Letting Go

Letting GoToday I am reblogging my 2012 post about Letting Go. Do you need to free the spirit of another to travel his or her own path?

by Andrea Chilcote

This past weekend was very special for my family. Our foster Husky dog, Lucky, went to his forever home.

Three weeks ago, late on Saturday night, I got an urgent email from a worker at the county shelter. They had brought in a half-dead Siberian Husky who had been attacked by dogs. He faced a certain death if not claimed, immediately, by a  rescue group. Fortunately, I was able to reach two such angels from Thefetchfoundation.com and they arranged for me to retrieve him to the safety of my home. It turns out his wounds were serious but treatable, and he was a pup, less than a year old.

Happily, through anything-but-coincidental events, the perfect family came along to adopt Lucky. In three short weeks I had bonded with him as he healed, and shed tears as I prepared him for his journey.

That day I was reminded of the fleeting relationships we have with some people (as well as animals) in our lives. Of course, most of us are all blessed with life-long friendships and family bonds. And we also meet and connect with people who come and go. These brief connections offer us gifts in the form of life lessons or a simple helping hand when needed, and they take gifts from us. Have you ever wondered about the purpose of a transitory relationship? They’re easier to release when it seems we gave more than we were given, or when there was more hurt than happiness. But there are others that we try to hang on to, in order to recreate the magic after the magic has faded.

Consider this. There are people who enter our lives in pure synchronicity, for a clear and finite purpose, then exit. The purpose of the relationship may be ours or theirs, and we often don’t ever fully understand the “why” of it all. The important thing is the memory, the life lesson, or the gift exchanged.

In the animal rescue world, there are people called “foster failures.” These kind folks take in animals to foster, but cannot give them up – eventually rendering themselves unable to foster because their kennel is full, so to speak. For many homeless and helpless animals, it’s a blessing there is so much needed compassion. In human relationships, it’s a bit different. Some people need to be allowed to “fly away” and find the right connections for the next leg of their journey. (www.wakeupcloud.com/outgrowing-your-friends/)

I know in my heart that sweet Lucky belongs with his new family, even as I miss his sparkling blues eyes and loving demeanor. And, I know what we both meant to each other’s lives, however brief the interlude. Do you need to free the spirit of another to travel his or her own path?

Home

Andrea Chilcote, Kairos Chilcote, Cave CreekArizona is just beginning to grow hot right now, but it is where I belong. It is where I find peace and refuge. Join me as I reflect back to the beauty of the dwelling I call home (June 2013).

 by Andrea Chilcote

I am on my way home. Heading across the country at 34,000 feet, destined for one of the warmest areas on our continent. Arizona is hot right now, but it is where I belong. It is where I find peace and refuge. There’s nowhere I would rather be tonight, even with tomorrow’s forecast high of 118 degrees. This night, I focus on my relationship with my home.

Often I wonder what makes one connect with a certain environment, culture or terrain. For some, it’s the place where they were born and raised, the mother anchor that, regardless of the journey traveled, feels like the only safe womb on the planet. But there are others who, like me, chose an adopted home.

I grew up in the Midwest, in a small town near (but not a part of) prairie farmlands. As a child I held a strong vision of moving west, even though I never traveled more than 30 miles from home until my late teens. My longing to be in the West was certainly influenced by the dreams of my Dad, who also had not traveled far except while he was a youth in the military. He suffered greatly from arthritis and longed to live where it was warm. The sad irony is that I was able to finally visit Arizona in his last year of life, and I moved there shortly after he passed away. In the many  years since then, I’ve traveled enough to know where I’m most at peace. My desert, my home.

Of course, one’s choice of home has much to do with the people who inhabit it. My beloved husband and dogs are waiting for me tonight, and my friends are surely ready to re-engage in our happy routines. Yet there is more to this. The place itself carries a resonance that is palpable and real.

Where or what is your home? Whether or not you are there right now, feel it’s cocoon, its blanket, or its invitation. Consider your own relationship with the beauty of the dwelling place that calls you, as Arizona’s splendor calls me.

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This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

What is Your Anchor? (2014)

What's your anchor-Faith seems to be a theme for many of late. Enjoy this throwback post that recounts a lesson of faith.

by Andrea Chilcote

So many people are making their way through difficulty, living through turbulence without an anchor. And an anchor can be an important tool for managing the natural fears that arise when life throws surprises at every turn. It’s one thing to feel fear and work through it. It’s quite another to let fear spiral out of control.

Several years ago, during a trying period of my life, I had a dream that made a profound impact then and became my anchor during future challenges.

In this dream, I found myself driving my car down a steep but very wide paved road. The road was covered with a thick layer of ice and I was having difficulty braking. My car swerved side to side at first, and then began to slide downward, out of control. About the time I realized I could not stop the forward motion, I noticed that the road ended just ahead, the pavement simply cut off and hung over an abyss. It was a look similar to that of a bridge or freeway ramp mid-construction. Just as the front wheels of my car neared the edge, a very large hand arose from the abyss, reached out and stopped my car. Just in the nick of time.

As if this was not enough, I then found myself once again driving on iced pavement, this time in a crowded parking lot. I was driving up and down the aisles, trying to get to the exit and onto the street. I was struggling to maneuver the lanes without hitting parked cars. After several minutes of white-knuckled navigation, I managed to safely exit unharmed, without damaging another vehicle.

The morning after that dream, I relayed it to a wise friend. Her reply was a question: “Andrea, will you ever again doubt that you are protected?” I hesitated at first, then answered firmly. “No. I have faith that I am indeed safe,” I replied.

In the years since, that dream, that hand, has served as a reminder that no matter how challenging things become, help is always available. The anchor is a comfort to me, even as I experience natural and unavoidable fears that accompany a full life.

