Princess and the Path

princess and her paintingThis morning, as I sit in my mediation chair, my attention was drawn to my kitten, Princess. She was sitting in the middle of a clean pile of clothes on my bedroom floor, staring at me with her “love eyes”. As I sit and ground my body she comes over and sits beneath me, rubbing her head and chin along the small coffee table in front of my chair. As she rubs her head along the edge she moves my Tarot cards. I think, I should pull a card for the nature of my relationship with my Princess kitten. Of course the card I pull is the Chariot, which couldn’t be a more perfect fit in terms of its title, its meaning or its picture.

The title of the Chariot card is “Victory through Adversity”. Its keyword meanings are success; victory after hardship; Stamina and good health; perseverance to maintain focus; and inner strength to achieve the desired success. In the picture on the card, a prince stands between two sphinxes, one black and white, one white and black, representing the negative and positive energies in the world. (Princess is of course a black and white cat.) The chariot has no reins; the prince steers it with only his intuition, stamina and the focus on his goal at hand.

A part of me would describe periods of my life as victory through adversity but, at the same time, I am so grateful for the whole of my life that it seems almost a betrayal to describe it that way, since I wouldn’t change anything that has happened in my life. Looking at Princess this morning as I contemplate all of this, I realize just what a perfect example of that she is.

A few years ago Princes got sick. It was during one of the most financially trying times my husband and I have ever faced. During that period we were struggling to hang on to our ranch and the life we had created. In some of the darkest of moments I remember thinking and saying aloud too many that I would do anything to save our ranch. Understanding that the universal energy often takes these statements to heart, I would quickly qualify the statement with, “Well of course if a family member got sick or something of that importance happened, we would help them and let the house go.” So what happens? My Princess gets sick; very, very sick. I had very little money in the bank account but I knew I had to take her to the vet. The diagnosis was liver, pancreas and kidney failure, and an inflamed intestinal tract. The vet wanted to hospitalize her and put her on 24-hour IV fluids.

Immediately I knew I had to do what ever it took to help her. I would never euthanize her because of money. I realized that what I had been talking about for the past few weeks had just occurred. A family member had gotten sick. A leveling a reminder of what really matters in life – Not houses or stuff but beings, beings of all kinds. The fact that she was a cat drove home what matters. Had any of my human family members or human friends become sick it would have been a no-brainer to do all I possibly could to save them, including letting go of house and life we had created, if necessary. To do this for a cat, a pet, seemed crazy to some. To me it was the only choice – Do all I can to save the life the kitten who had meant so much to me.

At the time I had no idea just how big a lesson this would be. At the time I thought the only lesson I was dealing with was, what really matters in life?

Princess spent days at the hospital getting only incrementally better, being kept alive mostly on fluids and syringed liquid food. After about a week the vet announced that she was as good as she would get and I could take her home. I was thrilled but also kind of horrified because she was still quite unwell. Once home I monitored everything. I barely took an eye off of her to sleep. She required around-the-clock care. She slowly came out of her illness and began eating little bits of food and drinking water on her own. She was very thin but mostly content. As the weeks progressed she continued to get better. Our financial and home troubles continued but we were hanging in there by a thread.

About 2 months after the first episode of illness Princess had a second episode. This time I wasn’t really worried because I knew what was wrong and I knew what to do. I thought, I will just take her to the vet for subcutaneous fluids. Well, when we got there, the vet wanted to do an x-ray and blood work. The blood work came back better than when Princess was sick the first time but it was still a little off, which was somewhat expected as she was still recovering. What was not expected was that the x-ray showed a possible blockage in the intestinal tract. This was horrifying. The vet said Princess needed surgery and would have to go to the hospital immediately. The vet also said she had just lost a small dog to an intestinal blockage and she didn’t want that to ever happen again. The vets own pain and fear was palpable as she spoke. Her pain and fear was all that I needed to awaken my own pain and fear. What I knew to be true when I walked in the door was now thrown out the window. I was afraid and no longer thinking clearly.

I went to the hospital immediately and I met with the surgeon on duty that Saturday. He examined the x-ray and explained that she would need surgery, but it would have to wait until Monday morning, as the main surgeon was off and they felt her condition would be stable if she stayed at the hospital. The instant he said they wouldn’t be able to operate until Monday, I understood that this window of time meant something – It was an opportunity for a different outcome, an opportunity for a different path to be taken. I was still so caught up in pain and fear that I pushed it away.

