A Friend is Always There

A Friend is Always There 2by Andrea Chilcote

As we approach the Thanksgiving Holiday and spend treasured time with family and friends, I’m remembering one of my musings about friendship. Enjoy this encore post. 

My husband Arthur and I spent last weekend with visiting friends, one of whom I had not seen for several years. The moment I embraced her at the airport, I knew that the time that had passed was a mere blip on the screen of life. We immediately took up where we had left off.

The morning after she left, I found myself thinking about another friend I had not spoken to in several months. I felt that pang of guilt, and made a mental note to call her.  Minutes later, voilà, — my cell phone rang. You know who it was.

We quickly caught up on the comings and goings of each other’s lives and settled into the familiar. When I hung up the phone, I wondered to myself why I feel such angst when I miss a special person, versus smiling at the memory — then acting.

Have you procrastinated calling or writing a friend because it’s been too long and you’re embarrassed about it? Maybe you missed acknowledging her birthday or a son’s graduation and are feeling just a little guilty.

Here’s one thing I know for sure. If it’s a real friendship, reconnecting can only bring joy. The time that passed is irrelevant. Some friends are with us consistently during periods of our lives. Others appear at just the right time to serve some simple or profound purpose.

True friendship is a free flow of give and take. If you’re called to connect and energized when considering it, act. She will be there. If the thought of doing so drains you, let it go. Either way, allow no guilt, none at all.

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.

“Yes, Piglet?”

“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

The Rest of the Story

by Andrea Chilcote

 Scan8Today’s post is for those of you who wrote to ask (or wondered silently), what specific “blessing” I received and only alluded to it in my post Just Ask.

In that piece, I wrote of having just completed the first experiment in Pam Grout’s bestseller, E2It was a huge success, as I received the “unexpected gift” that was a result of my clear and unattached intention. But I did not share what happened.

First, a quick explanation of why I left out that small detail.

If you read my post We Are Our History, you’ll know that despite blogging weekly about my own life lessons, there are some things I hold private – often for no reason at all. It has not been easy to tell my whole story.

But the second was a logistical one. In order to explain the enormity of what I received, you need some context. So, indulge me if you will. The whole thing began with a synchronistic occurrence five months ago when I received a call that set me on a mission in which I finally opened a door that had been beckoning me for years. It was a mission to fundamentally change our society’s behaviors and attitudes toward animals.

Awareness precedes action. It’s a gentle knock at first, then it can’t be ignored.

My awakening to the plight of animals was slow, and my admittance of the inconvenient truth even slower. Though I adopted my first shelter dog, Erik, in 1988, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the numbers of dogs in similar need. I felt as long as there were rescue groups, spay/neuter programs and education, we were making progress.

Over time, my eyes were opened wide. Little by little, I couldn’t deny the truth.

Ten years ago, I received a call to emergency foster a malnourished and terrified malamute from an Arizona puppy mill. The operation had been shut down due to flagrant abuse and neglect, and the owner jailed. We quickly grew to love beautiful Whisper, but in less than a week she died, tragically, after giving birth to dead puppies at our home. Ally of ARA husky rescue in Los Angeles says it best: “These precious souls are not ATM machines.”

Still, I held back.

One day some years later, I read Kathy Freston’s book, Quantum Wellness, and finally acknowledged the horrors of factory farming. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. She happened to be that teacher.

So I stopped eating meat, continued to foster the occasional dog, and donated to whatever animal cause struck an emotional chord. But something gnawed at me – when I let it invade my consciousness.

More years passed. My husband Arthur adopted two rescued horses. The first, saved from a feedlot, gained 300 pounds after coming to live with us. He now rules our barn. The second, a victim of the cruel sport of tripping, came to us crippled and arthritic, with a broken spirit. Arthur restored his spirit, and Duke knew love for the rest of his life.

We were doing our part, right? That was more than just a rationalization. We were – and are – doing something meaningful. But for me it wasn’t enough.

In April of this year, I was working with a client to help her decide on a second career after a job elimination. She thought she might want to work for a non-profit, though nothing she had run across felt particularly compelling. I asked her a question.

“What is it that you can’t not do before you leave the earth?”

Eventually she found an answer, and left our meeting with a plan. But the very moment I asked the question, I knew I had to answer it for myself. I finally realized that before I leave this earth, I must do something to cause fundamental change for animals. It was a commitment I was finally ready to make.

As things go when one truly commits, (and as the book E2 promises), that very afternoon, when my client left to catch her plane, I checked my voice mail. I had a message from a colleague asking if I had an interest in joining the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as an AZ Council member.

Everything I had done brought me to this point in time when I could make a profound difference for animals. I said yes. That was in May.

Soare you still asking, “What is the punch line?” Okay, here goes.

Since May, in my opinion, I have done little that’s tangible. I have been studying the issues and building relationships.

