Greetings! I hope you each had a wonderful Thanksgiving, perhaps surrounded by friends and family for the first time in a while.
Personally, I received a number of blessings for the holiday—most were quite unexpected.
I offer gratitude in my daily prayers for all my students, clients, and readers. I feel blessed to be connected, even if only for a short time, to so many wonderful, heartful folks. And I treasure our conversations and interactions, virtual though they may be. Indeed, my life for the last year and a half would have been quite barren without all of you!
On Thanksgiving Day, one client took the time to send me a photo of her very senior cat Baby Shank tucking into some organic turkey for her dinner (she had specially cooked giblets, neck, and light and dark meat). It warmed my heart to see her enjoyment, especially since I first began working with Baby Shank when she’d lost her appetite. After a session or two, her person told me Baby Shank had become a member of the clean plate club! She now receives special weekly sessions to help support continued quality of life, and I have become quite fond of her quiet self.
Prior to T-day, one advanced student (who has also become a friend) surprised me through the mail with a card and some Thanksgiving gifts. The package included an out-of-print edition of the book Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight written by Ursula K. Le Guin and illustrated by my favorite shamanic artist Susan Seddon Boulet who speaks to my heart. I can’t wait to savor it by the fireside.
And for the second Thanksgiving in a row, my neighbor Christine (you’ve seen her dog Auley doing zoomies in some of my Wild Reiki Spa videos) invited me to swap food with her and her family. I baked apple pie and chocolate chip cookies and was the grateful recipient of a plate of all the Thanksgiving dinner fixin’s in return. Manitou and Night Sky were also grateful for the turkey (-:
I also shared some bounty with my local wildlife, which resulted in an unexpected, lengthy video series “Thanksgiving Pumpkin Feast for Wildlife” which you can find on my YouTube channel (please subscribe).
There are so many more blessings I am grateful for, but one of the most unexpected and profoundly moving blessings happened in mid-October.
For many years I have led people in ceremony with animals. One of those events is called Listening to Zoo Animal Ambassadors.
It is a four-month event that starts in December and ends in March. During those four months, we meet in person and virtually with the Animal Ambassadors at four different Seattle-area zoos: Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, Northwest Trek, Cougar Mountain Zoo, and Woodland Park Zoo.
In 2019-2020, we managed to complete the first two visits before lockdown. Our third visit was delayed for months, and our fourth—to Woodland Park Zoo—sadly, never took place.
For 2020/2021 Listening to ZAA I made it to the first three, and then between pandemic challenges and my own personal health issues, our fourth visit did not take place until this month.
And for all the time that I had been away, the words that ZAA lioness Adia had shared with me resonated in my head. Prior to seeing her that last time, I had been feeling discouraged, wondering if I should stop trying to find ways to persuade people to meet in ceremony with the ZAA to co-create shift. Maybe I was just not convincing enough. Maybe I had been imagining the messages from the animals. A LOT of self-doubts (which I continued to clear when it raised its ugly head).
In 2018 it was lioness Adia who confronted me. Remarkably, she had never addressed a word to me in prior years, but when I rounded the bend to where she and lion Xerxes lived she was waiting for me. She looked me directly in the eyes, and very forcefully said, “Don’t stop.” I tearfully assured her that I would not. Even if it was just me I would continue to bring ceremony to the Zoo Animal Ambassadors. It was the last time I saw Adia, sadly, she passed away during a medical procedure several weeks later.
Still, I wondered how the long-delayed visit with the WPZ ZAA would go. I had been away from them for so long—almost two years—after visiting multiple times yearly. Quite a few of the ZAA I had known had crossed over. There were new ambassadors that I had not yet met. How would we be greeted?
Of course, I worried needlessly. All of the animals happily added their prayers in ceremony, despite the incredible numbers of other folks there. I had made it back to the ZAA, but on Pumpkin Bash weekend, one of the busiest days of the year. Not only are families excited to see the animals receive their pumpkin enrichment treats, but children who arrive wearing a costume get in free (there were a lot of adults in costume, too). Very fun, but also somewhat overwhelming. I was amazed that the ZAA were able to pick us out in the crowds. Says a lot about their awareness of energy and the power of communication!
Adia’s words were front and center in my mind as we neared the lion enclosure. I had been looking forward to greeting lion Xerxes again. He had been such an important part of the Ceremony for the Lions. I was aware that two new lionesses had joined him, Ilanga and Kamaria. To my surprise, Xerxes was nowhere to be seen, but both lionesses were warming themselves on the rocks.
