SPIRIT ANIMALS

I feel so much gratitude this week, coming off of a rich and inspirational weekend with my tribe. Last year, for the first time, we decided to rent a house in the woods of Pennsylvania for a weekend, and the trip was cathartic and beautiful and amazing. We decided to do the same thing again this year, and this gathering was another resounding success. There is too much that happened and most of it is quite sacred to me, not even appropriate to share on my beloved blog. However, I do feel excited to share with you the details of one of the exercises that took place on this trip (each of us plans a spiritually reflective activity or workshop for the group to partake in). The exercise I led focused on exploring our individual spirit animals, and it was incredible and super fun! If you are fortunate enough to have a tribe, or even just a group of friends who are open to new things and with whom you feel comfortable being vulnerable with, give this a whirl!

If you are new to the idea of spirit animals, I recommend taking a look at Animal Speak by Ted Andrews. I acquired this book long ago and use it regularly, especially to translate the meaning of animals that appear in my dreams. My copy of this book is tattered and torn from over-use and I always learn something new when I refer to it. Also, Ted Andrews is generally considered a bit of an authority when it comes to all things nature-spirit-related, so if you are going to invest in any book about this kind of thing, I would go with anything by Ted Andrews.

PREPARATION

To prepare for this exercise, I purchased five small picture frames, one for each member of the tribe. I went with 5″ x 5″ and they were about $8 each at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. I then cut out five equal squares of bright white Bristol paper (any paper will do, but thicker is better) to fit within the dimensions of the frame. On one side of each square, I printed one of the names of each of our tribe members, so essentially, one square of paper for each member of the group.

I also purchased one large packet of colored pencils and one small packet of liquid glitter pens. I divided up the colored pencils and separated them into small bundles of four colored pencils each, keeping each bundle within a certain color group. For instance, one bundle had a yellow green, and dark green, a grass green, and an emerald green. Another bundle had an auburn color, a dark orange, a rust red, and another darky orange color. Then I matched each bundle with a color corresponding glitter pen. There were leftover neutral colors like browns and grays and blacks, so I kept these all together so everyone in the group could use them. Finally, I wrapped each bundle in a fun animal print wrapping paper and mixed them up so I couldn’t tell which color bundle was which. This whole sorting out of colors process was maybe the most exciting and fun in terms of preparation but also made me the most psychotically frenzied. Definitely don’t stress out about this part and just have fun with it!

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Finally, I selected a meditation track to be played during the exercise. I went with my intuition on this and also made sure to choose a track that I thought everyone would love. I typed in “Spirit Animal Meditation” and sampled different tracks. I ended up going with a beautiful and very evocative track called “Animal Images” by Shamanic Drumming World. I highly recommend using this track, as it was very effective and everyone LOVED it.

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THE EXERCISE

When it came time to begin the exercise, I set up the room beforehand and laid down the five white squares of paper (VERY IMPORTANT: KEEP THE SIDE THAT HAS THE NAME OF EACH PERSON IN THE GROUP FACE DOWN AND MAKE SURE TO TELL THE GROUP THAT THEY ARE NOT TO TURN THEM OVER), the five wrapped colored pencil packets, and five pencils. Before the group entered the room, I told them to pick a seat where they felt comfortable, and to intuitively choose one square of paper, one wrapped bundle, and one pencil, again reminding them not to turn over their square of paper. I also had them each choose a hard surface, such as a book, to lean on, so they could remain comfortable and work in their laps.

Once everyone was seated, I explained to them what we were going to do. I essentially told them that one of the members of the tribe’s name was printed on the back of their card, and that we were each going to be tapping into the spirit animal for that person, and then illustrate the animal on the card. I also told them that the bundle they chose contained several colored pencils and a matching glitter pen, and that this reflected the color energy of their spirit animal. I asked that they use those specific colors within their illustration since the color is just as significant as the animal. [I let everyone know that of course, if someone needs to borrow another color from someone, that’s fine, but it is important to stick to the color scheme that each person intuitively chose.] I made sure we did the meditation before we revealed the color, so our meditation would also not be tainted or influenced by the color we selected.

