Tag Archive for: guides

shamanism beliefs

Do Shamanism Beliefs and Other Religious Beliefs Mix?

Shamanism as a Container

Unlike organized religions that tell you exactly what to believe, precisely when to worship, and literally how to talk to God, the practice of shamanism does not fill our worlds with things to do and think.

I like to use the metaphor of a container, be it a bowl, vase, or basket, that holds our beliefs. Shamanism is that bowl. It is our hands cupped and open, ready to receive whatever we choose to fill them with. This reality is refreshing for many people who are looking to break free from the confines of an organized religion that no longer fits what they believe, but who do not want to leave everything behind.

Shamanism is a worldview, meaning a way of seeing the structure of the cosmos. Shamanism beliefs tell us how the world is ordered and connected. We learn early on in shamanic studies that the cosmos is made up of three worlds: lower, middle and upper. These three worlds are connected by a central axis, also known as the axis mundi, world axis or cosmic axis.

This belief in the basic structure of the universe leaves a lot to the imagination, and that is where other religious beliefs come in to fill the container.

This motif of the three worlds and connecting axis mundi is common throughout all shamanic cultures. Of course, each tradition elaborates on the theme adding levels to each world and/or preferring one axis over another. What fills these three worlds also varies widely depending on the local religious beliefs. In polytheistic groups that believe in many gods, there are gods and goddesses that move throughout the worlds, some laying claim to one world or another. In monotheistic traditions, one God is infused throughout and influences all of the worlds.

Shamanism Beliefs & Christianity

Most people know that shamanism and Christianity have historically been at odds. Although not the only establishment hunt witches, the Catholic church was famous for naming shamans as witches and sorcerers. As a result, many shaman were burned at the stake for their beliefs and practices. If you feel these two paths are incompatible, history is on your side.This rift between the traditions is only recently healing in the hearts and minds of individuals who follow the teachings of Christ and benefit from shamanic practices.

The age-old trouble between Christian churches and shamanic practitioners assuredly has a number of roots that fill many volumes, but we can view it simply as the clash between the need for centralized power and the desire to place power in the hands of the community.

In traditional shamanic cultures, belief was much less centralized and the shaman had a good deal of authority and influence over the spiritual lives of community members. People trusted their shamans and knew them well, this pulled them away from organized churches which was an obvious threat to the church. But, this is just politics after all. Let’s get back to beliefs.

The toughest conflict in beliefs to reconcile between Christianity and shamanism is in regards to what lies beneath us. Shamans travel to lower world by going down through the earth, and they have beautiful, healing experiences. Christians believe that hell is below us and would never dare to imagine venturing below the earth’s crust. Anyone who is a Christian practicing shamanic techniques has to forfeit their belief that hell is the only thing below us.

What shamanism and Christianity do have in common is a shared belief that there is both good and evil. Exorcism and depossession are practiced both within Christian faith and shamanic tradition.

The belief in a single God and the belief that Christ is our savior do not come into conflict with shaman beliefs. In fact, they blend quite nicely into shamanic tradition. I know a number of Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, etc. that incorporate shamanism into their involvement with an organized Christian theology. I myself follow the teachings of Catholic mystics and find these teachings support a lot of what I experience in my shamanic practice.

Shamanism & Buddhism

As I mentioned in a previous article, shamanism and Buddhism have a lot in common. The belief that all of life is interconnected is paramount for both systems. They are both forms of eco-spirituality and neither depend solely on the existence of a God or gods.

Buddhists focus on the workings of the mind and how to release thoughts and attachments. Shamanists believe that thoughts are energy and that thoughts have a profound effect on our world. Shamans are taught how to watch the movement of energy. In shamanism, the study of attachments is common and shamanic practitioners learn how to break attachments.

Buddhists are interested in dissolving the ego. Shamans endeavor to become a “hollow bone” or “hollow reed” to be a clear channel for healing energy. Ego gets in the way of the healing. Thus, shamans are also interested in dissolution of the ego. As you can see, there are many ways that these two belief systems compliment each other quite nicely.

Shamanism & Atheism

Like Atheism, shamanism does not require belief in any particular deity or deities. However, it does require the belief of spirits and a spirit world. The belief that we have souls and the acceptance of the movement of energy in the hidden realms are essential and basic components of shamanic practice. This may or may not be an issue for some atheists depending on how strictly they’ve diverged from traditional religious convictions.

