Guidance--we tune into it in differing ways. Some of us pray. Some of us meditate. Some of us look for signs. Or we consult an adviser of some kind: priest, rabbi, minister, imam, reader, counselor, adviser, holy book, or mom or dad...
Besides my own inner guidance, the role of guidance via the spiritual realm has held a central place in my life and has helped me navigate many a storm. Call them Spirit guides or angels, they've calmed me down when I was overwound and overwhelmed with life's persistent opportunities for growth (some people call them problems). When I need answers or healing or just to know everything will work out, I count on my own inner knowing (intuition) first, and then rely on my Spirit guides to confirm my intuition.
In Western society, there is a certain comfort level with the idea of Angels in our lives--especially the guardian angel. Ever since I can I remember, I have felt and interacted with my large, loving guardian angel as a source of comfort when nothing or no-one else would do. Yet, there have been other influences in my life too, including input from observing animals who have crossed my path. Whether it's a bird call or a butterfly siting, a deer staring at me, or my seeing pictures everywhere of a certain animal, animal sitings beckon me to pay attention.
In tribal societies, the role of the totem animal is central. In my studies with shamans from around the world, I have grown accustomed to also paying attention to the guidance provided by my own personal animal totems. The most significant totem in my life is a bear--a very specific Bear with a specific role in my life as an aid to my healing work. Every time I work with someone in need of clearing and healing, I feel my Bear's solid, confident presence.
This is how I met Her:
25 years ago I was pregnant with our first son. Husband Jim was then a friend and suspected soul mate--but we were still in the get-to-know you and what-are-we-doing phase of our relationship when I found myself to be pregnant with his child. I will admit to you: I was scared. Scared of my commitment to the child--I was here for the baby no matter if I was alone or in a couple, and scared of Jim's and my relationship--would it last? We lived in Seattle at the time, and I needed to escape the city and be in nature somewhere with room to think.
So off to the woods of the North Cascades foothills I went, to a nice uphill switchback trail surrounded by ancient tree sentinels, huckleberry bushes, deep quiet and....biting flies. Lots of them. About a mile into the hike, I was slapping flies while sweating in the summer heat, and some of my early pregnancy tummy discomfort fired-up to boot. "Damn!" I muttered, "This is not peaceful at all!" I stopped in my tracks and shed a few tired, cranky tears. I heard something to my side, and turned to gaze at a bear a few feet away in the huckleberry bushes, a branch of huckleberres in her mouth, chewing and observing me.
Somehow, I knew this was a She bear, and somehow I did not feel afraid--at all. We regarded each other with eyes locked--she occasionally chewing her huckleberry branch, me slapping flies and sweating. After a while, I felt a friendly energy from her, an understanding, even empathy. I heard in my head, but I knew it was from Bear: "Oh honey, you're pregnant and hot and uncomfortable. I know just how you feel. Why don't you run along now?"
"Thank you," I sighed loudly, and turned tail to venture back to my car. I heard her lumber off to further huckleberry snacking, and I smiled as I walked away from this meeting with what felt like an old friend.
And then it occurred: "Um, that was a bear. A bear close up, no bars. A wild bear and me alone in the woods. Yikes!" I broke into a jog back to the car.
Since that meeting, Bear made herself known to me in differing ways: I became kind of obsessed with images and stories of bears. I dreamed of bears, and her in particular for years before I found out what she was trying to tell me: "I am a guardian animal, your totem, you silly woman. I am a healing bear. Let me know when you need me, and I'll be there with you in spirit to work with you."
And so I have. I respect Bear for her role, and don't call on her willy nilly. In return, she respectfully, compassionately does her job when I work with people who are in need. And then we both dine on salmon and berries.
Look for the totems. They are all around you. Ask for their role in your life. We are animal as well as spirit--respect that and thrive.
Elke and Bear