I played the meditation track, which was about four and a half minutes long, and checked in with everyone after the track was complete. This is a group activity, so of course, if someone needs more time, we all wait patiently, no pressure at all. Once we were all ready, we each went around and opened our wrapped bundles to reveal our spirit animal color. The surprise factor was the funnest part of this whole thing and we all loved it! Some group members saw colors during their meditation and ended up with that same color–nothing is a coincidence! Other group members felt uncomfortable with the color they received, indicating that they had effectively channeled the energy of another tribe member and clearly not their own. Once we had all opened our color bundles, I made sure to INSIST that everyone use the glitter in some part of their illustration. Glitter is an often overlooked and underutilized medium, but it is very important, especially when it comes to spirit, animals, and magic! Glitter is truly DER BERST thing ever invented…

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Everyone in our group is a highly gifted intuitive, so I didn’t really have to get into much detail with them about how to do their meditation and how to call upon the spirit animal. Some of us used reiki, and some of us asked our guides for assistance. For the most part, every one of us had a spirit animal reveal itself very quickly, and for the remainder of the meditation, each tribe member spent that time gathering more information about the animal, it’s environment, it’s personality, it’s significance, etc. I understand that working with intuition may be new to many people and can feel intimidating. However, it can be a very simple process, and the more you use it, the stronger your intuitive abilities become. For those of you who are new to intuitive meditations, here are some basics to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you are surrounded by people you trust and feel safe with.
  • Make sure your body is comfortable and relaxed.
  • Close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
  • It may be helpful to place your hand on the object (in this case, the square of paper with the person’s name printed on the back) so you can tap into the energy.
  • Your mind does not have to be completely clear, but make sure your mind is not racing with thoughts. Your mind should be calm and open. Let go and allow. [I had an animal in my mind before I began my meditation, but that was the animal I created with my thinking mind. When I actually closed my eyes and asked, a completely different animal appeared and it was very clear and remained clear for the entire meditation. This is the difference between using your thinking mind and your intuitive mind. It’s subtle but distinctive.]
  • Ask in your mind a direct question, such as, “Please show me the spirit animal for this person.” You don’t necessarily need to know who you’re asking, and you can default to something like “Spirit” or “Source” or “God” if you are unsure, but if you still feel like you want to address an entity of some kind.
  • If you do have angels or guides whom you connect with regularly, ask them to assist you.
  • If your mind bounces from one animal to another and doesn’t really stick to any one thing, that probably means that you are using your mind too much and not your intuition. When you are using your intuition, the response is usually pretty clear and simple and you can feel it. Emotions might accompany the information you receive. But if your mind is too bouncy bouncy, try taking some deeper and slower breaths and focusing your mind on something static, such as an apple. It sounds silly but it works. Next thing you know, some animal might pop into your mind’s eye view and take a chomp out of that apple. And that just might be the spirit animal you summoned. Go with it.
  • For this exercise specifically, you can also try imagining an environment in nature, such as an open field, and you can ask for the animal to reveal itself in the field. Just be careful, if for instance your animal is something found in the water, it might have trouble showing itself in that field. Just be open and allow the environment to change if it wants to. Visualizations are very helpful to concentrate on if your mind is overactive and not relaxed.
  • If you are really having trouble focusing, you can also try concentrating on your third eye area (the space slightly above the bridge of your nose, in the center of your forehead). Take deep breaths and focus only on your third eye. Once your mind has calmed down a bit, then ask again.
  • Try not to doubt yourself, and if you are not sure, just ask for more certainty.
  • Have fun!

Once our meditation was over, I played some lighter and more uplifting music to listen to while we worked on our drawings. I personally chose some tracks by Jai-Jagdeesh, but you can choose whatever you want!

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Final illustrations, from left to right: King Cobra, Mystery Bird (the bird in this meditation was very clear, but not exactly defined in terms of species, and that is okay!), Mink, Elephant, Owl

Once we were finished with our drawings, we each went around and first revealed our drawing (NOT THE PERSON’S NAME…YET) and explained the information that was received during the meditation. This part was so fun because we were all secretly trying to guess who’s animal was who’s and the surprise factor again made it so fun! Once we had all gone around and revealed our animals, we then went around again to reveal who’s name was on the back of each card. Lots of sharing, lots of back and forth, lots of fun and excitement. It was truly magical!