The girls at the front desk told me that the cost of the surgery would be at least $5000 and possibly a bit more. I left her at the hospital, crying all the way home. I had just sold my horse trailer to make that month’s house payment. There was nothing left in savings and there was no other way to make the house payment except with that $5000. It was not lost on me that the surgery dollar amount and the amount I needed for the house payment were the same.

When I arrived home I found my husband out working on the tractor. I cried and told him what was going on and what the cost of surgery was. He said “You do whatever you need to do. I support whatever choice you make.” I cried harder. Of course there was no choice to make – I would never choose money over the possibility of life. I would use the mortgage payment money for Princess’ surgery.

I visited my kitten many times over the course of the weekend. She was so unhappy in the hospital, bordering on what I can only describe as being uphappy with me. I brought in a variety of baby food and wet cat food to encourage her to eat. She ate small amounts and I kept thinking, if she has a serious blockage why is she eating, drinking and pooping at all? Granted they were all small amounts but things were moving.

The more I thought about the energy of the illness and the more I looked at her, the more confused I got. With each visit I heard louder and louder, from that little neutral voice in my head, “You know what to do; you knew what to do the day you took her to the vet.” I had simply allowed the vets fears to infiltrate my own knowing. With each passing minute the urgency to do the right thing was becoming overwhelming, as was the awareness that I had allowed someone’s else’s pain and fear to override my own knowing.

There are always different paths presented to us to learn the lessons we are meant to learn. Either we learn the lessons through courage, putting the pain and fear at the fore front of the situation, or we choose perceived comfort by putting the pain & fear of the lesson at the end of the situation. The universal truth is that either way we learn our lessons, the only control we have in the situation is which path do we choose to go down.

There came a moment on Sunday night where I knew if I left Princess at the hospital to have surgery on Monday, the outcome would most likely be painful for some time to come. I would feel less pain up front by allowing other people to make the decisions but that comfort would come at a price and the price would be great – A long recovery from a surgery that wasn’t needed and potential long-term pain from scar tissue in her intestinal tract, which I knew was inflamed. And of course, we would probably lose the ranch we all loved. Even Princess loved living there.

If I took her out of the hospital I knew the lesson would be equally painful but in a different way – I would feel the pain and fear up front from going against medical advice. I would have to say aloud to the vets that I simply “knew” what was going on and knew what was best for her. I would also have to find the courage to potentially be wrong about all of this, which would mean Princess might die or need to go back to the vet in worse shape than when she left. What I had going for me was many years of living, and watching this lesson pattern, and knowing that my inner voice always steers me in the direction I need to go.

The truth was, I knew all along what to do but I was afraid. I knew that either route – going home with me now or staying and having surgery – would create what I needed to learn and each situation had an outcome tied to it. I was aware that the choice which caused me the most pain and fear up front was also the right choice. This whole situation was an opportunity to learn. I could either grab it in courage or run from it in fear.

I grabbed it in courage. When the nighttime attending vet arrived, I told him that I wanted to take Princess off the IV and take her home. I was canceling the surgery. I didn’t believe she had a blockage, I believed she was simply still suffering from the same illness as before and I believed her intestines were inflamed, making it look like there might be a blockage on the x-ray. I stated this was something I simply “knew”. It was clear that my absolute confidence and conviction shook the young attending vet, and I saw his own fear come up. Maybe his fear was about her dying or maybe he feared repercussions from his superiors, who knows?

He said that he strongly advised against me taking her but, if I insisted, he would unhook the IV and prepare the paperwork. I told him to please do that. Then I asked if there was anything he would recommend that I do when I got her home. I felt him really think about the question and he said, yes, I would get her some Pepcid and give her a quarter tablet twice a day; if it really is only inflammation, like you think it is, that will help.

Princess and I went home that night. Her relief to be home this time was obvious. She was content, purring and spent hours resting. Whenever I sat in my mediation chair, she sat right in the middle of my chest. She received constant hands-on healings. It seemed like there was a direct line from me to her for days.

About the third day home it was clear she was doing better but she was still somewhat dehydrated. I decided it was time for something different, something more in line with what I believe, so I contacted a local holistic veterinarian. I took Princess in for acupuncture and subcutaneous fluids. At the end of the appointment the vet said, if your cat gets a fever you need to take her to the hospital immediately. I thought, oh God, here we go again. I could just feel the next phase of the lesson beginning, the test to see if I really believed what I knew to be true and if I had the courage to follow that path.

Within several hours of leaving the vet’s office Princess’ fever had begun. This time I was scared but did not panic. I meditated and asked for insight and direction. What came up next was so simple. I heard that little voice say, “Fevers are the body’s way of healing an illness.”

