Thursday, August 1, 2013

Animal medicine

This is not a blog post about taking your pet to the vet. This is about a spiritual discipline that is probably  not preached from your pulpit at church.

Animal Medicine is best explained like this:

Native American rituals and practices are rooted in connection with all aspects of life and the Great Spirit (God). Therefore, the Native American practice of "animal medicine" embraces an awareness that reveals itself when a certain animal crosses our path. The word "medicine" in Native American practice and in the custom of animal medicine refers to the healing aspects that a particular animal brings to our consciousness. This would mean anything that supports, strengthens, restores, empowers, or revives the spiritual body, as well as the physical body.
Once we are aware of what a certain animal represents, then we can take the necessary steps to create changes in our life according to that awareness.
In the following examples, you will notice that there is reference to "crow people," "spider people" or "ant people." This is because the person who sees the animal medicine is named for the animal while they are becoming aware or when they are in the midst of changing a behavior due to the awareness. 
-Dr. Standley

This beautiful life practice has become part of my (almost) daily journey of faith. Back in January, my mom had an incredible experience with a bald eagle literally crossing her path at a very emotional, poignant moment on New Years day. She relayed this experience to my aunt who immediately looked up the symbolism for a bald eagle. It was stunningly accurate to mom's current emotional state down to describing the person she wanted to become. She had been infected with eagle medicine.
I marveled at this new awareness in her. She became more intentional, more observant and much more open to God's daily movement in her life. Over the past 7 months I have had the privilege of watching my mother grow and transform each day into a woman who is at peace in her soul.

It didn't take long for Joel and I to hop on this bandwagon of spiritual awareness. We both started noting the animals that we felt an attachment to, the ones that sparked
a joy or connection for us. We would look up their meanings, think about what that could mean for our day, our lives. We dabbled and it was cool.

At Joel's goodbye party for work, one of his co-workers gave him a gift; it was a box of animal medicine cards and the corresponding book. Joel was floored. He had not mentioned to her that we both were dabblers in this specific practice but she went on a hunch and thought we would appreciate sharing in her
new ritual. We loved it and still do.

We have shared this practice with many of our friends and co-workers. Sharing animal medicine is interesting because some people dig it right from the start and some are really skeptical (usually giving us the eye-ball that says "don't you work at a church?"). I have delighted over my open minded pastors, my practical friends, artist friends, youth, and teachers who have said "yes" to giving it a whirl. 

Each and every single person who has randomly chosen a card or asked us to look up a certain animal has been amazed by how appropriate their card was in light of their current life situations. We have heard friends describing themselves as they read a description of an armadillo or whale. We have had friends eyebrows raise as they realize they NEED the awareness of the medicine offered by a certain animal
drawn because of something happening to them presently. Again and again they walk away surprised and delighted.

This practice has opened my eyes to spiritual disciplines that I used to think were just voodoo. Joel and I discuss it often
; animal totems are all good. They are a daily practice that raises your spiritual and self awareness. All of the animal totems offer advice, skills, and daily meditations that contribute to pulling you into the present moment and becoming aware of what God might have planned for you.

Animal medicine is another way for us to tap into God. This is another way that the Holy Spirit has a voice in my life. 

Each day (if we remember) Joel and I pull a card from the stack. If it is up-side-down we read the "contrary" reading for that animal and if it is right side up then we read the regular medicine for that animal. Each day it has been something I needed to hear.

Three days in a row I drew a turtle from the deck. The turtle ventures inside herself to create and make decisions before popping out to complete them with steadfastness and authority. I was in a time during the week where I was not making decisions and I was second guessing myself, I was too busy and too "out of my shell." After a couple days of creating a porch garden, making delicious foods (from recipes I made up in my head), brainstorming blog ideas, I felt balanced and whole again.

Last weekend I was feeling guilty that I allowed the whole weekend to be free when there were many practical and relational things I could be doing or working on. I drew a frog that time. Frogs take time to wash off guilt and enjoy the rain. It rained and then we went to the pool and indeed my guilt washed away and left me present to the gift of a free weekend with my husband. 

Today, I drew a mountain lion. Today, I am a loner, a leader, and my cubs can chose to follow and be changed or just watch as I live into a life that gives me exactly what I need to live in the moment. I woke up ready for the day (for once). I went for a run, I cleaned the whole apartment, I worked all morning, I went to deep stretch yoga instead of lunch, I finished a couple important conversations that needed to be worded well at work, spent time with friends and co-workers, helped out someone in need, ate healthy food. I have the whole evening to myself and I will only do what
is needed to live well.

I don't draw one everyday. I don't think about it all the time. I am just sharing with you that this is something
bringing awareness to my daily adventure and awareness is always a good move towards growth. 

There are some animals that could be your life totems. This means that you have animal that guides your spiritual regularly. I have always seen red-tailed hawks...everywhere. I live in the city and they will whoosh right over my car, sit on the steeple at church, fly through my line of vision while I sit on my porch. I see them mostly when I am transitioning.  Bluebirds have always had my heart. They appear when I am present to the
Holy Spirit and usually when I am remembering my dad. When I know I am tapped into something good, something holy, one will appear in its bright and brilliant blues and pinks.

So whether you are keeping a dream journal, looking up your archetypes, reading your horoscope, reading your daily devotion, attending yoga class, or diving into the Bible each morning, you are gaining a new awareness
bringing mindfulness to your body, mind, and spirit. God, the creator of all things, will use and does use all things to reveal Himself.  Lately, He has used animal medicine and it works wonders.