struggles in a way that even the humans closest to us cannot, so you may even learn something about yourself. Nothing is ever lost by listening.

 

 

 

 

Lola’s legacy in spots

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Any child Lola carried was her No. 1 priority. (Photo courtesy Summit Equestrian Center)

I watched Lola carry the young rider around the grounds at Summit Equestrian Center, accompanied by two side walkers and director Allison Wheaton. The 15-year-old Appaloosa mare moved with the ease of a practiced therapy horse.

What’s more, she’d attuned herself to the energy of this young girl, who lived with a condition affecting neuromuscular and other systems. The child had groomed and saddled Lola, with plenty of pets along the way, and now sat beaming on her back.

Writing a Fort Wayne Magazine story on therapy animals had brought me to the barn to meet Lola and watch her work. Lola adjusted her stride to each child who rode her, I would learn. Once, she abruptly stopped because she sensed a child’s oncoming seizure.

Even her coat was beautiful, fun, and functional; kids counted her spots or adorned them with nontoxic finger paint during summer day camp. She stood perfectly still as riders stretched to touch one spot or another.

Just a couple of years before, Lola had arrived at Summit Equestrian Center — a nonprofit which offers therapeutic riding lessons and equine-assisted counseling — worn down emotionally and physically. Months of good nutrition, training, and mindful care helped her recover and decide on her new role.

From then on, Allison said, it was forward all the way. Whatever happened in those first dozen or so years of Lola’s life could not be undone, but they would not define her. She made sure of that. She had better things to do.

Lola and I met again a few years later, this time in my capacity as an animal communicator and animal Reiki practitioner doing weekly rounds at Summit. She was always happy to see me — and to fill me in on anything she thought needed attention. Ever the matriarch, she kept watch over the herd, as well as the goats, pigs, chickens, cats, dogs, sheep, the rest of us volunteers, and especially Allison. The two of them built Summit’s mission one lesson at a time.

As time passed, Lola’s physical body began to weaken, but her spirit and sense of humor remained strong. A few months ago, I caught up with her as she was eating breakfast and asked her how she was. “I’m an old lady. I’m up. I’m eating. What more do you want?” she replied wryly.

This spring, I watched her follow newcomer Mojo, a handsome Tennessee Walker, around the pasture, at once shamelessly flirting and telling him things he’d need to know and take care of when she was no longer there to do so herself. Lola had plenty to tell me, too — thanking Allison for her loving care and the difference they made together, a caution not to take much sass from a certain mustang, a reminder about keeping gates closed, and more.

Under a summer solstice sky, Lola completed her work on this plane and went to join old friends Whinnie and Ritzy on her next adventure.

When I look at Lola’s life, I see each lesson, ride, encounter, and experience as a spot like the ones on her coat. No two are exactly alike. Some overlap and even seem multilayered. Together, those spots form a pattern like no other.

Thank you, Lola, for inspiring us to find the beauty in our own patterns.