Shamans work to understand mystical laws so that they can understand the processes of illness and healing. Shamans also study the movement of harmful and compassionate acts in relation to illness and advise others on ethical behavior. Similarly, atheists often find some form of ethical code to follow and are interested in the cause and effect workings of the universe. In this way, the two perspectives inform one another.

Shamanism & Paganism

Paganism is a natural fit for shamanism and many of the beliefs in these traditions are the same. Paganism arose from hunter-gatherer cultures at the same time and in cooperation with shamanism. Paganism can easily be viewed as the lay-person religion in communities that had the shamans as religious leaders. This does not mean that all shamans are pagans and vice versa. The two can be practiced independently and do not rely on each other to exist.

Shamanism Beliefs & Other Religions

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive comparison of shamanic beliefs and other religious beliefs, but, suffice it to say that shamanism can be studied and practiced in collaboration with many additional faiths including Hinduism, Judaism and Sufism. Please share your experiences below of how you’ve combined your religious beliefs with your shamanic practice.

 

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.

bat symbolism

Spirit Animals: BAT BRAVERY

The mere mention of a bat sends many people into a panic. Conservationists have been working for decades to dispel the terrifying myths about bats and to bring humans into a greater appreciation of these flying mammals. Bats work wonders for an ecosystem keeping pest insects in check and producing fertilizer in the form of guano. Still, despite the best public relations campaigns, many shy away from bat symbolism.

Coming to Terms with Bat Symbolism

We often want our spirit animals to bring good tidings, but it’s hard to feel optimistic about bat spirit animal. When we draw a bat card from an animal totem deck, we tense up, brace for impact, and begin furiously trying to figure out how to spin this in a positive light.

At the core, bat symbolism carries an archetypal association with fear. Our gut reaction to seeing a picture of a bat speaks of this. There is really no good way to turn fear on its head so that we can feel better. Fear is unnerving, and bat spirit animal seats us firmly outside our comfort zone. If you find yourself already holding your breath, it is likely that bat is bringing to the surface the fear you’ve stored up inside.

Move into the fear and know that you have one of the best guides along for the journey in the form of a flying, furry mammal. You have an opportunity to inherit gratitude, which will be one comforting emotion during this very trying time.

Bat Spirit Animal’s Foreboding

When helping others interpret their encounters with spirit animals, I often find a nail-biting listener on the other end of the conversation. Many people fear that the message from the animal is bad news. I always want to bolster the listener’s faith in the universe by creating an uplifting reading about an animal encounter, but this can be tough to do when faced with bat symbolism. The truth is, it’s scary.

Bat spirit animal carries messages of fear, suffering, trial, initiation, and challenge. At the same time, this tenacious, outstandingly brave little creature could not be a stronger ally to have in times of uncertainty.

On the spiritual path we hope to find great rewards and even bigger favors, but coming into connection with the Divine is not a way to guarantee comfort, safety, peace, joy, or abundance. It is a way to gain fortitude and presence. To become a generous being that moves grace and love into the world.

Death & Initiation

To become clear channels for grace we have to release our egos, identity and attachments. Release is a poetic word for death. Shamanic teachers are much more candid about what this process of releasing looks and feels like. It feels like dying. Even though the physical body comes through the process, we are not the same person on the other side. Who we were has passed away.

Just like the seasons, bat symbolism reminds us that our lives move in cycles. There are times when all the old must be sloughed off so that we can move our gifts into the world without distractions or obstacles.

Traditionally, shamans understood the necessity and periodicity of these “small” deaths in our lives. They created ritual and ceremony to facilitate and support this critical component of the spiritual path. Initiates were buried up to their necks, locked in caves, left in the woods, and abandoned in their own graves. We now affectionately call these ancient and painful rituals “vision quests” which can disguise the severity of the experiences.

Today, we don’t have such rituals for better or worse, but this does not mean that many people aren’t experiencing what is known as the shamanic death or initiation. These initiations are happening in the midst of life, cloaked in the mundane, but they are no less painful.

