“But ask the animals, and they will instruct you; ask the birds of the air, and they will teach you. Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you.” –Job 12:7-8

RI researched and discovered that at least 75% of the people who have gone through Peer Employment Training say that spirituality plays a major role in their recovery process. These were personal experiences with a higher power that helps them on the recovery journey. I’m one of those 75%.

I only understood I needed heart-opening experiences, not more head knowledge, after my life had fully imploded. I was in unending pain and trauma over an extended period of time. I had neither the energy nor resources of any kind, in and of myself, to come up with the experiences that began to happen for me. At the same time, I had also felt completely abandoned by the God I had known up until then. I railed against, and renounced that God—I was done!

It took some time, but I’ll never forget the day that I was so humbled and realized that I had not been abandoned, rather my “God box” had been expanded. This had happened through experiences— many of them through nature. As I write this, I feel overcome with gratitude about just how personal these experiences have been! They have illuminated this connection with Loving Presence (one of my favorite names of my God) in so many mysterious ways, beyond human comprehension. Ways that open my heart in childlike wonder and create an even deeper relationship.

It happens to me often through animals. Cultures all through the ages have given symbolism to animals, and I believe it intertwines us together. I have a card deck of animals with associated symbolism. Last night, the card that spoke to me was about cat spirit. This morning as I took my walk, I encountered a lizard. When I looked up the symbolism for a lizard, it said, “Letting my heart control me, not my ego, which requires peeling back the layers to get to the truth, is the only way to discover what your heart is telling you. Thus, like cat spirit, you also need to take the time to focus on your dreams.” I laughed out loud when I read that sentence!

For years I have been reading about animal symbolism. I don’t remember another time that I encountered reading about one animal and having it connect to another animal. And, the very animal that Loving Presence had encouraged me with the night before. You can call it coincidental if you’d like, but for me it’s a spiritual experience.

I have had an extremely hard time dreaming, as in imagining more for my life. Anyone who has encountered pain and trauma can relate. Can you? It’s that impending feeling of doom, or waiting for the other “shoe to drop.“ Surviving was imperative and dreaming was an unsafe luxury I couldn’t risk taking. Only in this past year of my recovery have I been able to consider dreaming again, so what a very personal experience this was; one that touched a deeply wounded part of my heart. How it endears me knowing that Loving Presence delivered a perfect message through cat and lizard.

Though personal, I share it with you, because it’s a universal message for each of us. Regardless of the trauma that might have led you to feel you couldn’t dream, or just the monotony of every day life at times, are you able to allow a little space inside yourself to be open to dream? I believe it’s possible to cultivate a bit of curiosity and dare to dream both individually, and corporately, to create a better world for all of us. Let’s dream again.

Cheri Thomas

Cheri works as a Peer Support Specialist for RI in Arizona. She has experienced loss and grief which has led her to write for the masses to bring voice to those in similar situations. Cheri possesses a deep passion to share with, encourage, and inspire others on what she calls the Journey of the Heart.