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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine.  July Theme: "Flow"   Volume 1 Issue 5  ISSN# 1708-3265

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The Envelope Please…
Featuring: Dawn Baumann Brunke

This issue I've asked Dawn Baumann Brunke to share some of her thoughts with us all. She's agreed to become a regular columnist here at TSM and personally I've had a great time working with her. Reading and then reviewing her book, Animal Voices was a spiritually confirming moment for me. Finding my (what I thought were) unique beliefs on the pages of her book blew me away!

I hope you all enjoy getting to know the woman behind "Lifetalks".

Dawn, what inspired you to write a book about animal communication and did you have any idea it would become a book on spiritual connection?

I didn't plan to write a book. Eight years ago, I had just come to Alaska and was hired to be the editor of Alaska Wellness magazine, a bi-monthly publication which looks at alternative health modalities and wellness of body-mind-spirit. One of the articles I found in the "hold box" was written by Chrys Long-Ago, a woman in Anchorage who talked to animals. Not only that, but the animals spoke back!

I was intrigued by this and eventually interviewed Chrys. She told me about a man named J. Allen Boone who had written several books about this topic back in the 1940s and '50s. I went to the library and read everything by Boone I could find. He was a fascinating man, a reporter and Washington correspondent, who was also very spiritual. He had friends in the movie business in Hollywood and that is how he came to care-take Strongheart, a German shepherd film star (one of the forerunners to Lassie and Rin Tin Tin). Strongheart was an amazing dog and Boone credits the canine with 'teaching' him how to communicate at deeper levels.

In many ways, it was Boone and his stories about Strongheart which led me to exploring animal communication and the ways in which it brings us to a deeper connection, not only with animals and nature, but with ourselves. That is the spiritual component of all of this, I feel. For by opening ourselves to animals and nature, we also open ourselves to other human beings and our own inner selves.

In relating at deeper levels, you are forced to be honest with yourself and begin to see a larger aspect of yourself - one that is quite capable of connecting with the underlying essence which makes up all creation. At a certain point, you realize we truly are all connected. You get it not just with your mind, but with your entire being. And this knowledge does something to change you, to move you away from separation from nature and deeper into a universal relationship with all beings.

Have you started communicating with people's pets as a side business now, or do you just do it for your own pets?

I don't do animal communication as a professional business. There are so many wonderful communicators who talk with pets on a daily basis. Because this is their passion and daily work, they are much better at working with humans and animals in solving, for example, behavioural issues or in finding lost animals. My daily connection with animals is a bit different. My interest is more in working with animals to learn their stories and myths, to learn how they view the world and, then, to share that information with other humans via books and articles.

When and how did your spiritual path begin?

Hmmm… do you mean this lifetime? *wink* I feel I have always had an interest and connection with spirituality, although I was fairly disappointed by religion as a child. Going to church and listening to sermons just didn't speak to me; I felt no deep connection there. Still, I was always interested in finding out more about who we are and why we are here. In college, I took classes in religion and became intrigued with Hinduism and Buddhism. I spent a year in India and read lots of books by spiritual thinkers. I also took a good many anthropology classes and became interested in the ways different cultures relate to the divine, to spirit. That, in fact, became my major in college.

I was also always interested in writing and the way authors and poets use words to connect their readers to deeper feelings, especially those of a spiritual nature. So, in some ways, that was my path into writing. I felt a kinship with many writers and poets who were writing to spark awareness in others. This is why I always mention J. Allen Boone when people ask me about how I became involved in animal communication.

I felt Boone's connection to nature, to Strongheart, to himself and to his readers, in his books, and I could relate to and respect that connection. Now, even though I am interested in things of a spiritual nature, I'm also a bit of a sceptic. When I first heard there were such things as animal communicators, I did a bit of eye-rolling. But, reading Boone helped me see it in a different way; to sense the deeper connection those animal communicators were using to, truly, talk with animals.

What were your spiritual beliefs before you wrote this book?

I always believed there was a connecting spirit between all things. This wasn't something which was taught to me or I learned, but something I felt deep down. Even as a young child, I believed animals had souls. I remember talking with my mother when I was 9 or 10 years old and I was astounded to discover she did not believe animals had souls! How could that be? Whenever I looked into the eyes of my dog, I saw a soul. It actually may have been that point which turned me away from most organized religions. It seemed to me there were just too many beliefs and non-beliefs, too much 'us' versus 'them' mentality. When I learned you could be spiritual without necessarily having a religion, I was greatly relieved!

Has writing this book changed you spiritually?

I think it has made me much more aware that the spirit in all things has intelligence and humour, and that all beings express this intelligence and humour in unique ways. And that's to be celebrated!

Of all the connections to animals you have made or heard, is there one, which changed you/touched you, more deeply than the others?

Every connection changes you and touches you in some way, of course. I am probably most often changed by the talks that bring up information that is outside of my comfort zone. For example, I shared a story in Animal Voices about a talk I once had with a mosquito who told me some information that pretty much blew me away.

Other animals at other times have shared similar types of messages - things which made me look at the limits of my own way of seeing the world. Usually this is a good thing, because it encourages us to grow, to expand our awareness and confront our own fears and doubts. Now, being a somewhat sceptical person, I'm not advising anyone to always believe what you hear from an animal, but I do think it is wise to explore new information - especially if the information causes you to feel a strong emotion - and to find out if it has some truth for you.

One other area in which I am almost always touched and changed is when animals are preparing to transition from this world to the next. I had some long, heartfelt talks with my old dog Barney before he died. His messages were always about pushing the envelope, seeing with a larger vision, exploring deeper into the nature of who we all are.

I've been privileged to help other humans as their animals are making transitions. These are always inspiring talks and one of the messages which comes through most often is to "just be" with the animal. So many animals ask their person to just sit with them, simply to be present. Sometimes this may involve tears and other times it involves laughter, but it always involves being present in a way which is real and honest and genuine. It is about being aware; it is about being alive in a much larger sense than what we are used to being.

Are you planning on writing another book about Animal Spirituality?

My second book, "Awakening to Animal Voices: A Teen Guide to Telepathic Communication with All Life", has just been released. This book is written for teens and young adults - though, of course, it's perfectly appropriate to read if you are an old adult too! In some ways, this book is similar to Animal Voices in that there are many contributions from a lot of different animals and communicators, and we continue to discuss some challenging areas - death and shape shifting, for example.

The book has quite a few ideas and exercises, meditations, games and activities, all designed to help us deepen our connection, not only with animals but also with others and ourselves. Animal communication is a central part of the book, but there are so many other ways to relate to nature as well! So, the book also looks at animal guides and teachers, totem animals, spirit animals, healing with animals, and how we can use our gifts (be they in healing, teaching or communicating with animals) in the world. If readers want to know more, I invite them to check out the website, where there are several chapter excerpts.

What else do you do?

Besides being editor at Alaska Wellness, I occasionally work with writers as a coach or editing consultant. I really enjoy helping writers (especially beginning writers) clarify their voice so as to communicate more effectively with others via the written word. I am also a part-time massage therapist at a local health club. And I'm a wife and mother. I volunteer every year at my daughter's school to help with the 'Battle of the Books' competition, and usually visit the school at least once to do a writing workshop or talk about connecting with animals. I definitely keep busy!

Wow, Dawn I'm surprised you have time to write books! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. I know I really enjoyed getting to know you better!

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