I don’t usually measure my life by how many years a TV show has been on, but the series finale of ER gave me pause for reflection. I did not miss a single episode in its 15 year run (thanks to VCR’s, then DVR’s), and last night’s final episode, and especially the hour long recap that ran before it, made it impossible not to think back over the last 15 years. While George Clooney, Juliana Margulies, Anthony Edwards, Noah Wylie and company fought their weekly battles in the ER, I got divorced, lost my mother, left my corporate job, ran a veterinary hospital, lost my father, and started my own business. These past 15 years were a period of tremendous personal growth for me, leading to this moment in time and a life filled with passion, joy and the promise of more wonderful things to come.
And I also reflected back on the cats that were curled up in my lap watching 15 years of ER episodes with me: Feebee, my soulmate cat who was responsible for leading me to a career in veterinary medicine, and who passed on in 2000. And Buckley, who was only with me for three years and who left much too soon this past November. Her story and the lessons she taught me are the subject of my upcoming book.
And of course Amber, who was watching last night’s episode with me.
You make sure you feed your pets a healthy diet, you use pet-friendly, non-toxic cleaning products. But are you still using dryer sheets?
The chemicals contained in dryer sheets, fabric softeners and laundry detergents get absorbed by your skin as well as your pets’ skin. If you wash your pets’ toys, they’ll also ingest these chemicals when they chew on the toys. Chemicals contained in these products are known carcinogens and neurotoxins. With the wide variety of natural cleaning products available (I like the Seventh Generation Clean and Clear laundry detergent), there is no reason to continue to use toxic products.
A second reason not to use dryer sheets is that they can present a fire hazard. Commercial dryer sheets leave a residue on your dryer’s lint filter that is invisible to the naked eye, but can burn out the heating unit and cause the dryer to catch fire. Try this test: take the lint filter and run hot water through it. If the water doesn’t go through, it’s because of the residue from your dryer sheets. This test was a real eye opener for me. Wash the filter with hot soapy water and discontinue using dryer sheets that contain chemicals.
Look for chemical-free dryer sheets, or discontinue the use of dryer sheets altogether. One of the simplest and least expensive ways to add softness to your clothes without using dryer sheets or fabric softeners is adding a 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your wash (not to the dryer, and don’t use together with bleach).
Amber enjoys sleeping on a blanket washed and dried without chemicals.
There’s been a recent media buzz about vegan food for pets. ABC News reported that it might be a bit easier for dogs than cats to live the vegan lifestyle. A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times suggested a vegan diet for cats as a viable option to reduce the over-depletion of fish stocks. This was followed a few days later by an article in The Huffington Post titled “Vegan Pet Food – Is It Okay To Raise a Cat Vegan?”, which generated hundreds of comments.
Dogs are omnivores and are able to suvive on plant materials alone, but keep in mind that they are meat eaters by nature and do best with at least some meat in their diet, so a vegan diet is not in the best interest of your canine companion.
Cats are carnivores, and as such, cannot sustain life unless they consume meat in some form. They are extremely sensitive to even a single meal deficient in arginine, an amino-acid that is a building block for protein. A cat’s natural diet in the wild consists of mice and birds, both of which are almost all protein. This is why diets high in protein and low in carbohydrates are best for cats.
People adopt the vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons, some of them health related, others as a conscious choice to help the planet. While I applaud people who choose this lifestyle, it’s too restrictive for me. I’m mostly vegetarian, but I do eat fish and seafood. I even occasionally allow myself to give in to a craving for some meat or poultry – cravings that probably have very little to do with any physical need and are more emotionally motivated dating back to growing up on the heavily meat-based diet of my native Germany.
However, no matter what your reasons for being vegetarian or vegan, please don’t subject your cat or dog to the same choice. They’ll be healthier and happier if they’re allowed to be the meat eaters nature designed them to be. As for cats depleting the planet’s fish stock, I’ll worry about Amber’s carbon footprint when she starts driving an SUV.
Amber’s preferred proteins are turkey and salmon.
