Three ways to love your pet and our world

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Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Sometimes it feels like the problems faced by the animals of this world, and the environment we all live in, are so huge and so far gone that there is nothing we ordinary individuals can do.

Admittedly, as an empath I may be more prone to this occasional overwhelm, but I know I’m not alone. You may have just seen a news report or social media post about a disaster, environmental policy reversal, cruelty case, or fearful prediction that made your heart sink, too.

Consider this, though: If you have adopted an animal, you’ve already exercised the power to save lives and alleviate suffering. Like the young man throwing one beached starfish after another back into the ocean after a storm, we each save the world by doing what we have the power to do.

The practice of Reiki helps me do that by first getting out of the muck of fear and into a place of peace and balance. Only then can I hear God’s still, small voice. Then I can discern and do something useful, whether it’s a Reiki session with a rescued horse or a small change in the way I care for my own animals.

In the interest of ditching the defeatist crap in favor of practical solutions that add up, here are a few ideas. (I receive no compensation from any business mentioned; these recommendations come free and clear.)

1. Be wise about waste

Speaking of crap, pick up after your dog. Yes, you. Yes, really. Earth Rated makes biodegradable poop bags you can easily take on walks. They come in all sizes, some lavender scented. You can even get them in a little dispenser that clips to the leash. It preserves neighborly goodwill, saves shoes, and helps keep contaminants out of our water.

For cats, I recommend disposable, biodegradable Nature’s Miracle litter boxes. (Avoid the cheap imitations if you don’t want a peepocalypse.) You can use the biodegradable bags for the daily scoop, put the whole box in a biodegradable kitchen bag after four to six weeks, and put it in the trash. It uses less litter, avoids plastic litter boxes and liners, and you don’t have to scrub or disinfect.

There are many litter choices on the market beyond the clay or clumping varieties. Recycled newspaper, pine shavings, sawdust, and wheat are some of the options branded as earth-friendly, but I found no independent reviews or studies on this. Since both veterinarians and cats have preferences regarding cat litter, ask your vet before you switch. Then gradually mix in the old with the new. Be prepared to switch back if the new is not to Her/His Majesty’s liking. Litter box boycotts are not environmentally friendly.

By the way, I’ve found Bac-Out to be a good, nontoxic choice for removing pet stains and odors.

2. Play well, play fair

As the lottery commercials say, please play responsibly. A pet toy may not seem to have much impact on the environment, but ethical sourcing and sustainable materials make a difference. Durability makes a difference too; it’s frustrating to find the perfect toy, only to have your little darling destroy it in an hour.

Cheap plastic impulse buys happen to the best of us. However, shops such as Green Doggoods here in Fort Wayne, Indiana sell quality, eco-friendly pet toys. (Green Dog also carries the aforementioned poop bags.) Without much extra effort, you can make more eco-friendly choices, support a local business, and give your beloved animal the best.

Also remember that for cats, nothing beats a cardboard box or a randomly tossed paper wad. Both are recyclable.

3. “Put away the chocolate” notes and other memory tricks

Chocolate is a delight to us, but toxic to our four-legged friends. So any chocolate you receive for Valentine’s Day or any other occasion needs to be kept out of their reach.

It’s easy to forget to do this. When our attention is in several places at once, it’s easy to leave a box of chocolates out. Or not notice that somebody has slipped out the door, a gate was left open, or a water bowl is empty.

Again, small efforts can yield big returns. We can get in the habit of entering and exiting carefully and making sure the gate latches. We can put a “Return to cupboard” note on or inside the the chocolate box. (The little cheat sheet that tells us which truffle is which would be a good place.) We can put reminders to check the water bowl on our phones.

Being more aware of what we’re doing is better for our and our animals’ overall well-being. And in one of those “we are all connected” philosophies we might find tiresome but true, that can’t help but make for a better world.

