Tag Archive for: gratitude

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.

meaning of turkey spirit animal

Spirit Animals: THANKFUL TURKEY

How perfect it is that during this season when we are taking stock of our harvest and practicing gratitude that we have as a mascot in our endeavor the humble turkey? The meaning of turkey spirit animal reflects service and sacrifice teaching us to balance receiving with giving. There are many aspects to the turkey’s life that we can relate to directly as we gather ’round with family and remember who we are in the group.

Meaning of Turkey in Social Settings

Turkeys are communal and social birds that travel in large flocks. They fly up into trees to perch and roost for the night, but they cannot take flight to travel long distances. This may indicate a need to stay grounded when in a group setting, and to know that you have an escape route nearby that will allow you the opportunity to see things from a higher vantage without having to leave the situation all together. This too can help you see things with a bit of detachment and be less angry or charged about what is going on. Turkeys are very mobile on the ground, running as fast as 25 mph. This speaks of an ability to navigate group settings and to travel with a group very easily. All of these aspects of turkey medicine relate to the family gatherings that happen around the holidays.

Turkeys look like primitive dinosaurs striding along the forest floor with long necks, legs, and tails. They are slender and from a distance, a plain brown. Their feathers do have a stunning bronze-green iridescence up close and at certain angles of light. They don’t have very good depth perception which explains why they tip their head from side to side when they walk. They are trying to determine how far away and big things are. Both the variable color of their feathers and their poor depth perception indicate a need to look carefully to decipher how big or small, drab or flashy, the situation in front of you might be and to not always make a snap judgement.

 

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

 

Turkey Spirit Animal Language

Turkey males, or toms, are vocal animals that are easily lured in my the call of another male. We all know the characteristic gobble, but they also make an amazing sound called a boom or “chump” which is a sound emitted from deep in their chest that causes the air to shudder. The sound is like a subtle sonic boom. This chump is followed by a hum that is either created by a rattling of their tail or an exhalation of air through their mouth. The mechanism for each vocalization is not fully understood.

This reminds us to pay attention to how sounds affect our physical bodies. Which sounds repel or attract you? Turkey might be able to help teach you about how listen to your environment with your whole body rather than just your ears. It is also a reminder to be mindful of the vibration or energy we are putting out into the world from the core of who we are.

Meaning of Turkey: Showing Your True Colors

The males make overwhelming displays to not only impress females but to intimidate other males. They puff up to almost twice their usual size, fan their tails out behind them, and adopt an obvious strut. Their profile becomes round and compact. The images we are accustomed to seeing of turkeys during Thanksgiving are purely images of tom turkeys displaying. The color on the heads of toms varies. It is said that when they are excited their heads turn blue and when preparing for a fight, red. This is a bird that is not shy to state who they are and how they are feeling. Turkey spirit animal can come into our life to help us learn how to stand in our power, show our true colors, and boom our truth into the world.

Hen Turkey Humility

Then there are the unassuming, sweet, and relatively quiet females who “purr” and make “soft calls”. When not in full display, the males look very much like the females. The living out loud posture of a strutting tom is the rarity rather than the norm in turkey culture and it is interesting how in our culture we exalt the boastful image of the turkey. Even Benjamin Franklin understood that the turkey could be “a little vain and silly.” [1]  It is easy to get boastful in a world that is obsessed with selfies. The usual, humble nature of turkey is a reminder to not get caught up in booming who you are into the world.

The Service of Turkey Medicine

The main keynote of the turkey spirit animal is SERVICE. There is a selflessness to turkey medicine for they are known for giving their lives to nourish the tribes of North America. Sacrificing for the sake of nourishing another is balanced turkey medicine. The person who gives to show how great of a person they are, is dancing with the prideful energy of a tom turkey.

Where do you have the chance in your life to give back? How can your acts show appreciation for the abundance in your own life? Are you able to give without any return, without any recognition whatsoever?

In modern American tradition, turkey is obviously associated with Thanksgiving holiday. This is when we gather as a family. Turkey flocks are made up of nuclear family groups that work together to find food and keep each other safe. Isn’t that a lovely parallel? If you are dreading the upcoming holiday season and a house full of pesky relatives, you can call on turkey to help you come into harmony with the flock. Finding ways to help each other and enjoy each other’s company is an important aspect of honoring what we’ve been given.

Pausing for Thanks

This is a time of year when we’ve brought in the harvest of our labors, both literal and figurative. This is the season when we say “thank you” for what we’ve been given. By coming into relationship with turkey as a spirit animal, we are asked to study our relationship to what we have and what we give.

Are you able to appreciate what others have sacrificed to make your life possible? What are you willing to sacrifice so that others may prosper? Now is a good time to let go like the trees have their leaves and stop checking your bank balance. This is the time of year when you have too many things to do and too many holiday party invitations. Stop weighing the value of one act over another, of one person over another, and be willing to step in what it is that the universe is offering you as abundance. Then, remember to give back to the deep well from which that abundance pours forth.

[1] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/american-myths-benjamin-franklins-turkey-and-the-presidential-seal-6623414/?no-ist

 

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