For those of us who embrace conscious living as fundamental to everything we do, making conscious choices about what to put into our bodies is an important part of our lifestyle. But what about what you put on your body?
The skin is our largest organ, and it is not a solid barrier. It’s a penetrable organ that easily absorbs what is put on it – a capacity that is used effectively by delivering many lifesaving medications to the blood stream through the skin. However, the flip side of this easy absoprtion is that our skin also easily absorbs chemicals, especially with repeat exposure. One third of the cosmetics products currently on the market contain chemicals that are linked to cancer. Of the more than 10,000 ingredients used in personal care products, 89% have not undergone any safety testing. Given those statistics, doesn’t it make sense to be conscious about the products you use on your skin every day?
The European Union Cosmetics Directive, established in 1976 and revised and updated multiple times since, bans the use of chemicals that are known or strongly suspected to cause cancer, mutations and birth defects. In 2004, the directive was amended to require all companies selling cosmetics in the EU to remove these chemicals from their products. Many US companies sell their products on the European market and have been required to reformulate their products. However, just because a company sells its products in Europe does not mean that the same products you purchase here in the US meet EU standards.
Read your labels before purchasing cosmetics. Just because something is labeled “natural” and has pretty designs of wholesome ingredients on the label does not necessarily mean that it is chemical-free. Look for brands that comply with EU regulations. Some brands I like are Avalon Organics, Shikai, Weleda, and Dr. Hauschka.
Another consideration that is important to me when choosing cosmetics and personal care products is that they are not tested on animals. Look for the Leaping Bunny logo – it provides the best assurance that the products you use are cruelty-free and have not been tested on animals.
The physical surroundings we live in every day in our homes, offices and cars have a strong impact on us. When you exist in less than desirable environments, for example a messy car or a desk covered with piles, the space that surrounds you is not an accurate reflection of the Source within you. Cluttered environments drain your energy. Just think about the last time you organized a drawer or cleaned your car – do you remember how accomplished you felt, and how you were able to approach the rest of your day from a much lighter perspective? That’s because you released stagnant, cluttered energy.
You don’t need to take on everything at once. If you think you need to declutter your entire office , it can feel too overwhelming and you may not even start. Begin with one small project, a drawer at a time, and watch how your energy changes as you clear out the clutter in your life.
Amber doesn’t like clutter – she’s getting ready to put all her toys in the basket they belong in.
Every once in a while I come across a product that is so good, I just have to share it with everyone. I discovered the Furminator Deshedding Tool about a year ago, and it’s pretty amazing. When I first started using it, I was afraid I’d end up with bald cats – it really works as depicted in the photo:
It works equally well on dogs. Be prepared for this to make a big mess, so if you can, use it outdoors (or plan to vacuum after you finish). It’s going to reduce shedding considerably, especially this time of year. An added benefit for cats is that it virtually eliminates hairballs. I found some of the best prices on the Furminator here. For videos on the Furminator in action on dogs and cats, click here.
Amber loves to be furminated!
I spent yesterday at a spiritual retreat center in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It reminded me of the value of getting away from it all, even if only for a day. The drive towards the mountains in the early morning was beautiful, and the day spent in the company of like-minded people with plenty of opportunity for quiet reflection fed my spirit.
The topic of the retreat was making conscious choices – something that is an integral part of conscious living. How do you live your life? Do you make choices that limit you, or choices that allow you to expand? Make the choice to say “yes” to yourself today.
Do you wish you could get away from your busy life even just for a day? Give yourself the gift of a retreat. Retreats come in many shapes or forms, the main idea is that it gets you away from your usual routine and allows you to do something that nourishes your spirit.
But as much as I enjoyed my day away from it all, I was happy to come home to Amber at the end of the day. Pets nourish our spirit every day.
Worrying is like praying for something you don’t want to happen.
I grew up being a worrier. I could easily come up with the worst possible scenario for any given situation, and then turn it over and over in my mind endlessly, to the point where I would often let myself get paralyzed with worry. I knew that this propensity to worry was holding me back from letting myself live my life to its fullest potential.