Once the glitter dried, I popped each image into one of the pre-purchased picture frames, and everyone got to take away something sacred from our weekend.

You can conduct this exercise in whatever way you want, but this format allowed for enough structure to make sure the result would be effective, and yet enough openness and time for play. Again, being with a group that is loving and trustworthy is key. Even though this was tons of fun, it was also very sacred and very special and everyone must feel safe to explore and be open within themselves and within the group.

My tribe and their spirit animals..

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Erin’s spirit animal is an owl, channeled and illustrated by Matt

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Matt’s spirit animal is a king cobra, channeled and illustrated by Erin

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Amanda’s spirit animal is a bird, channeled and illustrated by Hillary

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Libby’s spirit animal is a mink, channeled and illustrated by Amanda

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Hillary’s spirit animal is an elephant, channeled and illustrated by Libby

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Beautiful Pennsylvania

 

 

DOCTOR SCHMOCTOR

I don’t really like dealing with doctors. I have never really liked dealing with doctors and have never felt comfortable putting my body and my health in the hands of another human being. I am not saying I don’t have trust and control issues and I can completely admit to having minor to moderate hypochondria tendencies. But I still believe the points I intend to bring up in this post are completely valid regardless of any neurosis I may be responsible for.

I have always had white coat hypertension for as far back as I can remember. This condition eventually got to the point where I would have to warn the doctor ahead of time and tell him or her that I get very nervous around doctors, so my blood pressure will most likely be sky high. I often asked the doctor to wait to take my BP until the end of the exam after I had relaxed a bit. Inevitably—perhaps this is where my mistrust of doctors began—the doctor would basically ignore me, take my blood pressure within seconds of—or sometimes in the midst of—my shaky proclamation, and literally freak out about how high my reading was, giving me a speech about high blood pressure, and generally expressing extreme alarm in reaction to my reading. This of course made me the opposite of more calm. It also made me feel very unheard, made me wonder if I really did need to worry about my heart health and blood pressure, and made me feel even less trusting of doctors. The message I received over time from repeated experiences by various doctors was that I have absolutely no personal power in a doctor’s office and that my emotions and even articulate thoughts and feelings about my health and my own body, the body I deal with every day, will never be heard or considered. How terrifying.

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Just a note that once the exam was over, usually the doctor would take another reading and of course notice that my BP had decreased drastically and basically returned to normal. Despite this fact, at one point in my early teens, doctors were so concerned about my BP readings that they ordered an ultra-sound on my heart, only to find that nothing was wrong. I appreciate that they checked to make sure I was healthy, but it was quite frightening at the time. I have since learned to find ways to calm myself in a doctor’s waiting room so I do not even have to proclaim anything to anyone ahead of time, at least with regards to my blood pressure. Reiki has been very useful for this.

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So as not to draw attention to myself, I can usually sit in a doctor’s waiting room with my hands resting naturally on my abdomen, and perform Reiki on myself to help combat the nerves. The last few times I have done this, my typical elevated BP reading of about 134/87 has decreased to around 110/60. White coat syndrome begone! Image obtained from here.

Contemplate for a moment the amount of trust that is needed for a human being to receive care from a doctor, who is undisputedly, a fellow human being. Of course, I acknowledge that one of the human beings in this scenario has gone to medical school and the other human being has most likely not. I do understand that doctors don’t know nothing—medically speaking—and I am grateful that we have experts in this world who know more than I do about medicine. But doctors also don’t know everything—medically speaking. I personally feel like on a scale of medical knowledge between knowing everything and knowing nothing, doctors in general fall somewhere in the 40% range (if 100% is knowing everything—like what God might know about medicine, and 0% is knowing nothing—like what a six-month old baby might know about medicine). That is just how I feel, but of course, I could be wrong. However, I do believe that a huge part of healing, health, and the art of caring for the human body, has less to do with intellectual knowledge, and at least just as much, if not more, to do with the art of human relations, instincts and intuition, and other holistic considerations. I do think that doctors are seriously lacking in this area, and whenever I come across a doctor who chooses to apply his or her medical knowledge in cooperation with basic human compassion, patience, and understanding, I have noticed that my anxiety is virtually non-existent.

