Tag Archive for: courage

tiger spirit animal meaning

Spirit Animal: INDUBITABLE TIGER

Courage, Strength & Tiger Spirit Animal

The most common associations with tiger spirit animal are courage and strength, which are very easy to understand. Tiger has a fierce reputation known for preying on humans and taking down prey twice his own weight. The tiger is rivaled in size only by lions. There is no definitive evidence that tigers are, on average, bigger than lions, but, no matter, they are very, very big cats. Tigers can weigh upwards of 600 pounds and be over 9 feet long.

When we see someone overcome with ambition, drive or obsession, we often say “Whoa! Tiger!” to indicate they are getting out of control. This may trivialize the ferocity associated with symbolism of tiger, but it also serves as a reminder of tiger spirit animal’s intensity.

Spirit Animal Tiger Cutting to the Chase

The orange/gold and black stripes of tiger spirit animal are a key into lesser-known aspects of the tiger spiritual meaning. Morphologically, the stripes provide excellent camouflage in the dense forests and grasslands that tiger calls home. The broken pattern, different on every tiger, blends in with twigs, leaves, shadows and light.

The difference between the symbolic meanings of a tiger’s stripes versus a leopard’s spots is great. The leopard’s spots imply a softness and indirect nature with things coming around full circle.

The tiger’s stripes demonstrate a sharp directness, slicing through the darkness, and cutting to the chase. In the shamanic journeywork I do, I often find that the spirit animal tiger is great at slicing through chaos and confusion allowing for new levels of healing and transformation to breakthrough.

Tiger is not a long distance runner, so he must silently prowl for miles over his territory to stalk prey and pounce on them unsuspecting. There is commitment and passion in the focus of tiger spirit animal meaning. When it comes down to getting a job done, tiger spirit animal cuts straight to the chase.

Where in your life can you act swiftly and cut through the underbrush in your way? Ask tiger spirit animal for assistance.

what is my spirit animal?

Doubt and Conviction of the
Symbolism of Tiger

The light and dark stripes of tiger relate to pronounced opposites. In tiger’s case, the contrast has to do with the struggle between doubt and conviction.

The Buddha taught that “having killed a tiger the Brahmin, undisturbed, moves on.
This comes from verse 295 in The Dhammapada and a Brahmin is translated as an “awakened one” or a spiritual guru or teacher.

In his translation of this important Buddhist text, Gil Fronsdal shares that this teaching about killing a tiger is not meant to be taken literally. Fronsdal says that to the Buddha, the tiger is symbolic of one of the five hindrances – doubt.

Overcoming doubt is attaining conviction. Therefore, in looking at the shadow and light attributes of tiger spirit animal meaning, we see that tiger can represent both sides. He can slice through doubt with conviction or degrade conviction with doubt.

Our struggles with doubt are intense, challenging and shattering. There is nothing soft and cuddly about what doubt can do to our own wellbeing and what we must do to doubt. We must be fierce in taking down indecision and hesitation. Tiger spirit animal is here to help.

Like the tattered fabric that tiger’s coat imitates, tiger spirit animal will tear our illusions to shreds allowing us to see the fault in our ways and find the conviction to move ahead.

When considering the tiger spirit animal meaning in your life, where are you struggling with doubt? The breakthrough from doubt to conviction is not meant to be pleasurable. Where can you let go of the need for things to be comfortable and embrace the call to be ruthless?

What Does a Tiger Represent –
Good Fortune

The Chinese God Tsai Shen Yeh is often depicted sitting on a tiger relaxed and smiling. Tsai Shen Yeh is a supreme god of wealth ruling over abundance and good fortune. His position atop the tiger is meant to show his mastery over the fierce tiger.

When considering what does a tiger represent, it could be the unruly or unpredictable nature of fortune. Tiger is known for his wild nature and unpredictability. It is said that in good times Tsai Shen Yeh offers great prosperity and in bad times he protects against poverty, riding out whatever unexpected events life brings.

This takes on a different meaning all together when we think of the tiger as a dual symbol of doubt and conviction.

Doubt undermines our stability, especially when it comes to good fortune. So often, I have people come to me thinking they’ve seen a bad omen and fearing that bad luck will follow. Their fear steals from their good fortune.

The doubt that we won’t be able to ride out whatever twists and turns life sends degrades our peace. Fear of bad luck begets tension and unhappiness, the opposite image of Tsai Shen Yeh content on his tiger.

What omens are you trying to interpret to find confidence? Align with the medicine of tiger, stop watching omens, and turn your attention to dismantling the uncertainty that plagues your tranquility.

By mastering the battle with doubt, bad omens no longer carry significance. When we are riding the back of the tiger, we are prepared for whatever life brings. We know, in our heart of hearts, that we have the strength to do what it takes to absorb the abundance of life.

understanding solitude

The Seriousness of Solitude

I was brought to tears this morning by the most surprising of lines in a book:

I see more and more that solitude is not something to play with. It is deadly serious. And much as I have wanted it, I have not been serious enough. It is not enough to ‘like solitude,’ or love it even. Even if you ‘like’ it, it can wreck you, I believe, if you desire it for your own sake.” – Thomas Merton in A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals

This is one truth I have endeavored to express in any myriad of ways, but Merton’s gravity does it more eloquently than I ever will. Solitude can wreck us and that is precisely why we should come to be with and know it, seriously.

What We Don’t Understand About Our Need for Solitude

Solitude is not simply taking time out for ourselves. Here is how we get solitude wrong: We think it simply has to do with being alone and not talking to anyone. To many, solitude means unplugging from email, social media, internet searches, television, texting, and phone calls. Others go further and believe that true solitude means turning the lights off, putting away all literature, leaving home, going outdoors, refraining from elaborate meals or fasting altogether.

When we think we are going towards solitude we are really looking to be left alone. This is what Merton means when he says, “desire it for your own sake”.

By looking at what we do when seeking solitude, we can easily see that the root of our need for solitude is one typically born of our need to escape, to get away from it all. Overwhelm is likely the most common excuse for a flight into solitude, but so is frustration. How many times do we say, “I just need to get away and clear my head?” But, how many times are we secretly hoping to regain control?

Solitude has a way of stripping us clean this is true, but we have no say in what is left over after it sweeps through. Solitude is not about being in control, precisely the opposite in fact. The process is anything but obedient.

What About Not Liking Solitude?