When I began to understand and really believe that we have the power to control our thoughts, and that our thoughts are vibrations that affect what we experience in our reality, I was able to short-circuit the worry cycle more easily. It became clear to me that worrying and obsessing over what might happen would only attract the very thing I did not want into my experience. Worrying also made a statement that I didn’t trust in the wisdom of the universe, and I truly believe that Source wants me to be happy. I know on a deep level that things will always work out. All is well.
We all have the power to choose our thoughts. We can make a conscious choice that we want to feel good. Once you make this commitment to yourself, it becomes easier to redirect your thoughts from worrying about the future and to focusing on the present moment instead. Worrying simply feels too bad for you to keep doing it.
Animals remind us of this every day. They live fully in each moment and give all their attention to what is happening in that moment with no thoughts towards the future.
Start today. Make the commitment that just for today, you will not worry. You might just get addicted to that worry-free way of being!
Slow down, you move too fast
you’ve got to make the morning last
just kickin’ down the cobble stones
looking for fun and feeling groovy.
Remember the old Simon and Garfunkel Song (The 59th Street Bridge Song)? Do you move too fast through your days, or do you take the time to kick the cobble stones and feel groovy?
When I rush through my days without being fully present in each moment, I feel like time has passed me by. I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything, and at the end of the day, I just feel exhausted. It’s easy to get caught up in this mode of being – we all have to do lists that are a mile long, and demands on our time are coming at us from all directions. When days are that full, it becomes even more important to slow down and remind ourselves to stay in the moment.
Animals are masters at this. That’s what they do – they live in each moment. Need some help to remind you to slow down? Take a break. Take a few moments to pet your cat or dog. It will slow you down and remind you that life is not to be rushed through, but to be savored.
Slow down today. You may just end up feeling groovy!
Meditation is usually viewed as a spiritual practice, but research shows that there are innumerable health benefits as well. Most physical illness is caused by stress, and meditation provides stress relief by calming down the mind and body. A regular meditation practice is one of the best things you can do for your mind and body.
I often hear people say “I can’t meditate. I can’t shut down my thoughts.”
You don’t have to. Simply making the commitment to sit quietly for fifteen, ten, even five minutes a day can have beneficial effects. Don’t judge yourself – if you find that you can’t quiet your mind, try and simply acknowledge your thoughts, and then gently let them go.
Your pets can help you meditate. If you can’t clear your mind, try focusing on the purring cat in your lap or the sleeping dog by your side. Focus on the love you share with your pet. While this may not be what some purists consider meditation, I can guarantee you that it will change your state of mind to one of peace and relaxation.
Amber is meditating.
There is an unseen energy that exists in and around every living thing. Some people call it God. It has nothing to do with a particular religion. Maybe you’re more comfortable with calling it Spirit, Universal Flow, All That Is. My preferred term is Source.
We are always connected to Source, but sometimes, we forget. It’s like our conscious awareness of this connection has temporarily slipped away. How do you know when you’re consciously connected and when you’re not? Your emotions are your guide. When you feel fear, doubt, worry, lack, scarcity, or even hate, you’re disconnected. When you feel love, joy and happiness, you’re connected. The ebb and flow of that feeling of connection is part of our journey and evolution. So how do you maintain this connection consciously and at increasingly deeper levels?
You find this connection by finding things that make you happy. Some things that help me feel and maintain my connection are:
- Looking deep into the eyes of my cat.
- Going for a walk outside.
- Spending time with a good friend.
- Listening to a piece of wonderful music.
- Reflecting on the blessings in my life.
- Watching a beautiful sunset.
- Curling up with my cat and a good book.
- Watching my cat sleep.
Identify your moments of connection, and consciously guide yourself back into connection when you feel it slipping away. Sometimes, even the memory of one of your “connection moments” can bring you back into alignment.
Animals are masters at maintaining their connection with Source. They live in the moment – one of the best and easiest ways to stay connected. As you can see from my own connection moments list, Amber plays a big part in helping me experience my connection with Source. Let your pets help you find your connection. It’s impossible to feel disconnected when you pet, play with or simply watch your pets.
Do you feel connected?
Amber feels connected