But the day my “blessing” was due, I got an email asking me to present to board and council members at an HSUS conference in Washington DC. When I asked why, I was told, “We want our members to be inspired by your story.”

As this post is being published, I am doing just that. And there you have it. The rest of the story.

Just Ask

by Andrea Chilcote

Have you readJust Ask_e-squared-smaller E2, the blockbuster New York Times bestseller? Or more importantly, have you practiced E2?

Pam Grout‘s brilliant primer consists of a series of simple experiments that prove our thoughts create our reality. Oh, I get it. You already know that – no proof needed.

But here’s the reason I got hooked. In the preface, Grout identifies “this one itty bitty catch.” She says, boldly: “You don’t really believe it. Not fully.” Ouch.

Being a scientist by training, I was intrigued by the scientific method offered in the nine experiments, each of which occurs over a 48 hour period. On Sunday, I began the first one, a simple act of intending to receive an unexpected gift or blessing from what Grout calls the FP, or the field of potentiality.

My 48-hour deadline was Tuesday night, and I smile as I recount what I learned from that first two-day test. It’s a lesson I have written about, teach, and strive to practice. The lesson of detachment.

I’ll admit I got myself a little worked up about my “blessing.” I was expecting it, and, despite a very busy schedule, I was looking for it. “Prove it,” I was saying to the All That Is. I was definitely attached.

I live a blessed life. So each time some small or large thing came my way between Sunday night and Tuesday, I wondered if that was it, and in fact, each one might have been. But I quickly rationalized them, saying, “This is just the normal stuff of life.” Blessings for sure, but somehow not evidence that the experiment had worked. I kept narrowing my intention until I was doing exactly what I know not to do: order up my exact, detailed, no-exceptions request. This, despite my strong belief that we must pray for outcomes, and leave details up to God or the universe. When we can manage this, the results are more than we could have ever imagined.

Well, my deadline came and went, solidifying my non-belief. Then, I finally detached.

Guess what happened next? On Wednesday, I received a simple email that revealed my very unexpected gift. It was – is – awesome.

Did I delay the blessing with my insistence? Or had it actually transpired within the timeframe, with the pre-arrangements invisible to me?

It doesn’t matter, really. No one judges our attachment, or our lack of faith. While this life on earth feels so heavy at times, magic and miracles still exist. Ask and you shall receive. And meanwhile, make a request – then enjoy a good night’s sleep.

Dangerous Conclusions

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman wDangerous Conclusionshere Andrea is a weekly blogger. 

It was finally Saturday night. Oh, I love my life with all of its busyness, but I was ready to free my mind, and relax on the physical front. Arthur and I were headed out to an early dinner, to be followed by a date with friends to listen to a great new musician we’d just discovered.

Our twilight drive was interrupted by a swerve and fast braking, a tribute to my race car driver husband’s reflexes. What was it? A rabbit? No!

“Arthur, that was a puppy!  Turn around now!” And so began the drama.

This story is not about rescuing a dog, although we did that, of course. The Chihuahua would not have made it through the night with cars and coyotes all around. Mine is a simple story about judgment and assumptions.

When I retrieved the well groomed and friendly dog from the busy street, my first disappointment was that his collar bore no tag. Still determined after driving through neighborhoods inquiring (to no avail), we drove to the nearest 24 hour vet clinic to have him scanned for a microchip. No chip was found. By some stroke of luck, one of the nurses fell in love at first sight, scooped him into her arms, and assured me she would look after him until his owner came forward. That is, if one did.

We went on our way, and had a nice (though much later) dinner. We were even able to meet our friends for the last few songs of the performance. But I was distracted by the thought that this dog had been purposely dumped.

I’m jaded by what I know about the enormous amount of companion animals discarded each day. As the night wore on, that thought, my assumption that this one was abandoned, solidified into a conclusion.

Just before going to bed, I got a text from my friend and rescue “mentor,” Marie. She asked me if I had put up signs. “No,” I said. I didn’t tell her that I had concluded someone whose dog had no tag or chip probably didn’t want him back. Marie told me that 75% of lost dogs are found due to signs. I promised her I would post them in the morning. And, I half-heartedly followed through with six signs.

When I had received no calls by mid-day Sunday, my conclusion had grown into a belief. I climbed the ladder of inference, influenced by my past experiences. I believed that anyone who missed his pup would search relentlessly, and surely would have come upon one of my signs. At least, I thought, this was one of the lucky ones. That kind nurse would not let the dog succumb to the fate of most.

By Monday morning the event was out of sight and mind. And then the phone rang.

“Did you find a Chihuahua?” The anxious man didn’t even wait for a reply. “And does he have a golden brown coat and a silver collar with a tiny blue bell?”

“Yes!” I exclaimed, quickly re-orienting myself. “Yes. Your dog is safe,” I said. I fought tears.