While living on an island by myself which I wrote about in my memoir Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks, I met the perils of solitude. I hadn’t gone to the island to be alone. I was not one of those people that Merton says “likes” solitude. Albeit, at times I had wished I could escape the shackles of societal pressure and expectations – why else would I be out in the wilderness? – but I preferred to be with both a crew of researchers and the sea.

In regards to alone time, I had nameless hours alone during my childhood as a latchkey kid. That was enough for me, thank you. I was afraid to be alone on that island because, like many others, I associated being in solitude with feelings of emptiness, abandonment, and depression.

So many of us are afraid of what we will find in ourselves when left to our own devises. What if we encounter that deep pit of sadness/hopelessness/pain/apathy? How will we ever come out? The question, “What is wrong with me?” often looms in the quiet of time alone along with “What am I doing with my life?” and “What’s the point?”

The Grace in Solitude

Yet no matter, there is great beauty and peace in this life of silence and emptiness. But to fool around brings awful desolation. When one is trifling, even the beauty of the solitary life becomes implacable. Solitude is a stern mother who brooks no nonsense.” – Thomas Merton

And, thank God she does brook no nonsense. What I found in living alone for such an extended period of time in such a harsh environment, was that solitude was stern. I was forced to stay in a solitude (my only way off the island was a private plane that came once per week), which took charge and ferried me past the anguish and tears.

I found an inner space so quiet and clear that I truly felt the sacred for the first time in my life. This was no fooling around. For those of us who currently reside in a fear of solitude, this is the gift of staying in solitude beyond the point of discomfort. Solitude surprises us with meaning and soul.

For those of us that wish, at present, to get away from it all, the craving is eventually destroyed by our own self-involvement. Our need to escape overwhelm and frustration follows us into the wilderness and we find that to know peace we must let go of ourselves. It is this surrender of control that can be messy, fitful and tumultuous.

If we stay in solitude long enough, we have the opportunity to glimpse the true grace of solitude that changes the life we no longer want to live. Solitude allows the sacred to infuse our being. Clarity becomes ours.

Understanding the Joys of Solitude

Sometimes life comes through and brings us into solitude without our planning or choosing so. This can be the unexpected job loss or the debilitating illness. One of my teachers called this “cocoon time” and it is known by mystics as a sacred gift along the road of transformation. If we can take these unplanned way stations without resistance or resentment, the benefits of going with the flow of divine timing are numerous.

What we usually forget about solitude is that the decision to retreat into solitude can beget from gratitude, joy and love. Simply taking the time to give thanks and reflect on this beautiful life we have is reason enough to seek solitude.

The magic of an honest experience of solitude is that what we once thought was important falls away. We are given the chance to touch something greater both inside and outside of ourselves. Pain and anguish melt away. We become centered and generous and good once again.

Not all of the time we spend alone is time spent in solitude. The grace of an experience of solitude is too strong to maintain for prolonged lengths of time. So we simply set the stage however we know how and wait for solitude to come to us.

 

 

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a Spiritual Director and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the matters of the soul easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More About Spiritual Direction.

archetypal hero archetype

The Hero Archetype

The hero archetype is one of the most recognizable archetypes in literature, film, television and video games. It seems that any compelling story has a hero of some flavor that is easy to name.

Here are twenty real-life and fictional hero archetype examples: Superman, King Arthur, Joan of Arc, Luke Skywalker, Rocky, Hercules, Spiderman, Harry Potter, Wonder Woman, Wolverine, Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), Neo (The Matrix), Rosa Parks, Frodo, Daniel LaRusso (Karate Kid), William Wallace (Braveheart), Dorothy Gale (Wizard of Oz), Moses, Robin Hood, Amelia Earhart. Please note that this random smattering is no indication of value, ranking or merit of each example. I’m merely trying to touch on someone you recognize.

Do you know what makes these people and characters heroes or heroines? To make the hero an archetype, we must be able to identify universal patterns of behavior and story, which we can!

The Archetypal Hero’s Remarkable Birth

The hero archetype by definition has unusual circumstances surrounding his/her birth. Immaculate conception, birth from the foam of the sea or the blood clot of a buffalo, or emergence from the mother’s heart are examples of the mysterious stories surrounding the hero’s birth. (SOURCE: SideEffectsOfXarelto.org) Often the hero is born under a prophesy of the coming of the savior. The hero or heroine may also be born into an opulent or privileged family or be of esteemed ancestry, but they may not know it.

If you are considering if you have the hero archetype, how do you reconcile this piece of a hero’s mythology with your own history? If your family tells wild tales of the storm that raged the night you were born or the colossal labor your mother went through to have you, this can be considered a remarkable birth.

If everyone is counting on you to be the first college graduate, lawyer or doctor of the family, this can be a reflection of the idea of you as the savior. If you feel you were born to greatness, but can’t find the reason for this, you may very well have the hero archetype as part of your make-up. Remember, if the hero is one of your natal archetypes, the legends surrounding the archetypal hero should relate to your life symbolically.

The Estranged or Abandoned Hero

In the stories, the hero archetype may be estranged from his family at birth as in the story of Moses or he may lose his family in an accident like Luke Skywalker. The heroine may deliberately leave her family out of distaste for their values or out of necessity. If you’ve “left home” no matter what the age, this could be connected to the archetypal hero patterning.

The hero archetype and abandoned child archetype have a lot in common, so if this is the only part of the hero you identify with, look instead to the abandoned child. It is possible, however, to have both archetypes.

The archetypal hero typically has a strained, or even shattered, relationship with his or her father. The journey or quest he or she embarks on often helps the hero or heroine reconcile or heal from this wounding.

The Hero’s Journey

I speak at length about the stages and process of the hero’s journey in a three-part series of articles. When considering if the hero archetype as one of your own archetypes, be sure to familiarize yourself with the stages of the hero’s journey and relate those back to the seemingly insurmountable quests you’ve endeavored to accomplish in your life. I will touch on a few key aspects below, but for more in depth information…

Read The Shamanic Journey & The Hero’s Journey Series

Supernatural Guide for the Hero

At the beginning of the hero’s journey, he or she encounters a supernatural guide. Merlin helped Arthur, Obi-Wan tutored Luke Skywalker, and the Good Witch of the West advised Dorothy. I pull this important piece out of the hero’s journey because it is a key element to search for in your personal history when considering the hero archetype for yourself.