What is your metaphorical anchor? What do you or can you call upon to remind yourself that even amid distress, life is still sweet and forgiving, endless possibilities exist, and all will work out?

Mirror Mirror (2014)

Andrea ChilcoteEven though I’ve written of this “mirror” concept many times, Brene Brown helped me finally “get” it.

by Andrea Chilcote

What if many of the things we hear, see and experience, outside of ourselves, are just reflections of our own inner state? In each of our lives there exist other people and situations acting as mirrors for the aspects of ourselves that we either dislike or admire. If you believe, as I do, that all living things are part of a mass consciousness, separate in personality and possessing free will but connected energetically ‒ spiritually in fact, then this “mirror” principle makes sense. And, as is the case with many of my life lessons, a dog is teaching me just how closely connected we all are.

WhisperThis past year, I have learned that I have a four-legged mirror living in our home, sharing my life. Her name is Whisper. She’s a Malamute ‒ my husband’s Malamute to be precise, and she’s been our companion for eight years. I can hear her comment now, if only she could read a blog: “Yes, it’s taken Andrea eight years to get the message. Pitiful humans!”

The truth is, I’ve always been aware that Whisper reflects my feelings and fears. Whisper shows her sweet and loving demeanor to every human she meets. Other dogs? Not so much. So when we hike in the desert and inevitably run into other dogs, she often takes an aggressive stance, testing my physical strength (a Malamute is a strong creature) and frustrating me as a supposed leader. It would be easy to write her off as impossibly dog-aggressive or rationalize her behavior as protective of me or her handler, but there’s more at play here. Whisper mirrors my feelings. If I can remain present, calm and objective, there is usually no trouble. If I feel the fear of a potential fight, or, as is more likely the case, judgment of people who can’t or won’t control their own dogs, Whisper acts out my emotions. Knowing this, the solution seems simple ‒ yet managing feelings is far from easy. Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, advocates calling up a calm-assertive state of being, using an inside-out approach of managing one’s thoughts and feelings before taking outward action. I challenge you to try it now.

Imagine some person or group for whom you feel judgment ‒ from mild superiority to true disdain or contempt ‒ the degree does not matter. We all have these feelings at times. Okay, now that you’ve got it, try to release it. Stop feeling judgment, quickly. Tough, yes? For me, it can be very difficult and at the same time, a very worthwhile pursuit. If I can manage my thoughts and feelings, then I can manage my actions ‒ and this, in my opinion, is the key to the universe.

Go back to the judgmental state you just identified. What is this person or situation reflecting that is true for you? Do you feel a fear that was previously unrecognized? Is there some aspect of the other person’s behavior that triggers a memory of your own shortcomings, a mistake you made, a lesson you learned? Identify it, feel it, and ‒ here’s the magic ‒ it will be transformed.

Once a previously unconscious emotion is brought to the surface, your logical mind can make sense of it, and you can act appropriately. Take the feeling of fear, for example. If the fear represents a real threat, you can act on that. If the fear is based on history or a habit of thought, you can let it go. The truth will indeed set us free.

There’s a bonus to this process, given that we are all connected. When we transform our inner state, others respond in new ways. It makes for a more peaceful hike, as well as a better world.

Good Vibrations

Good VibrationsSince the beginning of last year I’ve focused on managing my thoughts and staying present. This post appeared originally on The Spirited Woman where Andrea is a weekly blogger. Enjoy it!

By Andrea Chilcote

Remember the Beach Boy’s song Good Vibrations? My favorite part was the refrain

“Gotta keep those lovin’ good vibrations a happenin’ with you”

If you’ve been following my posts for the last few months, you’ve noticed a theme. Since the beginning of the year I’ve focused on managing my thoughts and staying present, and the practice, while imperfect, has been enlightening.

Every now and then, somewhat counter to my natural style, I get organized. This week I’m organizing my “good vibrations,” and I thought I’d share an insight here, along with some really good news.

In one post connected to that theme, I suggested that thoughts are prayers, directing the flow of apparently coincidental circumstances. In another related post, I told the story of my own passionate thoughts and feelings about a young Siberian Husky born without kneecaps and needing very expensive surgery to survive. Through that story, I hoped to inspire all of you to find feelings of compassion for something meaningful that you can affect in a small way, vs. feeling sorry or helpless in a world that seems to have no shortage of tragedy.

I’m thrilled to report that the angels at Alley’s Rescued Angels in Los Angeles raised enough funds for the pup’s surgery and it was performed last week. Just one week later he is walking proudly, tail wagging, and has a bright future ahead.

I am certain that the loving thoughts, prayers and well wishes from around the world played a significant role. Literally, caring individuals rallied in an effort to share the story and raise money. But maybe even more importantly, all of the loving thoughts served as healing medicine. You need only review Larry Dossey’s amazing work to know that is truth.

Do you ever really ever doubt that we are all connected? Separation may just be the biggest illusion we face. And, if we are all connected, in my opinion we have we have responsibility to lift one another up through our thoughts and feelings for and about one another, vs. squandering them as is so easy to do.

I ran across a fascinating study conducted by a Case Western Reserve University researcher. The research found that when the brain fires up the network of neurons that allows us to empathize, it suppresses the network used for analysis. It shows for the first time that we have a built-in neural constraint on our ability to be both empathetic and analytic at the same time.  The work begins to explain the “emotionally engaged intuitive understanding which allows us to relate to one another as people.” (Or, I might add, other beings, such as animals).

As I build my insights from my simple observation of thoughts and feelings I have a new focus for my practice: breathing. I don’t think I breathed at all the day of the pup’s seven hour surgery, even as I prayed with fervor. I’m exhaling now, present to the simple opportunity to connect and shape our collective experience.