It turns out that the man had been posting a “lost” sign in the same grocery store window where I had taped a “found” sign. He clearly loved his dog, and said he had prayed that he was alive since the moment he squeezed through the fence of his elderly father’s home. He had been frantically searching for him since Saturday night.

Our world view limits us. That pup might never have found his way back home had I allowed my mental models of how people too often behave toward animals to influence my motivation.

And as precious as the little dog, Indy, was, this story is not about him. It’s about our moment by moment opportunity to be open to learning that there’s more going on than our limited perspective takes in. If we can give even the slightest benefit of the doubt, miracles reveal themselves.

The Paradox of Presence

by Andrea Chilcote

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly The Paradox of Presence_imageblogger.

I’m beginning to believe that being present is the most important thing to be. That’s a big statement for me, at least the part of me that’s driven, calculating and constantly planning for this or that contingency.

This morning I received a note from a friend, Carol, who runs a successful business training and development business. She had just read my post, Be Present – Another Reminder, and she was compelled to share this story:

“In early April of 1999 I took a sailing trip off the coast of Mississippi with some of my experiential learning friends. We titled the trip, ‘You must be present to win!’ At that time I had been recently laid off and was just working contracts, trying to find what’s next. During the sail we discussed what it means to be present and what you win if you are present.

It was truly an amazing two days doing things I love to do and with people I love to be with so it was rather easy to be present. I could tell you almost every moment of that trip still today. The outcome was a very clear path forward. I was moving back to Iowa closer to family and starting my own consulting firm. And on May 7th, 1999, I did just that with absolute clarity and resolve.”

Carol’s story reminded me of my own that I recount in my book Erik’s Hope. One day, at a crossroads regarding a decision about starting my business, I abandoned my typical desk work and followed my heart (and dog) to the beach. After a full day of meandering among sand, surf and a bountiful sand dollar harvest, I was quite clear about my decision. Magic ensued, as predicted by these famous lines:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

For both of us, the present moment was the mechanism that allowed us to see our future steps clearly. That’s a tough concept, as our tricky minds hijack the moment and we think planning the future is more important than feeling what’s true now. In fact, the act of being present will carry us into our perfect future. It’s the paradox of presence.

Begin it.

When we embrace the moment (an idea), and stay present, we automatically embrace the next (a possible action). One thing leads to another.

If you are at a crossroad, overwhelmed, or even bored – draw in a breath. Look, listen and feel the presence around you. I’m betting your next move will serve you well.

Playful Flight

by Andrea Chilcote     Animal Speak_Capture

The following post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. 

One morning this week, as we were leaving our driveway for a hike with the dogs, I noticed a raven flying overhead, breakfast prey hanging from his beak. I wondered to myself what lesson he had in store.

“Good morning Grandpa.” I greeted him as I often do, with the name I’ve come to use since meeting a raven up close in the Grand Canyon many years ago.  “Grandpa” is a bit like Santa Claus. Even though there are many of them, I pretend each one I see is the same bird.

As we walked, I continued to notice Grandpa flying nearby, and smiled at the company. Having these companion birds along on our hikes is a fairly common occurrence, and there are natural explanations. Ravens and crows are known to serve as messengers to warn small animals of impending danger, calling out their cautionary sounds as they fly. It makes sense that they would warn the desert animals of our arrival, as we hike with two large wolf-like dogs, a Husky and a Malamute.

The other possibility lies in the simple fact that there is a long-standing synergy between ravens and wolves. There is much documented evidence of ravens and wolves hunting together in a symbiotic relationship. And surprisingly, their bond often includes play, with the birds dipping and soaring amongst dancing wolves after a successful hunt.

On this day, I felt sure the bird was calling us to join the social activities of its congress. As if to confirm my intuition, others began to gather. By the time we were completing the last quarter of our loop hike, we counted 10 ravens. They flew along as we walked, landing intermittently on high tree branches to allow us to count them before moving ahead.

Ravens are said to symbolize magic. In his classic book Animal Speak, Ted Andrews says raven teaches us how to go into the dark and bring forth light. He says wolf teaches us to breathe new life into our life rituals.

It’s always a bit too easy for me to allow the stresses of a busy life to hijack my focus. One of the reasons I hike the dogs each day I’m at home in Arizona is that I get a brief connection with nature in a way that’s playful and physical. And even so, I sometimes miss the magic for the heaviness at hand.

We all bring forth light when we lighten up in social ways. Consider the gifts of raven and wolf as you interact within your families, teams and communities. Temper work with play, and magic just might take flight.

“It appears that the wolf and the raven have reached an adjustment in their relationships such that each creature is rewarded in some way by the presence of the other and that each is fully aware of the other’s capabilities.”  The Wolf: The Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species  –Dr. L. David Mech