That’ll do, pig

2019 03.18 Josie in sun AKW copy

Josie enjoys the sun at Summit Equestrian Center. (Photo by Allison Wheaton)

It’s challenging to maintain that peaceful “Reiki space” when your client is jumping on you, pushing you, throwing a class-A tantrum, or in Josie’s case, all three.

To be fair, the pot-bellied piglet had been a good sport about coming to live at Summit Equestrian Center after a couple of stints as a house pig. But a new home is a big adjustment for any young being, and now Josie’s hormones had catapulted her into the porcine equivalent of ‘tween divadom.

This is the Year of the Pig in the Chinese astrological calendar. Pigs are associated with greed, rudeness, aggression, and other characteristics that seem rampant in our world. Pigs are also symbols of tenacity, abundance, and forward movement. While we can’t choose which characteristics a pig will show us at any given moment, we can choose how to respond. Josie is a walking, grunting, greeting, rooting, Reiki-sharing example.

On this day during my weekly rounds at the barn, she was mad at the world and I was there. As an animal Reiki practitioner and animal communicator, I want to listen and hold space for whatever the animal needs. But every time I thought Josie was done ramming her snout into my leg, she wasn’t.

In possibly the most awkward barn dance ever, I kept moving. Josie kept rooting. Until she wore herself out and settled down for a nap.

Of course I knew Reiki can be shared just as effectively from outside a pen or other enclosure. I could do that differently next time. The reminder I needed even more was not to let the desire to help override the need for safe, sane interaction.

When Josie strolled up to me the following week, I told her I was happy to share Reiki and a chat. I also let her know any wayward snout or hoof movement would bring the session to a halt until she was in her pen. “Fine,” I heard, along with a few grunts. We shared some energy for a few minutes while she nibbled clover, and then she trotted off to some other task.

That was my first lesson from Josie: Boundaries are only as good as our willingness to enforce them.

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Duke, who’s been learning about boundaries, advises Josie that now is not a convenient time for stall browsing. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

As time passed, spay surgery, acclimation, and maturity — and maybe Reiki? — helped ease her path. But progress is never linear, and Josie is Josie. I’d work with her while she was penned in timeout after breaking into the feed room or playing too roughly with the other animals. The next week, she’d come through like a team-playing rock star. You just never knew.

Recently, as I sat on the floor with Jake the senior barn cat at my side, Josie walked in with her customary “what’s up?” grunts.

Jake crouched, ears swiveling back. But Josie stopped two or three feet away from us and just stood there quietly. Jake sat up and stayed put, and we all shared Reiki.

Second lesson from Josie: We can recognize limitations without giving up on one another.

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Josie has a word with Marcus the barn cat. (Photo by Nancy Crowe)

On another day, when director Allison Wheaton was away from the barn, Josie and goat roomies Gabby and Mildred did not have their usual roaming privileges. They were sick of their enclosure and sick of one another, and everyone in the neighborhood was hearing about it.

I sat just outside the pen and began my meditation. After several minutes of Reiki, I noticed the squealing and “naaa-aaa–aaing” had stopped. Josie and Gabby had settled at opposite ends of the pen. Mildred lounged just inside the shed, relieved not to hear the other two complaining.

A moment later, I found a treat — left by my dog after a groomer visit — in my car. After determining it hadn’t crossed the line between stale and disgusting, I divided it among the three. Pigs and goats are not known for being finicky, but they were as happy as if it came straight from the baker’s case.

And there was the third lesson from Josie and company: The smallest, most seemingly insignificant gifts can make your day.

Though we haven’t told Josie it’s the Year of the Pig (we’d never hear the end of it), it seems pretty well timed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empath survival … and more?

BK04739-Empaths-Survival-Guide-final-outline250While Judith Orloff’s The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People (Sounds True, 2017) covers much of the same ground as her earlier works, this is a worthwhile, well-timed reinforcement.

Being an empath goes beyond having empathy, Orloff explains: “We actually feel others’ emotions, energy, and physical symptoms in our own bodies, without the usual defenses that most people have.” As an empath myself, I so appreciate the realism and simplicity of that last part. I don’t have the defenses most people do, but I have other abilities they do not. That’s the way we humans are; it’s that “gifts differing according to the grace given us” thing, and it’s why we can (and must) appreciate and help one another.

I received a review copy (but no compensation) after answering a call on WordPress for bloggers to review the book. Having many years ago read her books Second Sight and Dr. Judith Orloff’s Guide to Intuitive Healing and listened to the audio program Positive Energy Practices, I was interested in reading what Orloff had to say about empath survival in 2017.

Although some basic information on types of energy vampires and protection strategies is repeated here, there are many new and useful nuances and details. As an animal Reiki practitioner and animal communicator, I appreciated that Orloff included animal empaths in her chapter, “Empaths, Intuition, and Extraordinary Perceptions.” There are also good, practical tips on work, travel, and personal relationships and raising sensitive children.

Here’s where the real learning came for me: Despite the many insights and strategies for empaths’ mental, physical, and emotional well-being, in the dark recesses of my mind lurked a “C’mon, there’s got to be more here.” The “more” had to do with what actually happens when we stand up for ourselves and set boundaries, even to the extent of putting our well-being before social correctness, in a couple of the book’s examples. There will be judgement. There will be push-back. There will be consequences that will feel much different from what happens if we just go along and try to be like everyone else.

I often tell people being an empath or highly sensitive person is a gift, and those of us who are given such a gift have the responsibility to make sure we then gift it back to God, the universe, our little corners of the world, etc. It’s up to us to learn how to protect our energy and manage our sensitivity so that we can be at our best for ourselves and others.       If we’re not careful, we can cross that line between empowered empath and overly sensitive problem person. So there’s got to be more, right? Explanations to roll out? Ways to defuse the anger and deflect the criticism that may come our way?

Except maybe there isn’t.

Orloff consistently emphasizes treating others with tact and kindness, especially narcissists and other energy vampires (such as rageaholics, control freaks, and nonstop talkers). For example, with a controlling or critical person, she suggests calmly saying, “I value your advice, but I want to think about how to approach this situation myself,” or politely, firmly, and unemotionally asking the person to stop criticizing you. (She also wisely suggests examining and healing the self-esteem issues that make these such a bother.) There are no detailed defense tactics here; just quiet, succinct assertion.

Well, duh.

Taking responsibility for ourselves and our needs — without apology, explanation, or justification — in a kind, fair, respectful way is, in fact, enough. If we stand in our power and allow others to stand in theirs, we cannot become problem people. Others’ judgement is not our business, and the pusher-backers will find something else to do once we’ve walked away.

Maybe that’s the empath survival strategy I needed to review at this moment in 2017, and I’ll bet I’m not alone.

For more information on intuition, wellness, and empath protection, visit drjudithorloff.com. To learn more about my writing, editing, and intuitive work, come see me at njcrowe.com.