Feel free to read about one of my first-hand experiences with contrasting forms of care from two different podiatrists in “REIKI, PART III: FINAL ROOT HEALING.” One of these doctors I refer to as “The Butcher,” and the other, “The Miracle Worker.” Both doctors were around the same age with the same education (they actually went to school together). The Miracle Worker made me feel cared for, honored, and actually took care of my ailment within seconds, after having suffered at the hands of The Butcher for weeks. The Butcher, antithetically, disregarded and invalidated the amount of pain I was experiencing, blamed me for part of the problem, and was never able to relieve me of the severity of my condition.

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Here is a good little post about compassion in the medical world. Image obtained from here.

I have recently switched gynecologists because of this lack of compassion-understanding-patience component, and had a really positive experience during my most recent visit. I had been noticing that my former gynecologist just did not quite seem remotely capable of truly hearing me. She was kind and fairly patient, but on many occasions, I would tell her what was going on with my body, and she would say something to me that seemed completely contradictory to what I had just said, to the point where I would actually repeat myself to make sure she had initially heard me correctly. I felt as if she had made up her own mind about my health, regardless of what I was sharing with her about my body. I might say something like, “My body feels fine when A, but not when B,” and she might respond with a list of things to help deal with A—even though I had just told her that A is fine and B is my actual concern. When I repeated myself about B, she dismissed that concern and moved onto another topic completely. Quite confusing and bizarre was this experience. This sounds like a subtle thing, but it became frustrating in terms of care and made me feel less comfortable trusting her with things like prescriptions and diagnoses. And since I am so sensitive in general, my anxiety would be greater just knowing that this particular person often does not truly hear me when I am expressing myself. I also noticed that during my last visit with her, the exam she performed on me was quite painful and I expressed this to her clearly during the examination. She ignored my assertion and literally talked over me as she quickly finished the exam and declared I was fine. Her behavior made me feel like she just did not want to deal with me. Again, another seemingly minor detail, but this treatment indicated to me that she was unsympathetic to my discomfort level, and again, not as concerned as I felt she should have been with something that actually might be a cause for concern.

When I finally switched doctors, I was so relieved to find that this new practitioner was so gentle, truly listened to what I was saying about my body, and responded thoughtfully. My visit with her took just as much time as my other visits and it was never as if I was demanding a ton of either doctors’ time. But the time that this doctor did share with me was utterly more respectful and thoughtful. I also noted that during my visit with her, my anxiety was nil. It was if I could instantly sense that she was going to give me the care and respect that I needed, even if she did not have all of the medical answers—she did of course, but even if she did not, I still would have returned to her. I felt that if she could not find the answers to my questions, she would do her best until I felt satisfied and comfortable. Quality of experience is so important to me when it comes to doctors and that is why I dumped Dr. Lousy-Care for Dr. Fantabulous.

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Image obtained from here

My most recent visit to an eye doctor ultimately prompted me to write this post and I will end with this final anecdote.

I have always had exceptional vision, but have also always secretly wished that my eyesight was terrible, because I want to be a hot person wearing glasses. So, every few years, I check back with an eye doctor to see if I need a prescription in the hopes that I can finally live out my hot-secretary-in-glasses fantasy.

I had never met with this eye doctor before and when he asked what brought me into the office, I shared with him that my eyesight seemed to be failing me when reading things up close (which is true, not false). He then gave me a card to read and put some lenses in front of me. The blurred words became instantly clear and I was excited at the prospect of picking out sexy frames and walking away from this visit in full faux-intellectual hot mama form. However, he pointed out that I might just need to not hold things so closely when I am reading them, because when he pulled the card away several inches, the words became clear. [In this moment I felt a bit foolish and confused, but oh well.] He then stated that he would not advise that I start using lenses if I don’t need them, because from there, my eyesight will never go back to being the same. He recommended that we discuss options once he completes the eye exam. So far, so good. Up until this point, I felt that this doctor was behaving in a caring and compassionate manner, looking out for my long-term well-being and being frank and relaxed with me about my eye health.

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After performing each mini eye assessment, he would say things like, “Very good.” And “Excellent.” At one point I even saw (with my own fabulous eyeballs) him type into his computer “20/20.” He completed the exam and essentially concluded that I have perfect vision.