Ok, the choice was now very clear: Listen to the verbal warning given by the vet – the authority – or listen to the little voice inside my head, the voice that I know well, the voice that has never steered me wrong. It’s not that the voice directs me toward painless experiences but it always directs me toward the path that I am meant to take in order to learn the lesson.

And so it began. In mid afternoon I laid down on the couch and my kitten laid down in the crook of my left side. We laid there for hours. I knew we would be there for the duration. Her little body was so hot. The vet’s words of caution kept coming into my awareness. Each time I heard them I would counter with what I knew to be true: Fevers are the body’s way of healing an illness. I had to remind myself over and over that bodies are not made wrong. Fevers are not bad but rather the body’s way of dealing with an invader. I had to check-in with my gut over and over to make sure we were still on the right path. It was an incredibly long afternoon and evening. I had to breathe through the panic that kept rising and find the courage to stay the course as I waited for Princess’ body to do its healing work.

At about 10 o’clock that night, I opened the window behind me and let some cool spring air flow in. I felt Princess’ body vibrating lightly. It wasn’t a shaking but really just a vibrating, a vibration I have felt in my own body on numerous occasions when big shifts were occurring in my life and in my body. Not long after I opened the window I felt the shift, a big one, a release, and with that Princess stood up and shook her body as if to rid herself of something stuck to her. She then hopped down off of me and headed to the kitchen for a snack. Her fever had broken and her appetite had returned. We had come through it. I understood my lesson well – I had ‘known” what to do all along.

Princess is my Chariot card. To this day Princess has remained very healthy.

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Lotta and the Chickens

A few years ago I received a letter from the Veterinary Medical Board that said I had to stop doing nutrition work with horses. At the time of the letter, I was well aware of the current political climate between the VMB and alternative practitioners within California and the other states. The VMB was working on passing a senate bill that would make some alternative practices illegal if not performed or over seen by a licensed veterinarian. I knew I was not the only alternative practitioner to receive such a letter, from that perspective I didn’t take it personally.

The part of all of this that was hard for me not to take personally, was that some vet in my small horse community had obviously decided I should be one of the many practictioners to be targeted by the VMB. The idea that a member of my horse community (my other family) would have looked at me in this way was upsetting. This whole situation disrupted my reality and confused me. It left me feeling as though all I had known to be familiar was now somehow unfamiliar.

To look at me on the outside during that period in my life, you could see that I was doing fine. I understood why the letter had come and what the gift was in the lesson of the letter. But that didn’t change how my inner energy was moving. Inside I was in turmoil.

I know that when I feel that uncomfortable and disrupted that hopping on the back of a horse is probably not the best idea. But a few days after the letter arrived, all I really wanted to do was go for a ride. It just felt like riding would help to move the paralyzing feelings I was now having. So I made the decision to ride, I saddled up my mare and off we went. I was acutely aware a couple of minutes into our ride, that no amount of deep breathing or grounding was going to shift what was happening deep inside my body – my inner energy was weird! So I decided that rather than get off, which is what I would normally do, I would stay on and just let my energy be and see where this takes us.

On this day, Lotta had no interest in walking, only trotting or faster would do. Being confined to the arena seemed like agony to us, so off we went out the gate of the arena to explore. She sped up and down the road that flanks our property and finally around our property investigating every familiar but now seemingly scary corner with a snort and the occasional cartoon spook until finally she had a little explosion.

The catalyst for the explosion came from behind us, we both heard it. It sounded like a crowd of people running toward us as fast as they could thru a pile of crispy fallen tree leaves. The sound terrified her, her body tensed & her spine coiled and then she spun like a whirlwind, so fast it was hard to catch my breath. In the next moment, with one big crow hop, all four hooves lifted off the ground, there was nothing underneath us but air. When she landed she landed hard, legs slightly splayed and limbs now locked straight as if no more movement would ever be possible.

As we stood together, breathing heavily and facing the fear that had come up quickly behind us, we both saw that it was our family of friendly chickens. As Lotta & I settled back into our bodies we watched the chickens continue their enthusiastic pilgrimage around the property. It was really quite a poetic end to our exhilarating ride. She had perfectly reflected exactly how I had been personally feeling – the familiar had become unfamiliar and the truth inside me was that I found this new feeling of unfamiliarity to be somewhat terrifying.

Lotta being afraid of the chickens on this day, something she was more than familiar with, was really no different than me now feeling somewhat afraid of the veterinarians in my area.

It was clear that I could continue to allow the new found feeling of unfamiliarity to frighten me or I could just turn around and face it head on. She helped to remind me that the experiences we have only hold the energy we give to them. Her gift to me that day was amusing and healing and so very clear.