Bat spirit animal appears during these initiations when the world seems to be falling down around us. The loss of a job, a health crisis, death of loved ones, floods, fires, lawsuits, and so forth can be the outward manifestations of an inward crisis.

Upside Down and Clinging

Bat hangs upside down from the ceiling of the cave, clinging to the rough surface. This inverted posture could be seen as everything going wrong, but I see it as a defiance of gravity. Symbolically, gravity is the past. Gravity is what weighs us down and  keeps us from moving forward into grace.

Bat spirit animal says, “I’m not going to let that bring me down. I’m climbing as high as I can and riding this one out.” There is an intense tenacity in bat symbolism, more so than you will find almost anywhere else. Even when things are at their very, very worst and it seems like we won’t be able to go on, bat is the voice deep inside us that tells us to keep hanging in there. Bat symbolism is about not giving up, not matter how hard it gets.

Is this Ever Going to End?

In the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson, they warn against stagnation and preventing the death-rebirth cycle from progressing, but there is an important component of bat biology that we must evaluate. Female bat has three ways to prolong her pregnancy. She can prevent the sperm from fertilizing the egg, she can keep the fertilized egg floating free awaiting implantation, or she can keep the very young embryo in a sort of stasis where it is not allowed to grow. She forestalls the development and birth of her pup until environmental conditions are more favorable.

Forbearance is another key component of bat symbolism. When everyone else is saying to get on with it, let go of the past, and start a new life, we don’t have to listen. We know when the right time is and we know when there is still more that must die. When we deny these truths it is no use. The cosmos provides more obstacles to slow us down anyways. Trust your instincts about the timing of your emergence from the cave.

Rebirth & Resurrection

Bats give birth to their young while hanging upside down. The babies come out feet, rather than head, first. This again speaks of the enormous strength and effort that is at the heart of bat medicine. Born against the pull of gravity, the force of the universe that pulls everything down, your new self is coming. It is a tremendous, heroic effort not to be taken lightly and worth every ounce of power you put into it.

At dusk every day, bats are born anew into the darkness flying out from the cave. That is why so many cultures associate bat with resurrection. We think being reborn into our new selves means we will come out into the light and have everything revealed to us. The trick of bat spirit animal is to remember that we are being born into the mystery. So much will be uncertain, but with bat spirit animal as your faithful companion you’ll be able to fly to new heights, hear the voice of the cosmos with great precision and have more freedom that you ever could have imagined.

 

Want to learn more about spirit animals?
Visit the Spirit Animal Guide

 

 

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!

 

animal symbolism

How to: Research Animal Symbolism

Venturing into the world of animal symbolism, otherwise known as the study of power animals, can be very daunting. There are sometimes wide gaps and obvious contradictions between the various books and websites that tell you what a spirit animals signifies. It is important to fact check any power animal reading as well as flesh out these readings with additional information. I can tell  from experience, that it would be incredibly easy to write an entire book about the symbolism and power of just a single species of animal. That means that any power animal interpretation available (yes, including mine), will not cover the entire scope of the animal’s gifts. Most books and websites have a limited number of animals listed, and it can be hard to find a reading on the less common animals. This is when we are forced to create our own interpretations, which is a good thing!

Any true inquiry into the nature of a power animal should include an absorption of simple scientific facts about the colors, structure, eating habits, mating, survival, and environment of the animal. Understanding how the animal makes a living and what their social lives are like can be incredibly enlightening.

Look for what makes this animal unique in the animal kingdom. Take notes on what fun facts really jump out.

We are drawn to the qualities in our power animals that we either identify with or we desire. In pinpointing what we like about our power animals we have the opportunity to make these characteristics conscious in ourselves. Identifying with power animals is a great way to boost self-esteem and become more empowered in who we are. It can be hard to sit down and write a list of what traits we like about ourselves, and a good place to start is by listing the positive aspects of the power animal that match our own great qualities. If the power animal has a characteristic we covet, they have come to help us manifest that expression in the world. A elk that proudly bugles his voice into the world can help someone with speaking up and claiming their territory.

Don’t dismiss what is ugly, cruel, or frightening about an animal. These traits help point out our judgements and fears.