Have you had the assistance of one or more gifted teachers, gurus, or guides of this world or another? Has a loved one come from the other side to visit in a dream and show you the way? Has someone with uncanny wisdom been there at just the right time? You don’t have to know an actual witch or a wizard to have the hero archetype, but you do have to know what it’s like to get help that is supernatural from an especially gifted mentor.

The Archetypal Hero’s Special Weapon

Very often the hero or heroine receives a special weapon that only he or she can wield. The weapon is a symbol, a metaphor, for a unique talent or gift. If you feel like you are especially gifted at one thing or another and that you can use it to overcome great adversity on behalf of others, you may well be in the realm of the hero. Aphrodite’s special weapon was her beauty. She disarmed many with it. Whereas, Athena had the weapon of great strategic ability, continually outsmarting her adversaries. Beatrice Prior in Divergent has the ability to be many personalities at once which eventually breaks the oppressive social caste system she lives in.

The “Hero Complex”

When acting within the archetypal hero, we are at risk of falling into the shadow known as the “hero complex”. The larger than life mythology of the hero can lead those with the hero archetype to become self-involved and over-inflated. Someone with a hero complex will unconsciously create crises so that he has an opportunity to swoop in and be the hero. The hero archetype compels us to act as a lone ranger, refuse help, and ignore the benefits of teamwork. When out of balance, the selfless nature of the hero can also cause us to overdo the need to triumph at the cost of our own health and wellbeing

Light Aspects of the Hero Archetype

The hero puts the needs of others, whether it is one person or many, before his or her own needs. For the good of others, the hero archetype may submit him or herself to extreme physical danger or crippling emotional trauma showing an admirable selflessness. The hero displays unwavering bravery in situations where most people wouldn’t. His or her moral integrity is proven out in the end even if the hero’s honor was in question at the beginning of the adventure. The hero’s actions and character in the face of great adversity inspire others to rise above their own trials.

 

Want to know what archetypes are yours?
Schedule an Archetypal Consulting Session
and Find Out!

 

spirit animal squirrel meaning

Spirit Animals: SECURE SQUIRREL

Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae and are characterized by slender bodies, longer back legs, and a long, expressive bushy tail. The name squirrel is derived from the Ancient Greek world skiouros meaning “shadow-tailed”. There are over 265 species of squirrel worldwide, with the Eastern Gray Squirrel being the most commonly seen mammal in the United States. The family of squirrels includes not only tree squirrels but also ground squirrels, flying squirrels and chipmunks.

Squirrel Meaning and Preparedness

In four-season climates, squirrel meaning relates to being prepared. Squirrel practices what is called “caching” or hoarding. He “squirrels away” nuts and seeds by burying the food as it ripens throughout the late summer and fall, then relying on this stashed food through the winter and spring. Squirrel cannot digest cellulose (the fibrous tissue of leaves) like deer or elk can, so he must rely on food rich in protein, carbohydrates and fats. His primary food source is nuts, seeds and pinecones but he will eat fruit, fungi, insects and meat when faced with food scarcity.

Boom and Bust

The season of fall is when squirrel is at the height of his power. His main food source is abundant and he has time to gorge as well as cache. In the spring, food is more scarce because his buried stores sprout and there aren’t new seeds available to eat yet. When working with squirrel spirit animal, you may experience boom and bust periods in regards to your finances and/or resources. Questions of whether to set money aside and how much are directly related to squirrel meaning.

Saving Up

First ask, “What do I value as a resource?” then explore how you either cling to and burn through these resources. Squirrel symbolism teaches you to be mindful of how much you consume as well as how much of a miser you are. If you spend all of your time earning money and none spending it, you will find your life is full of money but nothing else, no friends, no love, no meaning.

Many see saving money as giving in to the fear of scarcity. Saving money takes us out of the present and into the future, but this is not always a bad thing. Squirrel spirit animal teaches us that scarcity is a reality and that a calculated, rational approach to preparedness has its place. Notice that squirrel only buries seeds protected by the hard shell of nature’s packaging so they don’t rot. This teaches us the wisdom of putting our resources away out of sight and in a safe place.

Squirrel has an incredible ability to remember where he buries the majority of his food. The 25% of the nuts he forgets contribute to the next generation of trees and plants to populate the forest. He also creates bogus caches out in the open, tricking other squirrels, birds and animals into thinking his storage is somewhere it’s not. The lessons of squirrel spirit animal are to save a little more than you need as well as not share what you are doing with the world.

Agility and the Meaning of Squirrel

All squirrels are incredibly quick on their feet, lightening fast in fact. They dodge and weave to avoid the best of predators. It is when we try to catch, chase or follow a squirrel that we gain a deep appreciation for this.

The tree dwelling or “arboreal” squirrel has an additional advantage. He has a mobile ankle that allows him to turn his foot backward and run down a tree face-first. This is a rare trait in the animal kingdom.

Flying squirrel has special skin flaps between his front and back legs that makes it possible for him to leap and take great glides from one tree to another. He doesn’t actually fly like a bird, but he glides like a parachutist. This demonstrates a willingness to take giant leaps and trust that you have a parachute to dampen your fall.

Looking at both tree and flying squirrel shows us that squirrel meaning brings not only great mental agility that can help us reach great heights, but also the courage and audacity to plunge head-long into endeavors.

Shadow-Tail

The origin of squirrel’s name, meaning “shadow-tail”, is a brilliant window into the meaning of squirrel. The tail and the shadow are both symbolic of what follows us, namely our past. The shadow represents our unconscious and the things we don’t always see. Now would be a good time to check and see what shadows are following you about especially in regards to your fears, old wounds and ingrained patterns regarding money and security. Squirrel spirit animal can help you come into a more balanced relationship with your resources by addressing and clearing your past.

The Chatty Sentry

Squirrel is the sentry of the forest constantly calling the alarm with his bushy tail flagging down danger and his piercing chirps keeping everyone alert. Birds and other prey animals always keep an ear open for squirrel and heed his warnings most of the time. But, some squirrels are more talkative and nervous than others, sounding the alarm too often. Then the other creatures of the forest stop listening to him. Pay attention to how you play the whistleblower at work or at home and make sure your worrying out loud isn’t turning off those around you. Being the sentry comes with responsibility. Use it wisely.