Greeting them meant descending into the viewing area, which is glass at ground level. It was packed with parents and children, and very, very loud.
Normally I do not share stories that happened as part of class Listening to Zoo Animal Ambassadors. I received very clear guidance that what happened with lioness Ilanga is of major importance, and must be shared publicly.
The children were quick and loud, and one of the lionesses rushed the glass. Rearing up, she pounded the glass with her paws, causing the children to shriek louder. When she dropped to her feet, some of the children started banging on the glass and trying in other ways to tease her into doing it again. The parents did nothing. I sharply told the children to stop, but mostly went unheard in the chaos. I think the last straw for the lioness was the child with furry ears. I felt red hot anger rise, for one scary moment I thought I was going to be appearing on the evening news as the crazy old lady who hit children with her cane (please, allow me to assure you that is not who I usually am).
The lioness retreated to the back of the grassy area.
Along with the anger came a wave of despair and helplessness at not being able to protect the lioness from the people. I felt powerless to affect the perceptions and behavior of the children and the parents—they did not able to perceive the lioness as a sentient being and an individual worthy of respect.
I knew that my over-the-top emotions needed to be cleared in order to continue to hold space for ceremony, so I moved to the other side of the window and began the process.
I was in mid-clearing when the lioness turned back. Not only did she turn back, but she was also headed straight for me. There I was, completely open energetically due to the work I was doing. And she saw me—saw deep into me. Saw all of who I am to the core. Saw the tears streaming down my face and into my mask—tears of frustration and anger and sadness over not being able to help the ZAA rebuild the bridge with the People. And the lioness stood still, looking directly into my eyes and into me. And she held my gaze for a long time, something that cats don’t ordinarily do since it is usually considered aggressive. We saw each other, and I felt a resonance with her. I eye-blinked at her to be sure that she knew that I meant no disrespect, and she eye-blinked back. I felt something very important had just happened, but it was going to take a while for my emotions and energy to settle to sort it out.
At the end of the day, I felt called to return to the lions. Technically, the zoo was already closed. Almost no one was there when we arrived. The two lionesses were lounging in a different area. One of them rose to her feet and beagn walking directly toward me. They look very much alike, but I felt it was the same one.
She diverted her attention to the children, and because I had done my clearing work earlier I was able to see something I had missed. The lioness first attempted to connect with the children by slow eye-blinking at them. Because the children did not understand her communication they responded by getting shrill and excited. The lioness repeated her charge and glass-pawing. She was also saying that this was her territory, and they needed to be respectful. This time around, I felt her frustration that they were not listening to her. I had been so emotional earlier that I had missed that, too. (Note: this is why I preach to all my students about the importance of being grounded, balanced, and centered and getting your own baggage out of the way, lol, you can listen much better that way.)
As I watched, one child was directed by her parents to stand with her back to the lioness so that a photo could be taken (an act of disrespect, and a prey action). Because I had done my clearing work earlier, I felt sad for the child who let her parents know that she felt uncomfortable, “I don’t want to be eaten.” Children are more aware and open to guidance in their interactions with animals, but the parents were clueless. That guidance had been lost for many generations as we became more “civilized” and less aware of the natural world and our relationships to All Our Relations.
Everyone left, but Stacey and I.
I made sure to eye-blink and asked Lioness if I might sit by her. She said yes.
I sat on the ground and simply offered companionship. I did not want to paparazzi her, so I asked if I might take one last video. She agreed. She had been looking off into the distance. Turning her head to me, she looked directly into the lens and deliberately eye-blinked. At that moment, although we are packaged in different bodies, I knew that we had a common mission. Lioness Adia had charged me with bringing the people, and lioness Ilanga had made it clear that she was up for continuing the work. Together we can rebuild what has been lost. And I might have to figure out how to offer classes to children…
Please help us by sharing this story with others. The Zoo Animal Ambassadors and I hope that you will join us in this sacred mission. And you don’t have to be local to participate—Listening to Zoo Animal Ambassadors is available worldwide. Click here to learn more and register.
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A WILD WAY TO HEAL
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is an animal communicator, Reiki Master Teacher, shamanic energy healer, and author. Her classes, sessions and ceremonial work are inspired by wild and domestic animals who have issued a call to action for personal and global healing.