We often think that our power animals are a direct reflection of ourselves, so when we unearth a piece of information about the animal we don’t like we tend to get discouraged. Just because a salamander eats baby birds doesn’t mean that those of us with salamander power animals are heartless individuals that devour helpless beings. This fact can either be taken as a metaphor – that the resource we need may come from those who haven’t left the nest – or as a generous reflection. When we find something that turns us off, this can direct us to the way we judge others unfairly. When we polarize strongly against a certain way of being, we are limiting our own path. In choosing to not do something we can waste a lot of energy making sure we don’t become what we fear.

With the scary or gross power animal we have the chance to learn acceptance and let go of fear. When we encounter a power animal we’d rather not have, we are being offered the opportunity to look into our own shadow. The characteristics of the animal will point out the best way to do this. A bat who is a creature of the night, for instance, is a perfect helper in going into the darkness. They often go out in groups and they use a chirping voice to call out into the darkness and see what’s around them. This could mean that the best option is to join a support group that is a safe place to navigate frightening subjects and ask the others to be a sounding board for what we’re working through.

Any animal can easily help us with both our fears and our triumphs. It is up to us to determine what the animal has come to help with.

Once we fill up to the brim with information on our power animal, it’s time to filter through the information and get clear about what the animal has come to help with. Some facts about the animal might resonate while others don’t. Our intuition is a powerful ally for us in this process. Try not to think this through too hard. Our rational minds can help sort the information while our intuitive nature deciphers the meaning.

Creating our own power animal interpretations is a practice that takes a lifetime to perfect, and it gets easier with each reading we create. I’ve put together a list of my favorite online resources for biological information on wildlife. If you have a website you’d like to share please post it in the comments below.

Here are my videos on Spirit Animals:

 

IN DEPTH ANIMAL GUIDES

This list of websites starts with sites that have the most animals listed with the most information on each animal. I also recommend an internet or library search for information on the particular animal. There are many books and websites dedicated to a single animal (such as polar bears) or group of animals (such as marine mammals) that have much more in depth information not always found in the general animal guides.

Encyclopedia of Life has all species around the world. Be sure to click “Read Full Entry” link below the bottom right hand corner of the image of the search result: http://eol.org

National Geographic has pictures and videos of featured animals: 
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/topic/facts-pictures

 

QUICK FACTS ABOUT ANIMALS

Short on time? These sites will give you a quick summary so you can get in, get what you need, and get out.

One Kind is an animal protection charity with quick and great unique facts: https://onekindplanet.org/animal/

A to Z Index of Animals has wildlife and domestic animals: http://a-z-animals.com/animals/

Defenders of Wildlife has many North American megafauna: http://www.defenders.org/animal-factsheets

World Wildlife Fund has megafauna throughout the world that are of conservation interest:
https://www.worldwildlife.org/species

 

BIRDS AT THE SPECIES LEVEL

There is a lot of great information out there about different species of birds and I highly recommend that all interpretations of birds go to the species level. To simply have an “owl” as a power animal will get you some of information about what they offer as guidance. Being able to see in the dark and fly without making any noise are characteristics of the whole group, but we are limited on what we can learn given that there are over 100 species of owls around the globe. Going to the species level helps us delve deep and gives us magnitudes more information.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology is the premier source for all things avian. Be sure to listen to calls: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/search

Seattle Audubon Society has facts about species hard to find elsewhere: http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/

 

ANIMAL LEGENDS

For fun I wanted to add in some animal mythology. I couldn’t resist sharing this link to an extensive list of Native American myths about animals. http://www.native-languages.org/legends-animals.htm

stacey couch book signing

VIDEO: Inner Reflections in Ecology

In this lecture and book signing at Maria’s Bookshop in Durango, Colorado, I tell the story of how ecological tragedy can inform our own inner process and help guide us to a healthier way of being in the world from the outside in. My book, Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks, delves deep into the plight of wildlife who suffer at the hands of civilization and embraces the incredible gifts the wild ones have to share with us. Looking through a mystical lens, wild animals become divine messengers. Using the study of ecology as a tool for inner reflection opens up new avenues to healing and understanding.