Busyness and Rest

Squirrel meaning is closely linked with the way he scurries about to and fro, up and down, in and out. Squirrel is known for being busy, really busy. There is a lot to do to prepare for winter. If you find yourself in the midst of squirrel medicine and busier than you think you should be, check in. Do you have enough energy to be so busy? Does now feel like a good time to get a lot done? Once winter comes, squirrel does slow down and spend time lazying about in his nest, called a “drey”. He waits out the storms and comes out during breaks in the weather to dig up and eat his caches of nuts. Squirrel does not hibernate like bear, so expect some level of activity in yourself no matter what the season when working with squirrel spirit animal.

 

what is my spirit animal?

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

“Split in the Canvas” from Gracious Wild

In this excerpt from my book Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks, I share the story of the first time that the northern harrier hawk named Thalia came flying to land on my glove. Thalia lived at a wildlife rehabilitation center where she’d been trained to work with humans to do bird of prey education programs. I was learning how to work with her to become her caretaker. Annie was Thalia’s current custodian who was handing the reins over to me… 

One afternoon in warm spring weather, I met Annie out at Willow Brook. This was to be our last day together with Thalia because Annie was leaving to do field research for the summer. I had asked her to meet with me not only because I wanted a chance to say goodbye, but also because I wanted hands-on instruction on how to fly Thalia.

I walked with Annie as she carried Thalia down the road to the corridor lawn and A-frame perch. She walked me through the procedure for hooking the flying line up to Thalia’s jesses and narrated as she called Thalia to her glove a handful of times. Thalia was focused and obedient, hitting the mark every time. I watched and listened, diligently trying to pick up every nuance of Annie’s methods. I’d seen this all before, but would now have to put it to use.

Annie set the brunette hawk on the perch and walked over to hand me the pouch of food and flying line. I made sure to get everything set up as I needed it. We watched the harrier out of the corner of our eyes to make sure she was still. Thalia sat nonchalantly, facing straight ahead.

I walked in an arch to a point twenty to twenty-five feet away and turned my back to the bird. I kept my hands in front of me and out of her view while stuffing a large chunk of meat into my gloved hand. I double-checked the line to make sure it was firmly under my left foot. Both of my feet were firmly planted in the grass, shoulder width apart. There was little room for doubt here. Thalia wouldn’t think of flying towards a shred of fear. I took a breath in and let it out, feeling my energy sink into the ground. If I’m going to be a raptor perch, I need to stand rooted like a tree, I thought to myself. I raised my left hand out parallel to the ground, held steady, looked over my left shoulder, and whistled.

Thalia crouched, her body tense but lithe. Every feather on her body lay smooth in the instant before her wings extended and legs pushed off. Now she was five times the size I’d ever seen her before. I stood from the perspective of a mouse, surprised to a standstill. Her wings drew in and out with my breath. One beat and a quick glide. Two beats and I could feel her stare penetrate my soul. Stretched across my entire line of vision was this fabulous creature. Just as I was sure she was coming straight at my head, she rotated a fingertip. The sound of her feet hitting the leather of my glove was deafening. The clutch she had on my hand was crushing. I reminded my lungs to draw in air while the huntress devoured her prey.

This was a split in the canvas where the world around was no more and I stood with both feet in another. Here was the infinite spirit I knew lived within this crippled body. Through this vision she’d offered me a direct link to the vastness beyond the mundane. A sense of hope, which I hadn’t felt since I couldn’t remember how long, welled into the beaming smile on my face. I now held in my heart a true vision of my own soul along with that of my dear friend. She had leapt over that last gap between my true promptings and myself. What a miraculous gift. I carefully slipped back through the veil and turned to face Annie. She was smiling.

I repeated this profound exercise a handful more times until Thalia and I both lost our focus. It was exhausting to hold such sacredness amidst the weight of the reality we were bound to. She flew past my glove and landed in the grass beyond.

About Author, Stacey L. L. Couch

Stacey Couch shamanic practitionerStacey L. L. Couch, Certified Shamanic Practitioner, works as a publicist and journalist for Mother Nature and is the author of Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. She empowers people with the ability to explore life’s big questions by calling on nature, story and synchronicity as a source for guidance and healing. With her deeply rooted experience in the field of shamanism and passion for working with wildlife and rescue animals, Stacey has a unique blend of rational and mystical perspective that makes the world of shamanism easily accessible to others. She values mindfulness, wonder, and compassion in her daily spiritual practice. Learn More about Stacey.

Spirit Animals: BARN OWL

A ghost in the shadows, he comes from behind scooping up the quiet mouse no one ever saw and only he heard. On white wings he travels off silently caring death in his talons. There is no remorse, only absolute recognition of the cleverness in him that reflects the genius of the Divine. He finds a fence post on which to perch and brings his claw adeptly up to his beak. This is his sixth meal of the night and he is no rush to fill his belly. Instead, he snaps the neck of the mouse and sits stoically with it in his talons. He owns the night, the night without moon or stars, the night that sends most creatures into hiding. With his white, heart-shaped face and pitch black eyes he is both a light in the darkness and an invitation to it.

Navigating in the Dark

Owl symbolism across all species of owls is spoken of as hearing and seeing in the dark, but no owl embodies this talent like the barn owl. Barn owls are so incredibly successful at what they do that they are found throughout the world and “are arguably the most widespread bird species on earth” [1]. There are 46 races of barn owl with the race in North America being the largest. No other owl or animal is able to outcompete them at hunting in the dark. In addition, the barn owl has adapted to human intrusion into natural habitats. He is just as comfortable nesting and hunting in a barn, hence the name, as his is in the open prairie or box canyons. Still, despite his conspicuous pale coloring,  the barn owl is rarely seen by humans. If you have had the opportunity to encounter one of these mythic beasts especially during the day, there is a significant message about fear of the unknown and the courage to navigate it that you must heed.

Do you feel like you’re groping around in the dark? Time to call on barn owl symbolism to receive help understanding what you haven’t been able to know before and making your way to the dawn.

Power of Listening

It is the excellent hearing of the barn owl that enables him to hunt in absolute darkness using sound alone. No other animal on earth has this ability. Other owls can hunt in near darkness, but they still need some measure of light to see. Being able to sense in absolute darkness speaks of the talent in ourselves to locate resources while blind. By listening deeply and intently like the barn owl spirit animal you can tap into the ability to find what you need where others may see nothing. The barn owl is able to create a “neural map” of auditory space.  Not only will barn owl symbolism help you pinpoint what you need, but he will also grant you a picture of the unknown with more detail and accuracy than any other animal.