I started to get a bit suspicious however, when he took a slightly obnoxious detour to point out that I have an anatomical ocular deformity, something about a narrow opening, and said that this would eventually lead to stabbing pains and can only be corrected with laser surgery. He said it could be one year, or it could be ten years, but it will happen. Horrified, I asked if I could live the rest of my entire life without this ever becoming an issue—since he assured me it is not an issue right now—and he abruptly interjected, “No, absolutely not, it’s going to happen.”

Fatalistic much?

He also made some mention during my perfect exam of how he has no sympathy for me because he has had glasses plastered to his face since he was nine years old.

Nice. Compassionate. Trustworthy. This guy hates me!

At this point, something in my gut kind of turned, my trust in this doctor began to dwindle and spiral, and by the end of my visit, I was convinced of his awfulness.

After he had resentfully declared to me the results of my perfect vision test, he said something about picking out frames and writing up a prescription. I then stated that I can’t really waste money on frames, especially if I don’t need them right now, if my vision is essentially perfect. To which he replied in an inappropriately joking, yet persuasive tone, “Sure you can!”

So…he’s a sadist AND a crook.

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Image obtained from here

During this visit and as we were wrapping up, I could not help but wonder if others in my position were allowing themselves to be subtly bullied by this fellow, just as I was allowing him to subtly bully me—I am certain that like me, many people would be just as caught off guard, managing the shock, and incapable of doing much more than just surviving the visit and getting the Duck out of Dodge (I’m not in the mood to swear right now and I think my pun is beyond clever, no?). As far as I am concerned, I will never return to that establishment again. [He also warned me that I need to come back every year and that we really need to stay on top of this.] Clearly, his focus was far from compassionate. Instead, his medical goals veered towards robbing me and playing into my hypochondria, via means of effectively terrifying me about potential ailments of what’s to inevitably destroy my eyesight and cause considerable amounts of pain—pain requiring surgery and only surgery in order to survive this tragic optical incorrection of mine. Perhaps I do have an eyeball deformity of some kind, but at this point, I’m leaning towards forgetting his frightening threats and obtaining a second opinion if necessary.

[Do people even get second opinions any more? I feel like second opinions are so old school passé, but I would like to bring this vintage trend back. Who’s with me? Can I get an Amen?]

It often frightens me how much power we give to doctors, and I do not even want to contemplate at length the amount of power many of them assign to themselves. They know more than most of us about medicine—fact. I literally have no idea about anything that doctors know, and this unfortunately does give them an insane amount of power. This eye doctor could have lied and told me that I have terrible vision and need glasses in order to troubleshoot the onset of ophthalmic disease. I honestly would not have known the difference between truth and fiction. How could I? How could any of us? There’s that trust factor again. The amount of trust that we are required to give these people/strangers we depend on really scares me. Especially since they are humans just like us. They have issues and baggage just like us. They could be assholes or saints just like us. We just don’t know and we just have to trust. But my gut has always been my best guide, and regardless of how much more this guy knows about eyeballs, I also know he’s a fucking asshole who doesn’t care about me. Therefore, he’s lost my trust and my business; because the other unfortunate fact is that he is in business. He gets paid a lot of money every time a patient visits him. And he gets paid a lot of money every time someone purchases frames from him.

I often wonder if after a visit to a doctor’s office, patients feel perhaps violated or just sort of funky and mildly disrespected, just as I did (and still sometimes do). After a lousy visit with a crummy doctor, I remember I used to think that something was wrong with me. Doctors used to be so untouchable in my mind. Of course I was the one with the problem, and of course it could not possibly be them! And I wonder if others like me often think, “Well, this is my doctor, and all doctors are the same. They all went to medical school and they are in the business of healing, so it must just be me. I will just deal with my silly feelings and get over it. This is my problem, not theirs.” After many difficult encounters with doctors, I have finally learned that these dismissive statements I used to tell myself are simply not true. Since I have started to empower myself to navigate through the health system in a holistic way, using one-part logic, one-part gut feelings, and just a dash of hope, I have found that truly caring individuals do exist in the medical world, despite all the louses. There are lovely human beings who go to work every day, just like all of us, and who are passionate about healing others and interested in utilizing their brilliant knowledge to truly save human beings. They really are out there. Trust me, I have done the legwork. I have just had to learn to sift through a few losers to get to the gold.

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