Why You Need to Find Your Spirit Animal
Have you ever wondered what a spirit animal or a power animal is? Wondered if you have one, or what it might be? Can you have more than one? (YES!!)
The terms power animal and spirit animal are often used interchangeably to refer to an animal (symbol or totem) that has particular spiritual meaning for you.
Often the spirit animal is a means of conveying specific wisdom or
guidance that would be helpful for your personal growth. The characteristics of the spirit animal may be important to recognize either as a current strength or an area to work towards. For example, the hawk is often seen as symbolic of far vision, clear sight, and discernment. Those may be qualities that you are currently in need of (and hawk can help with bringing them forward for you!), or perhaps those are already your areas of strength and confidence that you can use in association with a new way.
You may find yourself drawn to a particular animal (note: your spirit animal is not just one individual animal ("Joe the jaguar"), but is the entire species of that animal (all jaguars). So if jaguars have always been your thing – love the car, fascinated by the sleek, dark power, wish that you could run like a jaguar, etc. – then this is an indicator that there is a connection and important "medicine" for you in that animal. Of course, this is just as true for those animals that you really try to avoid, that scare you or make you uncomfortable. Because each animal has particular characteristics and significance, you will want to check out what that scary snake stands for (e.g. the ability to shed its skin – so for us, the ability to shed our limitations and fears and move forward in our best life; guidance; transformation; primal energy). If you find yourself having a strong negative reaction for a particular animal, it may be that the energetic message is one that you really need, but have been avoiding (or it could be a direct result of some kind of personal experience, but check it out anyway – you may be surprised!)
Another way to meet your spirit animal is to do a shamanic journey. You can do a guided journey with a shamanic practitioner, or you can learn to do a journey on your own. If you are doing a guided journey, the shaman will either rattle or drum to induce a state of meditative relaxation, and then will describe the internal imagery for you to follow. Typically this involves a trip (through visualization) beneath the surface of the earth, such as going through a tunnel or following the roots of a tree down, down, down to the energetic "lower world".
The biggest obstacle for people doing a shamanic journey is their own sense of disbelief. I know – this has been true for me many times, even as recently as a month ago. It seems we have a hard time "letting go" and trusting our energetic connection to the world. I have often experienced an ongoing internal skeptic doubting every aspect of the guided journey. Here's the good news – whether you are wholly embracing the experience or questioning the entire process, you will still get whatever you most need in that moment. That's just how our energy works. Since we are all connected to all living beings, we are able to access that energy (what Jung called the "collective unconscious") even when we think it doesn't make any sense.
So why do you need to meet your spirit animal? Well for one, it's pretty cool. Second, your spirit animal provides a wealth of information and guidance regarding the choices lying ahead of you in your life. Why turn away free advice? Third, as humans we both benefit from a sense of spiritual connection and have a need to define the abstract. Spirit animals serve as a symbolic representation of the personal characteristics we need to embrace to move forward and feel our best. So each time you see or think of your spirit animal, you are reinforcing the messages that you need to incorporate into your life (psychological process at the most basic level of behavioral training!)
There are several really good books (and internet sites) that give information about spirit animals. One of my favorites is by Steven Farmer, PhD - "Animal Spirit Guides: An Easy-to-Use Handbook for Identifying and Understanding Your Power Animals and Animal Spirit Helpers". As you begin to recognize and spend time connecting with your spirit animal, you will discover additional meanings and ways of utilizing this form of guidance and new knowledge.
Since relaxation is vital no matter what, here's an exercise to help reduce stress and connect more to your body (great for using before you do a shamanic journey!):
1. Sit or lie down, making sure you are comfortable and as relaxed as possible. Lightly close your eyes and note any areas of tension in your body.
2. Begin to take notice of your breathing. Notice as each breath comes in and goes out, feeling the air as it moves through your nostrils.
3. Allow your breathing to deepen, so that you are breathing in from your lower belly. You can check this by putting one hand on your belly. If your belly is rising up as you inhale, and falling as you exhale, you are getting full, deep breaths.
4. Continue to inhale through your nose.
5. You can exhale through your mouth, keeping your mouth, tongue, and jaw relaxed.
6. Allow yourself to fully relax, imaging your muscles are softening and that you are sinking into the surface you are sitting or lying on.