Barn owls and eight other species have asymmetrical ear openings. One ear is higher on the barn owl’s head  than the other. This speaks of the power to listen at all levels. By integrating what we hear from above and below , we are blessed with the gift of receiving guidance from the heavens and the earth. The guidance can relate to mundane matters of the every day as well as the most profound spiritual truths. Barn owl symbolism is about being able to discern where the intuition you receive applies to and from where it comes. This could be why owls are associated with wisdom because they can hear and know what others may not.

 

Find your spirit animal workshop. Painting of red-tailed hawk.

Abundant Productivity

Not only is barn owl symbolism about finding the resources we need, but an astonishing amount. Barn owl catches 3-6 mice a night for himself and just as many for each chick he helps rear. This is no small feat as barn owl clutches range from 2 to 18 eggs! He brings food to the female while she incubates the eggs and then for all of those chicks for the first two weeks of their life. Then his mate joins him for the hunt to help keep up with the voracious eaters. The amazing feat of potentially catching 50 or more mice in a night is compounded by the fact that the barn owl and his mate may raise up to three broods in a given year.

Strong signatures of barn owl symbolism are abundant creativity as well as fantastic capacity to produce well beyond what others may do. This productivity will not always be visible either since the barn owl hunts primarily at night when others are sleeping. The barn owl is monogamous which speaks of a steady commitment to what you are producing in the world.

When are you producing the most? What is your relationship to productivity? Do you wish you could produce more? Call on the barn owl spirit animal to help. Are you worried about others seeing what you’re doing? If so, now is not the time to pine for recognition. Now is the time to take advantage of the energy you have and to harness it.

Facing Fears

The barn owl has a terrifying blood curdling scream and his white underside causes him to look like a ghost. He has a calculated and solitary way about him that is different from the outgoing, hooting nature of other owls like great-horned owls. Sightings of barn owls in the wild are relatively rare. All of this combines to make his visits chilling. He have a coldness or callousness about him that reminds us of the other side of the veil and not in a friendly way. At the same time, he is a light in the darkness and can light the way for us through our own fears, nightmares, and shadows if we are brave enough to follow.

I work extensively with a barn owl in my soul retrieval work. His ability to hear and see in the dark helps me search through the unconscious and find what has been missing. Thus, for you, barn owl symbolism can help with seeking out parts of yourself that you have long neglected or forgotten. The barn owl can also help you work through fears to find the “mouse” or gift that is waiting in the darkness.

He mostly swallows his prey whole after breaking the prey’s neck to kill it, but he can also dissect and eat the mice piece by piece with surgical precision. So much about these creatures is detached and distant. When he looks at us with his black eyes he appears to see straight through us. Is there a person or circumstance you need to distance yourself from? Have you seen the dark side of the situation and find a need to think analytically about it without getting your emotions involved?

This may be one of the most productive times in your life if you get the timing right and open your senses beyond the ordinary. The fruits of what you do may not “show” in the world for a long time or to many people, but that is not the point. The point is to join the barn owl in mapping the unknown and allowing the gifts to flow in as a result.

 

I recommend you check out the “Barn Owl Cam” at Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website for an opportunity to see video footage of barn owls in their nest. There is nothing happening live outside of the breeding season but you can page through the video clips under the live stream to see highlights from the previous breeding season. Very fun! http://cams.allaboutbirds.org/channel/42/Barn_Owls/

[1] The Birder’s Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds by Paul R. Ehrlick, David S. Dobkin, and Darryle Wheye.

 

 

Love Her is What I Still Do

Publishing a memoir has paradoxically pushed my personal life more inward as if somehow I can counteract the effect of my innermost thoughts being so public by making my current motivations hidden. It is challenging to meet people for the first time and know they’ve had access to some of the most raw moments of my life. I hold my realtime vulnerabilities closer. They are more precious to me now. On the other hand, I know it is my candor, my willingness to show my imperfection, that helps people connect to their own stories and their own guidance.

So, here I am, ready to share more. Today, in the simplest of ways, my heart broke open. I was in yoga at work in a room with co-workers. Our instructor Margaret invites us to have an intention for what we’d like out of the time there. Sometimes I adopt a focus. Other times I rebel and enjoy the opportunity to let go of the drive of the workday. Today I wasn’t passionate either way, so I haphazardly chose open-heartedness. Then as I laid in shavasana the grief came. I had a simple thought that unraveled me.

I should probably write down everything I enjoyed about my time playing with Cherokee before I forget.

For those of you that don’t know me too well or that have been successfully shielded from my private life, my current animal muse is an 1100 pound bay mustang mare named Cherokee. She’s been in my life for over seven years now. She started out like the harrier hawk Thalia I tell the story of in my book Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. When I met her Cherokee was just like Thalia, deathly afraid of humans and ill equipped to manage the perils of captivity. I spent a year gentling, hand walking, and befriending her before I saw her eye soften for just a moment in my presence. I remember the day I looked over into Cherokee’s face and exclaimed to my friend Sue, “There’s the horse! That’s the horse that’s been there all along and just now I finally get to see her!” Little did I know that it would be another three years before that softness would settle in for good.

But my mission here is not to tell the tall tale that is the history of our relationship. That would encompass another volume I may write someday. For now, I’m here to capture this one moment in time, this instance in which my grief has resurfaced. Cherokee is well. She may have many more years of life ahead of her. I keep reminding myself to be grateful that she is still in my life. I continue to push back on that gratitude.

Earlier this year the vet discovered significant arthritis in Cherokee’s front feet. As we began to diagnose the severity of the problem I started to see what had likely been creeping up on us for months, if not years. I am no longer free to ask my playmate to run with me and jump even the smallest of obstacles for me. I can’t even ask her to trot. Walking down a hill or taking a sharp turn exacerbates the problem. Nothing  alleviates her condition, not pain medication, not acupuncture, not herbs, not specialized farrier work and not chiropractic. Prayer is a way to honor her sweet soul, but so far has not had an effect on the physical. Cherokee is not excessively old by horse standards, she’s 18, but the neglect she’s experienced in her life before I met her may have contributed to her body aging sooner than I’d like. It could have just been in the cards for her. I’ll never know why her athleticism has been taken from her what seems like too soon.

