A New Year's adventure into self discovery, by way of the shaman.
As a healer it is important for me to remain open and curious and to keep learning. This is important not only for my own growth, but to strengthen my ability to create a space for my clients to experience theirs.
The healer is a guide, a shaman, who can help to lead you back home, to your full self. For a shaman to fully develop the skills to do this they must own their power. I decided that this is my year to really do just that.
So this New Year’s Eve I decided to celebrate the coming year in a more quiet and reflective way than usual. Though I love rich food and good champagne, and I am a fan of a loud toast with a kiss at midnight, I reveled instead at a lovely retreat by the sea, feasting on simple and clean foods and diving deep into my psyche to find the first steps on my path for the new year.
Every experience builds on those before it and allows our awareness to expand and deepen. For me to take the next step and develop as a shaman in the traditional sense, one of the first things I had to do is to journey to find my power animal.
What is a power animal? A power animal is an advisor of sorts.
It’s an energy form that serves to guide you and protect you in the realm of non-ordinary reality, and its type of energy is specifically compatible with your nature. Non-ordinary reality is a big umbrella, under which it is possible to finds: dreams, heightened states of emotion, somatic memories, in addition to the realms of the metaphysical.
And so I began my mysterious journey into the non-ordinary:
As we all lay in a circle with our eyes covered, the shaman shook her rattle seven times, paused and shook her rattle seven times again. We were told to choose a hole into the earth of some kind that held significance for us. In my mind’s eye I found myself in a cave I had slept in as a teenager, deep in the woods that I played in as a child. The shaman shook her rattle now with a steady rhythm for the duration of our journey.
As I opened my eyes in the dim light of the cave, a silvery white wolf immediately came to stand before me, lithe and powerful. I acknowledged his alacrity and he sat, guarding the mouth of the cave. I looked down and realized I was naked in this cave, and as soon as I did, a gorilla came from deep in the heart of the cave to protect my vulnerability. My wolf ran off and the gorilla followed, both leading me in flight into a deep dream, which I awoke from without even the trace of a memory of its content.
When the shaman stopped her steady rattling and again gave the signal to return to ordinary reality with her seven, pause, seven rhythm, I had a question.
Which is my true power animal? Usually, she said, the first animal that appears right up close and personal in your face is your animal. Whichever animal is most appropriate for you can change in the different phases of your life, and you can have more than one, but usually one is most prominent.
I did identify with this wolf, keen and wandering free, he represented intuition and wisdom, but the gorilla made me feel so safe. My sense is that the wolf is a guide and the gorilla a protector. Both of these two very different energies seem like metaphors for parts of my instinctual self.
Following my instincts has always been a tremendous asset for me in restoring health. I look forward to seeing how their influences will show themselves through my work.
The experiences of the other members of the group varied in process and also in certainty, but were all powerfully appropriate for them. If we were not sure when we encountered an animal, we were directed to ask the animal if they were our power animal, and if not, if they could take us to our power animal.
(L) went into a drainpipe in the woods that she had played in throughout her childhood. She came out into the forest and encountered a deer and a rabbit. She had already suspected that these would be her power animals but when questioned, they gave no answer. The deer morphed into a horse and she rode it and asked it to bring her to her power animal.
The horse morphed into an eagle and was soaring over the forest and water to the mountains in Hawaii, lush and green. The eagle left her there on the rocks, to climb, frightened and unsteady. She asked when she reached the top, "what wants to happen now?" Looking down, she dove into a body of water. She found a whale and asked it to take her to her power animal, it became a shark as she swam on it, then a seal, which left her on land. She lay on her back and a deer came to her and put its face over hers.
(M) found herself spinning down into a swirl in the ocean in the village she vacationed in as a young girl. As she went down into the depths of the clear water, no one saw her. Midway in her descent, a mermaid caught her and spun her upwards then slipped away. She gazed up and watched the power of birds in flight and used it to draw herself out of the water.
She was taken on a second journey down a big hole in the roots of a 200-year-old tree in her village that her mother had warned her to stay away from. Down into the darkness of Hades she traveled to the land of the dead. "I am dying in Hades," she thought to herself as its doors opened. She said "no," and a fox appeared. He said, "I am clever, use your smarts to escape death." She outsmarted death and came out.
(A) was taken down a hole in the mineral baths and pulled by a school of fish into the ocean, where she asked sharks and whales if they were her power animals. They took her to a rock where mermaids basked in the sun.
From there she was taken onto a pirate ship to a deserted island and headed up a hill to an androgynous sage who gave her clues. She went back to the beach to build a raft, all the while criticizing her own vision. She then found herself with the Inuit people who showed her many animals, she felt grateful to be there, but continued on through Montreal, and on to New England. Resting in the woods, a squirrel appeared. She thought this might be a silly power animal but then felt it as restful, peaceful, and curious, and it advised her to lead her upcoming project from this perspective.
These experiences may seem like imaginings or dreams, but whether they are myths and the power animal is an archetype, or whether they are truly travels with creatures from another world, their importance is the same. They serve as an aid to empowerment and embodiment, two very tangible states of being.
Finding your power animal is about becoming your most powerful self, an intention that is at the core of all the resolutions we make each year. Perhaps our power animals appear to help us keep them.
Special thanks to The Goddess Oasis for their wonderful New Year event and guidance on the shamanic journey: