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All My Relations

All My Relations
(New World Library)

Book Summary by Linda Brown

   "Mitaku Oyasin" means "all my relations" and is a means of honoring everything (animals, weather, spirits, peoples of all nations, death, life - the list goes on and on). Mitaku Oyasin embodies heart-learning, soul-learning and spirit-learning.

Through the animals with whom we interact during a lifetime, we engage in these three types of learning. Animals provide us with many lessons, although over time we have distanced ourselves from them and nature.

It is by putting our attention and intention into these relationships that we deepen them. Our relationship with animals can bring about our transformation of consciousness.

The author has had relationships with animals from the time she was a small child. She reminds us that the animals we experience when we are young come to us to be remembered; each of them contains a message. This story-memory can be a catalyst for healing when we honor and tell it, either written or spoken.

We mistakenly stereotype animals - birds as dainty eaters, snakes as sinister, rabbits as timid, and so on. In all cases these stereotypes are incorrect. Every animal we encounter (even those of the same species) has a distinct personality. Therefore, experience is our best teacher.

When she was eight years old, McElroy learned her first lesson about boundaries from rats. The rats were babies when she put them on the dining room table and watched, horrified, as they all ran in different directions off of the table.

A month later she tried the same experiment again and the rats all stopped at the edge of the table. Somehow they had learned not to go beyond the edge. It was a meaningful lesson to learn, which could be applied to many life situations.

Another animal, Gaia, was a gray wolf and not a "physical" animal it all. Gaia usually appeared to her in dreamtime, in visualizations, everywhere except in ordinary, physical reality. Gaia was a power animal, one she met when undergoing cancer treatment.

Gaia began appearing three times a day during meditation. Eventually she began appearing at other times as well. At that point, because of her cancer diagnosis, McElroy believed that cancer must have occurred because she was unworthy of life, and therefore life was being taken from her. Her visualization for ridding herself of the disease had been a Pacman image eating up the cancer cells.

Then the wolf Gaia appeared several times, until finally McElroy began working with Gaia's image instead of the Pacman. She believes she had somehow tapped into the shamanic world and met the animal that had appeared in order to offer her assistance and healing.

The truth about fantasy is that sometimes it is so real we cannot tell the difference. Sometimes the real world and the imaginary world overlap.

Another wolf, one she never knew, impacted her life through the stories told about him. He was called #10, and was part of the wolf restoration project at Yellowstone.

Bold, protective of the other wolves, all of the biologists associated with the project worried for his safety, afraid that once too often he would show himself to people. Eventually such an event happened and he was killed.

The author was left wondering what messages his life and death held for her. Eventually she realized that his death was a catalyst for her to complete her first book.

A pet dog, Strongheart, was one she bought to keep the neighbor's yellow Labs out of her fenced yard and away from her miniature donkeys. She found him via the Internet, where his description was "livestock guarding dog." He was a pure-bred Anatolian Shepherd Dog puppy.

He scared her friends and terrorized the other dog in the family. The greatest lesson he taught her was respect for the wild nature of dogs. After his arrival, he was such a fierce protector that she never feared violence from anyone or anything as long as he was there. Eventually, however, he attacked a man who was unfamiliar to him.

Through much silence, concentration and prayer (and knowing he had the size and strength to kill) she decided it was necessary to put a basket muzzle on his face and a shock collar around his neck when taking him out. She also erected high fences and put out signs that he was EXTREMELY dangerous.

Strongheart taught McElroy a level of inner safety, but also instilled in her a fear for himself and others and knowledge that none of us are completely safe from outside forces. Strongheart reminded her to claim her empowerment and create a sense of safety for herself in a violent world.

All souls are a combination of light and darkness and it is interesting how our pets mirror qualities we ourselves possess. We often project upon them parts of ourselves that need healing. Our pets validate our experience of the life we are living.

Sometimes when bad things happen, we think we have done something wrong, but that's not true. Timing is important in everything. And even bad things that happen to us can aid us in our growth. In McElroy's words " . . . serendipity and coincidence are the soul's code."

As a child, she had a phobia about spiders. As an adult she made herself go to a pet store numerous times, until finally she was able to hold a tarantula in her palm. The tarantula climbed up to her neck and across her face.

This event filled her with awe and appreciation. It taught her that our expectations about anything are rarely correct. And also that whatever evokes strong emotions in us presents an opportunity for us to grow.
She lost her fear of spiders.

Susan McElroy writes because experiences and stories can bring to the forefront more than our conscious mind can. Writing brings meaning to the stories. The stories are a way of calling forth the sacred. Animals can be our friends, family and teachers.

At one point in her life she was given a thoroughbred mare, "Fashion". The mare was old, arthritic, thin, and had a tangled mane. She could not see what possible use she had for such a horse.

The mare didn't seem to think much of her, either. McElroy spent much money and time on Fashion. She and the horse connected because of the pure moments of awareness they spent together. The horse caused her to think of how old people are treated in society - as though they're marginal and worthless.

Many of the aged experience feelings of invisibility such as she first experienced with the horse and it with her. So many feel unseen- children, homeless people, old people, animals. Even Earth.

My favorite story was the one about Kulu. He was a chimp in a zoo and McElroy became caretaker to him when she was nineteen. She took him to her house and took care of him so that he would bond with her, which he did.

It was a very touching story, how the two of them loved each other, yet the zoo people who employed McElroy insisted that Kulu be commercialized and sent her with him to appear on Romper Room. The incident was a complete disaster. He bit the Romper Room lady. When the children saw her bleeding some cried, others hid under the tables.

McElroy retuned Kulu (whom she hadn't wanted to make appear on Romper Room in the first place) and was fired. Kulu was later attacked by the other chimps and nearly died. Afterwards, she was able to see him several times, but nothing was ever the same.

The story about Kulu introduced the subject of animals in bondage. Examples are animals in zoos, rodeos, and breeding cages. Some people think animals should not even be kept as pets, that this goes against their wild nature.

Animals have been created with the skills for life and choice. Animals have no need to live with us; it is our need to live with them. If we are to interact with animals, we need to change the mind-set that we can own them.

All My Relations is about human-animal relationships. The one thing of importance in life is connection. This holds true with animals as well as people. All animals that enter our lives, just as all humans who do, come to teach us lessons.

The book explores our sacred connections with animals and through ten personal stories, shows how our lives can intersect with theirs and how we are thus changed forever.

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