She lights up still when I even hint at play. Her neck arches, she sets her head perfectly, and her ears lean expectantly forward. She lifts into this incredibly light-footed trot. It pains me that I have to retreat and pull away from the magnetism that is this incredible horse. I so want to jig and egg her into a canter, ask her to go one way so she’ll dart another. She is a riveting playmate with a fantastic sense of humor.

When we used to play she would be contrarian and sassy at the start, living out loud how big and strong she was by kicking out at me and tearing off at a gallop. She never left me mentally however. She always had an eye or ear on me waiting to see if I was being drawn in. She’d find higher ground, turn to me with her head held high, and snort a big “huff” my direction pushing at me with her nose. My favorite thing was to beat her to the punch and “huff” at her first with a bob of my head. She’d then stand there indignantly as if to say, “well, I’m still bigger and faster than you.” I’d smile and she’d smile back with her whole body. After some time tearing about and countering every request I made, she would come to me and link up, no ropes attached. Then whatever I asked she would offer. If she didn’t get it right she would try again. That horse has a lot of try in her that few have given her credit for. The trainers saw attitude and/or fear. I’ve had the benefit of her full engagement and confidence. There is nothing better than that gift.

If I went out to the pasture right now, I could have all of this again. She would forget the pain and hand herself over for the joy of the play. I’ve given in to temptation and opened the door only to have to close it abruptly. I have the unfortunate talent of foresight. I know how much she will hurt tomorrow from a luxury taken today. She has a memory like an elephant, but, alas, foresight is not a capacity she possesses.

So, I mourn the loss of the freedom of indulgence in the play we shared together. I have friends optimistically tell me she’ll get better, but they haven’t been through countless vet visits, mounting vet bills, and numerous dead ends. Aging happens. It is an unfortunate circumstance that comes with the opportunity at life. It is so odd to mourn the loss of what we had together and still see her every day. I feel like I am dishonoring her by grieving. She is more calm, sweet, and affectionate that I’ve ever known her. Those who knew her years ago would have never described her as affectionate or, even, friendly. All is more than well.

If I had the gift of laying my hands on her and bringing a miracle about with her arthritis, God knows I would have done it, but my gift is not in that kind of healing. I work with the spirits to mend broken hearts and souls. Cherokee and I already worked our miracle, the miracle of turning fear around into fun, and we’ve tasted the sweetness of success. What a heart wrenching experience to come into wholeness and experience true happiness so that this cloud can come and cover my heart. It seems an unfair agony to find such play that brings unfurled bliss and then to have to deny it. I am not sure why the universe works the way it does, and this is not from lack of trying. I too have a lot of try in me. Every day finds me trying, trying to continue to engage even though it hurts, trying to trust in the process even though I despise it, and trying to be grateful even though I am sad. It might be easier to close the book on it all and turn my back on my best friend, but I vowed to love her and love her is what I still do. There’s no trying needed there.

If you’d like to read other stories about Cherokee and I, here are links to other posts about lessons from my big girl:

Hopefulness in the Face of Hardship

On Immediate Results and Real Consequences

On Leadership

Photo credit: Petra Christensen, Red Horse Coaching

The Shamanic Journey & Hero’s Journey (Part 2)

In Part 1 of The Shamanic Journey & Hero’s Journey we explore the trials the hero goes through to reach the ultimate boon.

The Ultimate Boon

When we embark on a shamanic journey we have so many expectations for what is to come. There is a climax to this story we are certain. We will come back with a new power, a supernatural gift, a better life. The promise of riches from this journey are so compelling that we can become obsessive, even mad, in our quest. Our motivation to attain this goal is what helps us overcome the most nasty and devastating of obstacles. We are willing to give up what keeps us safe, long-held belief systems, and ego barriers. We are willing to face our deepest fears. Where does this expectation of a boon come from? Myth of course.

This is the stage of the hero’s journey where after much trial and striving that he reaches the ultimate boon. In many stories it is often a literal boon such as Jack’s golden egg, Jason’s golden fleece, and Prometheus’s recaptured flame. We are used to seeing the hero depicted in movies and books coming home with a great treasure, a mystical diamond, a magic staff or sword. In mythology this object is what literally makes the hero’s life better. This direct thinking can present a problem with the shamanic journeyer causing her to expect to be able to return with some THING that will improve her life. We know it sounds ridiculous at the time, but this is a difficult expectation to shake.

We are so oriented to stuff and things, and the shamanic landscape can look deceivingly like our own. When we ask what gift the power animal or soul part is bringing back, they can show us an object (a flower, a wand, a crystal, a stone). I can’t tell you how many years the magical child in me secretly fantasized about finally being able to bring one of these objects back. It is an obvious leap to make even though we know the laws of physics are against us.

I always encourage those I do soul retrievals for and those I teach to journey to watch out for the pitfall of taking this object literally. It is a slippery desire. The gift is in the simplicity of the metaphor. The way we bring this gift into our ordinary, everyday life is to assimilate the deep meaning of the simple truth that is coming through. It is easy to understand the object literally and it takes a heroic transcendence to understand it symbolically. It takes time, sometimes years, to understand the vast resources of this seemingly simple gift. This is why this is actually one of, if not the, most powerful and mystifying boons to receive.

Other boons are not objects, but climaxes and accomplishments. Joseph Campbell tells of sacred marriage with the goddess and gives numerous examples of the male hero coming to and marrying the divine feminine. In today’s world, what this looks like is the intellect marrying the heart. This is the coming together of action and receptivity. This is the sacred marriage. At this time in the shamanic journeyer’s progress they meet their anima or animus and are joined with them in the journey. This is the beginning of the end to the split between reason and feeling. The two come together in the journeyer. The coming forth of the “other” side allows the person to become fully integrated. The polarization between right and wrong that causes so much suffering in us is absolved in this moment, and no longer does disharmony rule the consciousness like it once did.

Now the journeyer has access to congruence. The form of congruence depends on the journeyer. It could be a new found decisiveness, a new found ability to hear one’s intuition, or a indescribable sense of peace. This is a coming to peace with one’s life and the process of birth, life, death, and rebirth that is inherent in the goddess. Often we would place the divine feminine as the heart in this exchange, but Mr. Campbell explains her as wisdom which is beyond intellect. “Woman, in the picture language of mythology, represents the totality of what can be known… The hero is the one who comes to know” (p. 97). The shamanic journeyer comes to know what is needed at any given moment as she gains full access to her intuition. Without any preference for life, death, or rebirth – holding all as potential – true knowing can come through.

