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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. November's Theme: "Celebrate"
Volume 4 Issue 1 ISSN# 1708-3265
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Celebration: This Oneness is a Healing;
Teachings of the Sled Dogs

with Dawn Baumann Brunke

Because I live in Alaska, the Iditarod sled dog race is a big event in our family. Although we do not have sled dogs, we live right down the road from Iditarod headquarters, official start of the race, and in the general neighbourhood of some of the most famous mushers and sled dogs in Iditarod history. Every year, we join many others on the sidelines of the Iditarod trail to cheer on the dogs and mushers as they glide past us on their long (nearly twelve hundred miles long!) journey to Nome.

To those who are unfamiliar with sled dog racing, this race is sometimes misunderstood or believed to be cruel and abusive to the dogs. Although my experience has shown me that most sled dogs not only want to run, but want to run as a team more than anything else in the world, it is always wise to go to the source. This is why many years ago when I met a particularly talkative sled dog named Queenie, I asked if she would share her perspective of racing.

True to form as a focused racer, Queenie responded with a fast-paced answer: I love to run, to be a part of the flow of movement. Our hearts beat together. When we are racing smoothly, we are a group, like one being. We can see all perspectives, as if from each other's eyes. We join our thoughts, our sights, our feelings. Our hearts beat together, we breathe together; we are all part of one being, one team. Sometimes our musher feels this also, though it is harder for him to be part of our team in the same way. Still, he tries.

We can feel when there is a break from this flow - when there are troubles or worry. We don't like to climb as much as we like to run, so sometimes we feel scattered when doing things like that, and the flow is disturbed. It need not be, but that is our learning. It is easier for us to feel part of the team and flow when we run, flying fast as the wind, a part of the wind. We are not separate, but a part of the movement.

We love to be part of the one team, but at times there are fights and disagreements. Our energy becomes pitched when we run. When it is harnessed and we pull together, we can win a race! But at rest or in the yard, we often fall back into another mode of being.

It is as if we are of two ways of being. We are individual dogs with our own needs and wants, but we are also a team, and that too is part of our learning and part of our love. There is a flow about that, a way of being in which we feel a part of something larger than ourselves. We work together for the team. Our relationship with our musher is part of this.

The downside of this bliss is our separation from the oneness of running with the team - for we do not race or run every day. Some days are needed for rest, but as a rule most of us, on this team, would like to run more.

We have our own likes and dislikes among the group. I am close to two other dogs. I am the "runner up" dog in this team, meaning position number three or four. I have led at times, though I prefer to be in this position. It is my place and it is where I feel most fine. If you want to know more about us as a group, you should talk to the spirit of sled dogs.

Although at the time I didn't know there was such a thing as 'Spirit of Sled Dog', Queenie helped me tune in and connect with this spirit being who served as group leader and energetic guide to these particular sled dogs. And this is how I was given the insight that the Iditarod race (and, by extension, many races) is not just a competition but, at deeper levels, a true celebration of being.

When a musher is in tune with his or her dogs, there is an openness that occurs, a real exchange between animal and human, explained Spirit of Sled Dog. This exchange is about sharing information in a common way, to feel as one, to move as one, to see from the point of view of every member of the team.

There is then an opening with the land herself. Many of my dogs are aware of the feel of the land as it meets their paws, or as their bellies pass over it as they run, walk, or race. When a human also opens to the land in this way, or shares the feeling through the team dogs, there is then a deeper triangulation of movement - a group oneness of human, dogs, and land. This oneness is a healing. At this time, this is our aim, a movement toward healing. You might remember the origins of this race: it also was a race for healing to occur.

[The Iditarod commemorates the 1925 race* in which twenty teams of sled dogs and mushers worked together over a course of five days, inhospitable terrain, and fierce weather to relay serum to a far northern Alaskan village that was threatened by diphtheria.]

There are many ways in which healing can occur, and becoming in tune with other animals and the land is one such opening, one such deepening. Our race, the Iditarod, is about movement through land, space, and time by the joined forces of animals and humans. It is, in fact, a celebration. There is much about this race that has yet to fully blossom into human consciousness. Many people still see it as something to be won or lost. But that is not how we see it.

Most of my dogs see this race as a joy, a flowing movement. They feel the worries, concerns, and dreams of their musher. They work with the musher, and you can see the results in the interaction between human and dogs. The real point of the race, from our perspective, is to engage humans in an opening process both with dogs and the land. For those who watch, it is also about an opening of spirit, an extension of the human will to meet with other species and pull with them through adversity and odds.

Our focus is much more about working with humans, helping them to enjoy the freedom and bliss of opening to something larger and - for a time - being held within the oneness of movement and flight.

The sled dogs' message has stayed with me for many years. It reminds me that everywhere, in every moment, we are offered the invitation to open to that something larger, to feel and move with the oneness which is a healing - not only for ourselves, but for all the world. No strings, no demands, no need to dress up fancy - the invitation to celebrate life is open to all. And we are always welcome to join the party.

*Editor's Note: A children's movie "Balto" tells the story of the race to save the village in 1925.

Dawn Baumann Brunke is the author of Animal Voices: Telepathic Communication in the Web of Life and Awakening to Animal Voices: A Teen Guide to Telepathic Communication with All Life. Both books explore the deeper nature of our relationship with animals, nature, each other and ourselves. Part of this article was excerpted from Awakening to Animal Voices. For more, see Dawn's website.

Be sure to read the reviews of her books in our May 2005 Issue and our January 2006 Issue.

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