 

 

On being sensitive, not insufferable

Walking through life as a highly sensitive person can feel like this. (Photo by Nicolò Paternoster on Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA)

As many lights as Elaine Aron’s groundbreaking The Highly Sensitive Person turned on when I discovered it years ago, a red flag popped up, too. I remember thinking: Wow, a highly sensitive person can be a force for good … or a pain in the ass. I did not, and still don’t, want to be That Person who complains often, takes offense easily, and makes the atmosphere sticky.

Knowledge about ourselves as highly sensitive persons is power, right? With that power comes the responsibility to make more authentic choices about everything from careers and relationships to the smallest interactions with our world. Those of us who are wired to experience life intensely, feel the pain of others, and draw energy from down time can use those traits to make the world a saner, kinder place. We can also gum up the world’s works by being reactive or making others responsible for our well-being.

Aron’s research indicates 15 to 20 percent of us have the traits of high sensitivity, also known as sensory-processing sensitivity. More recent research on brain activity points to physical, structural differences in the brains of highly sensitive people. It’s not in our heads — well, it is, but you get the picture.

So how do we HSPs thrive conscientiously in 21st-century America? The answers to that question are a work in progress, but here are my current thoughts.

Own it 

We may be outnumbered, but we’re not out-powered. Though we cannot control the crowds, the noise, the news, the behavior of others, or the thousand other potential sources of overwhelm and overstimulation, we can control our exposure and response to them. We do this through caring for ourselves, setting boundaries, and believing we are worth the effort and retraining it takes to do so.

Yes, retraining. We may have spent years grinning and bearing whatever and trying to make up for being “too sensitive.” So mustering the initiative to leave a party a wee bit early, ask your spouse for what you need, or say no to yet another request or demand may feel like scaling Mount Everest.

Won’t there be pushback? You bet, and it will be damn hard to resist. But when we can stand up for ourselves without making it about the other person(s) — that is, without judgement or blame — we get real. Wouldn’t you rather deal with a real person than one who is trying to shrink or stretch to please others? I sure would.

Handle empathy with care

Highly sensitive people and empaths can often sense what is really bothering the client who doesn’t like our design, or its fifth revision. We can observe how the family dynamic in the waiting room may sabotage the patient’s follow-up care. We know the horse we are grooming is sad, and we may even be able to tell it’s because his buddy in the next stall went to a new home last week. Well-managed empathy can not only tell us what’s wrong, but map the gentlest route toward making it right.

However, the good we can do with empathy is diminished when we take on others’ pain and burdens. Sometimes we do it without even realizing it. Taking on someone else’s “stuff,” instead of helping that person, expands the problem and leaves less room to find a solution … which may not be ours to find in the first place. And if others are rude, unkind, or downright horrid, that’s on them. Judith Orloff has some good books, last year’s The Empath’s Survival Guide in particular, about navigating these minefields.

The good we can do is also undermined when we don’t use discernment and discretion about the impressions and information we get through our sensitive spidey senses. Some of it, like the “Don’t get into the car with him” vibe, arrives ready to use. Some is best silently received and released. The rest has to go through the “Is it true/fair/kind/necessary?” mill before we share or act on it.

Empathy can actually be a check for sensitivity’s pain-in-the-ass potential. If we are quick to feel hurt, yet remain clueless about the impact of our own behavior on others, our sensitivity is a liability rather than an asset. This can happen to anyone, especially during times of stress. Good self-care and boundaries help us regain our empathetic balance.  However, if this one-sided sensitivity is business as usual, that’s misery all around. “The Happy Sensitive” coach and blogger Caroline van Kimmenade goes so far as to say sensitivity minus empathy equals narcissism.

We can walk a fine line between the building-up and tearing-down sides of sensitivity. Using empathy wisely helps keep us on the constructive side.

When in doubt, follow the Golden Rule

We may feel everything, but we don’t know everything. You’ve seen the quote attributed to Brad Meltzer: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” It reminds me of that bit about treating others the way we would want to be treated, which still works.

The world needs folks like us … just as it needs folks not like us, and compassion is needed more than ever. Let’s bring our best selves to the task.

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.