At the climax, the hero can finally come into confrontation with his father. Joseph Campbell calls this “atonement with the father” and artfully translates it into “AT-ONE-MENT” (p. 107). At ground level, this can be a confrontation with a male figure in one’s life that seems to always sit in judgement of our actions. At the spiritual level, this is the belief in a wrathful, vengeful, or just God that sits in the sky delivering judgment. Zeus is a perfect example of this projection, but regardless of the name of the male God, this is an imprint in our consciousness.  Atonement is about coming into oneness with divine will, letting go of all the judgements and justifications we use for holding on to our ego. What this looks like in the shamanic journey is coming face to face with our righteous selves and the reasons we use to justify our arrogance and vengeance. The final trial is a transmutation, a purging, of our ego.

The mystagogue (father or father-substitute) is to entrust the symbols of office only to a son who has been effectually purged of all inappropriate infantile cathexes – for whom the just, impersonal exercise of the powers will not be rendered impossible by the unconscious (or perhaps even conscious and rationalized) notice of self-aggrandizement, personal preference, or resentment. Ideally, the invested one has been divested of his mere humanity and is representative of an impersonal cosmic force. He is the twice born: he has become himself the father. And he is competent… to enact himself the role of the … sun door, through whom one may pass from the infantile illusions of “good” and “evil” to an experience of the majesty of cosmic law” (p. 115).

The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands – and the two are atoned.” (p. 125).

In the shamanic journey this can look like a battle with a great force of darkness. It can be struggling against a black tsunami or facing off with a fire breathing dragon. It can be encountering a frighteningly giant snake, spider, shark, or squid. Always the opponent feels malicious, all-powerful, and wrathful only to find that we are able to come to peace with them. We do so by releasing the need of our ego to triumph and replacing it with the call of our soul to atone.

The final boon that Joseph Campbell outlines and that the shamanic journeyer may encounter is apotheosis which is defined simply as “the elevation of someone to divine status”. This is where we experience the cosmic law that “what is in one is in the whole.” This boon is of the more rare kind in my experience, and something we are lead to. This is not a boon any traveler can make happen no matter what obstacles they overcome. This is God coming to the hero. Absolute dissolution into the sacred is hard to come by and is only accomplished in unplanned encounters that are fleeting. These are the possessions by the divine as explained by St. Theresa of Avila and other great mystics.

In a journey, apotheosis is proceeded by a dismemberment experience. Apotheosis for the shamanic journeyer is when one’s consciousness completely dissolves into white light, when one is completely taken over by a divine being, and when one all of a sudden takes in the world and all of its suffering at once. We inherently open our lives up to the possibility of this life changing experience by following the hero’s journey in our own mythology. Oftentimes God hears us and comes. Ultimately, our small, personal mythology is a reflection of the large, collective story of what it is to be human. What is in one is in the whole.

Read PART 3 of the Shamanic Journey & Hero’s Journey

Spirit Animals: DELICATELY DEER

Deer Spirit Animal

She nibbles grass by gathering at a few blades at a time with her gentle lips and clipping the greens into her immaculate, petite mouth. Nearby, another of her kind, a male with velvet dripping off his headful of antlers tenderly plucks leaves from a service berry bush. She senses her others also around quietly browsing, but the brush and their tawny coats obscures them from view. Everything appears halcyon, at peace, but this belies the sparkling tension in the air. With an unexpected crack from a small twig they know not to be born by one of their own, they all turn and take flight into the woods.

Deer are so commonly known in myth and in everyday life, and still there is a magic about them that startles the ordinary away. Their delicate yet tenacious manner has lead many hunter astray into other worlds and even to their death.

The Goddess Artemis & Deer

There is the myth of the goddess Artemis, huntress and protector of animals. Artemis was in a pond washing naked and swimming with her similarly unclothed nymphs one day.

A straying hunter came upon them and gawked at the site. In her anger, Artemis turned him to a stag and called his own hunting dogs upon him. He was killed by his own hunting party. Artemis was a virgin goddess and this tale reminds us of the importance of guarding our own innocence. Innocence and purity are at the heart of deer spirit animal.

Meaning of White Deer

White stags appear in legends from around the world, but most notably in the stories of King Arthur. He was never able to catch the white stag, but in his attempts to do so he was lead in to great adventures and mystical places.

By following the deer spirit animal into the woods of the mystery either within ourselves or within spiritual teachings we risk losing track of all time like the children of Narnia caught up in the wardrobe. And too we are invited into forgetting ourselves all together.

Stag Symbolism

There are three aspects to deer worth considering – stag (buck), doe, and fawn. Each has their own particular expression that is unique enough to explore independently.

Bucks are more independent traveling alone or in lose, unrelated bachelor groups. Their antlers symbolize connection to the heavens and intuition received through the mental plane. Their crown of antlers also corresponds to royalty and, thus, power. Bambi’s father was called the Great Prince or King of the Forest for this reason.

A mature buck with a 6-point rack in full rut strikes reverence in the heart of any man. There is a confidence and valor in a buck that rivals even the most fierce of predators. The biggest and strongest bucks in the forest mate with the most does and produce the most off-spring. They do so by fending off other suitors in battle. This is the quintessential Darwinian “survival of the fittest”.

Notice that for most of the year the bucks live peacefully side by side, but there is a season for competition with deer spirit animal. When in your life are you in competition? Are you able to enter into a test of strength when appropriate and then drop your weapons (antlers) and move on to coexist without strife the majority of the time? We sometimes judge against competitiveness, but there is a striving and refining that happens in these trials that carries us through tough times (winter) and births new energy into the world.

Stags can teach us that by knowing when to compete and when to drop our attachment to the game we can become the kings of our own inner wild nature.

Doe Deer Symbolism

Does stick together in groups related maternally year round. Their presence is of a drastically different measure. To understand the nature of doe energy simply think of the phrase “doe eyes”. Their eyes are big and soft, and any woman with doe eyes is known for luring you in.

There are many myths around the world of women who turn into animals or who are half woman, half beast. In some North American tribes there is a legend of the Deer Woman who is half woman, half doe. Some stories tell of how she lures men to their deaths. This relates back to the story of Artemis and how the gawking hunter lost his life. So, despite the fact that bucks are confident and courageous and does are soft and sweet, the two have a reputation for luring men into potential danger.