Spirit Birding: Introduction

The 10th Annual Ute Mountain/Mesa Verde Birding Festival was nice enough to take a chance on me this year by hosting my lecture on “Spirit Birding”. They admitted that it was an out of the ordinary topic for them, so I was delighted to have a nice crowd assemble to put their knowledge of bird identification to a greater purpose. This video of my entire talk  is an introduction to a body of work I have been assembling for years. This work not only includes decoding the messages of birds, but also of animals and plants as well. To me, it is absolutely paramount to help the wild ones communicate their teachings. In some ways, I see myself acting as an instructor of a foreign language. It is my pleasure to offer this 45 minute presentation to you to help get you started on the path to relating to the wild ones, to nature, and to all of creation. Thank you for opening your heart and your mind and for reaching out. They are waiting to speak with you. I’m sure of it.

Enjoy!

All bird sightings can be messages (i.e. we can find metaphor, symbolism, or meaning in them), but it’s easiest to focus in on the memorable sightings…

  • Surprising or startling appearance
  • Tough to identify birds
  • Rare for the area or rare altogether
  • Certain birds for the first time
  • Dead or injured
  • Fascinating behavior

Determining what the message from a bird is about:

  • Earmark the moment you saw the bird(s):
    • What were you JUST thinking about?
    • Were you wondering something?
    • Were you sleep walking and this woke you up?
    • What else is happening in your world?
  • Allow it to inform larger questions
    • What bigger question have you been holding?
    • Are you at a crossroads in your life and trying to make a big decision?
    • Are you struggling with a certain person or project?
stacey couch

VIDEO: Stacey Couch at Boulder Book Store

This presentation at the Boulder Book Store in Boulder, CO was filmed on April 10th, 2014. In the first clip, I share a bit about the writing and publishing process and share my training as a writer.

In this second clip, I read an excerpt of the book that is a perfect example of why I decided to write the book Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks. The excerpt is from the chapter “The Mouthpiece”.

The Little Selves Seen

Today I was sharing with a group the value of employing power animals to help us in our daily lives. I have a great egret that I call in to help me manage my energetic boundaries in a group setting. I see her fly in and then dance, wings flowing, around me to help me stay clean and clear about what is mine and what is that of the people I’m negotiating with. I have a red fox that helps me look for something, or someone, I’ve misplaced. When I see him run out after the prize I trust that what I am missing will come back to me, and it does.

I love these spirits and have an intensely intimate bond with them. I cannot imagine my life without them. At the same time, I understand that my attachment to them is the same as my attachment to my role as a wife, animal mother, herbalist, shaman; the same as to my attachment to my ego. I love who I am in the world and I trust that it is not me.

I am the witness. As Ken Wilber says in the introduction to Caroline Myss’s Entering the Castle, “we have at least two selves, or two sorts of selves – there is the self that can be seen and known, and the self that cannot be seen or known. There is the unknown seer, and there are all the little selves seen. ” This unknown seer is considered our “true self” and is referred to in many meditative practices as the “witness”.

How can I view my power animals and my roles as “little selves seen” and hold the truth of the witness that is me? Do I hold one over the other?

The one that judges the little selves as less than the true self is just another little self. When we judge our power animals as mere projections we are not speaking from our true self. When we dismiss our role as a woman we are not acting from our true self. This is one little self judging another. In our polarized world we fragment into these multiplicities to have the experience that is human. These selves are what make our lives so unbelievably rich. Their judgements create our experience.

All the while, our true essence remains intact watching, accepting and learning from all the little selves do. Our true essence does not know how to judge, only watch. We have access to all the forgiveness and love that is the witness at any given time. Whenever a little self feels defeated she can release the shame to the witness and be overcome with an overwhelming sense of relief. Whenever I am asking a power animal for help, I am stepping outside of my role as a wife, employee, boss, etc. and becoming the faith that is the witness.

This goes against many teachings that encourage people to release their ego for the sake of the true self. What I’ve found is that we all are a work in progress and to expect any one of us to be free of ego is asking a lot. It is a tough road to follow and not fit for everyone. I am here to suggest another path. Instead of struggling through all the doubt and self-judgement that comes with severing oneself from the ego, I have chosen to instead honor the value of the little selves seen. The more I love them, talk with them, and share them with the witness, the more I find they align with my true nature. In the end, that is the ultimate goal, unity with all that is, was, and ever will be.

Quote from Entering the Castle: An Inner Path to God and Your Soul by Caroline Myss