An astrologer told me I had turned to the natural world, to animals for my livelihood, for my friends and companions. She said the natural world thrives without feelings of shame, guilt, unworthiness, judgment and lack. It resides in the present moment, in joy, forgiveness and love, and that I am fulfilling my soul’s purpose.
It was true. Living with cats had turned me from being a skeptic to a “pet psychic.” From a working artist of twenty years to an animal communicator — from painting my angst to writing books…about them, so others may understand their animals more clearly.
When we do not listen, we do not hear. Our emotions can sabotage us, and scatter our minds. When we can’t tune in to our inner guidance, we cannot receive. We operate in doubt, confusion and static instead of the open channels of clear knowing. When we take things into our own hands and forget to step out of the way to allow and trust divine wisdom to unfold, we may regret our actions for a lifetime.
I couldn’t forgive myself for killing my cat Ertha. I had not paid attention to her pooping at the entrance of my closet or understood her plea for help in my dream and then wound up at the Emergency Clinic on a crazy, chaotic evening. I listened to the vet’s grim, and possibly inaccurate, prognosis and agreed to euthanize Ertha, without giving her a fighting chance.
She wasn’t ready to go.
Two years after her death, I attended my second silent retreat in the desert. During a Tibetan Buddhist practice on forgiveness, something big welled up inside and burst like a dam. I remembered Ertha. For the first time, I felt a softening within, instead of hard-walled anger. I forgave myself for all my unkind words, thoughts and actions that have caused harm to others, for hurting those I loved out of selfishness, insensitivity and fear. I felt sprinkled with gentleness instead of weighed down with self-hatred and harsh judgment. I felt love for anyone who had ever hurt, humiliated or shamed me, knowing that they did what they did from ignorance and pain. I saw that everyone in my life was a mirror, throwing me back to myself.
So I thanked those teachers who presented pain in my path for me to work through at my own pace. It was especially difficult forgiving myself, the animal communicator who claimed to listen to animals, but when I forgave myself for killing Ertha, I felt the entire universe sweep through me. I sobbed for weeks, not from sadness, but from being deeply touched, sincerely humbled and grateful to be here. To have known her. To have finally realized that I did what I did because I loved her, and because I was small and scared.
Forgiving myself didn’t take the pain away, and it didn’t bring Ertha back. But it allowed me to meet the confusion and darkness that prevailed in my mind that night with some light and understanding. And this understanding has helped me to soften toward others who have also said or done things out of confusion and darkness. It has helped me to drop judgment.
And so it is. All of us are here to evolve, learn life lessons, and love unconditionally — in step and in congruence with the bigger picture. If we did not open to our suffering, how would we ever know joy and feel compassion?
This is why I live with cats. They are professors in the higher schools of unconditional love and forgiveness. Loving ourselves unconditionally, as our animals love us, becomes the first step on our path to healing. It has been a long road of learning to step out of my way, and step into the flow. But at least I know I am on the right path. The cats have always been there for me, waiting for me to arrive. Waiting for me to listen, look at myself and thrive in balance and harmony, as they do, and as nature does.
Forgiving is getting easier, since Ertha’s blessings broke my heart wide open.