The masculine aspect of all of us (the animus) is our active nature, our “doing” way in the world. When we are caught up in the activity of our lives we easily go on auto-pilot. Then we are unknowingly subject to the luring energy of deer spirit animal. Before we know it we’ve wandered into an unknown part of our own inner forest and we think to ourselves, “I don’t know who I am anymore and I’m not sure where I was going.” This is when deer spirit animal magic has been at work in you.

Creativity and Deer Spirit Animal

Courtship and mating occurs in late fall, early winter (October-December) and the gestation period is 7 months. We often think of spring as the time for babies, but really fawns are not seen until summer officially arrives. This speaks to running on a later schedule than is expected, possibly even being prone to procrastination. This can also be a tendency to wait until you know what the picture is going to look like before moving forward.

By November, the deer have a good sense of how they will fare through the winter because they have seen the fall harvest and built up their reserves as best as nature will allow. The timing of their breeding depends on rainfall, temperature, and day length. Some species of deer will wait until January to breed.

In thinking about deer power animal, How are you approaching new creative projects right now? Are you holding out as long as you can to see what the environment will be like? Are you able to recognize a good or mild season when you are in one and move forward as to take advantage of the favorable conditions?

Symbolism of Deer Fawns

There is a doe that sets up residence around our house with her fawn(s) each year. As these things go, she just showed up for the first time this year, today, during the process of this writing. She announced her presence by chasing and charging our dog Diesel. Diesel was jumping and barking at her, and then she was in hot pursuit of him, front hooves lashing out.

We called him off and looked back in time to see a teeny, tiny little spotted fawn jump up and run the other way. The fawn had been laying down just feet from where we had walked. Our dog never saw her until she was on the move. By then he was back with us and stood and watched politely.

In the first three weeks of the fawn’s life, the mother leaves her young bedded down for up to 8 hours at a time while she wanders and grazes. The fawn is not yet able to run quickly enough to evade predators, so the best protection is to lay in hiding and wait until mom comes back with udders full of milk.

Deer Spirit Animal in Fight or Freeze

A combination of the defensive mother, the camouflage of a dappled coat, the ability to be completely still, and the lack of any scent is what keeps the fawns safe. The mothers clean their fawns immaculately, so no trace of a scent remains. All of these kept our keen nosed and eyed dog from spotting the little one.

Seeing how small this newborn was and thinking of it laying there frozen, waiting for danger to pass reminded me how intensely vulnerable these tender creatures are. We often think of freezing in the face of fear as a weakness, but the combination of the fiercely protective mother and the perfectly still fawn makes an incredibly strong pairing. I mentioned before that purity and innocence is at the heart of the deer totem, this is because as fawns they begin life pure (clean of scent) and innocent (unable to defend themselves or run from danger).

With deer spirit animal, what is your relationship to being vulnerable? Are you ashamed of the tender part of you that lays frozen in the brush? Do you over-emphasize the protective nature of the mother? All of this is necessary for your well being. Keep in mind a balance. Judge not your innocence, love the purity of your soul, and honor your own courageous spirit.

PHOTO CREDIT: David Anton. To view more of David’s beautiful photos visit his website: https://kitestream.wordpress.com

 

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
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character courage and commitment

Character, Courage, and Commitment

March is women’s history month and the theme of the month for 2014 is: Character, Courage, and Commitment. This is an interesting set of words, two of which I wouldn’t be inclined to usually study. Typically, I’m interested in words like compassion, kindness, honesty, integrity, and, yes, courage. It was a helpful to spend some time with the theme for the month that includes character and commitment and gain a little more insight into what it means to be a woman in today’s world. Each section ends with some questions to help you explore each aspect of the theme yourself.

Character

“You don’t handle the world, you handle yourself in the world.” – Caroline Myss. The definition of character is a person that focuses on handling herself a larger percentage of the time than she handles, or more so attempts to handle, the world. Caroline Myss talks about the importance of conscience and how we rarely use that phrase in our society anymore. These days we talk about understanding our shadow side and researching our unconscious, but we don’t talk enough about how to stop these parts of ourselves – the pieces that gossip and resent and resist – from taking over. That is where conscience comes in. Women of character have a deeply felt and realized list of values, an active conscience, that guides their actions on a moment-to-moment basis. We can’t just decide to be “good” when others are watching and secretly allow our minds to berate our loved ones for not doing the dishes. This resentment weighs us down and prevents us from acting in a loving way. To have character means to throw out our addiction to toxic thoughts, underhanded comments, and strategic manipulation. This is not easy because we build up these mechanisms to cope with past pain and safeguard against future loss. This means that to have character you must have faith and trust on your list of values.

What are your values? How well are you living them? What percentage of the time are you handling the world compared to handling yourself? How do you feel about this? What would you change?

Courage

“It’s ironic that I’m the most afraid when I’m being brave. Vulnerability = Courage” – Brene Brown. As women we can find that we have to strive especially hard to “man up” and be brave. We’re taught that women are inherently emotional and weak, that they need shelter and assistance. We fight against these stereotypes too much in our lives. How liberating is it to realize that you can be scared AND brave at exactly the same time? In fact when you are absolutely terrified is likely when you are the most brave. I have found this to be true and disorienting in my own life. When I first heard Brene’s words so much finally made sense. Now I understand why I’ve made such good friends with adrenaline and fear. I’ve tried a lot of new things. I’m always pushing the envelope. My envelope is not one of thrill-seeking, sky diving, or mountaineering, my envelope is living my truth. This involves a lot of risk.

How do you view fear? Do you feel ashamed or angry or beaten when you’re fearful? How can you help yourself better weather your fear?

Commitment

When I think about women and commitment I must admit, I am absolutely hard pressed to think of a woman I know that ISN’T committed. I know committed mothers, committed business owners, committed counselors and therapists, committed scientists, committed friends and spouses. Commitment with them is not about being a martyr or putting on armor and being a warrior through the difficult times. Commitment is not doggedly sticking to a path regardless of the obstacles. Commitment is a way of staying optimistic and connected to the whole, the big picture. If you are lucky enough to be surrounded to great women like I am or to even know one or two of them, you don’t need to find an expert or study a famous person’s teachings. All there is to do is to go and watch a committed friend for inspiration. Ask her how her day was or what her new project is. Listen to how she stays at her goal with courage and character, in line with her values. Understand how she forgives herself for failure and uses the mistakes to enhance her creation.

Who do you have in your life that is a model of commitment? What do you see in them and their practice that you could bring into your own life?