Tag Archive for: love

what does dove mean dove spirit animal

Spirit Animals: DIVINE DOVE

What does dove mean?

The term “dove” actually refers to a whole family of birds that includes both doves and pigeons. There are many species of doves of a variety shades of brown, gray, rose and slate blue. Dove species include mourning doves, rock pigeons, Eurasian collared doves, white winged doves, and band-tailed pigeons. One of the well known species extinctions caused by man was that of the passenger pigeon. Hunting and habitat destruction by European settlers wiped out some 3 to 5 billion birds around the turn of the 20th Century.

The white doves we frequently associate with the name of dove are rare in the wild and are white varieties of normally pigmented rock pigeons or ringneck doves. There is no actual species of white dove or pigeon. White doves are mostly bred and raised in captivity to serve as pets, release doves or racing pigeons.

What does dove mean? Dove spirit animal is most often associated with love, purity, nurturing, spirituality, and peace.

Dove Medicine is Love Medicine

The phrase “lovey-dovey” explains well the unabashed way that dove nibbles at her mate’s neck and erupts into a synchronized dance of beak grasping and head bobbing with him. We have borrowed a lot from dove, saying that lovers “coo” over each other. Male mourning doves are the ones that do the cooing to attract mates.

The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite (Venus in Roman mythology) is often depicted holding a dove in her hand or surrounded by a flock of white doves. Aphrodite’s seven daughters were called a “flock of doves”. Kamadeva, the Hindu god of love is known to ride a dove.

Dove chooses one mate for life and forms strong pair bonds which contributes to her associations with romantic love.

We tend to downplay the importance of the honeymoon period of relationships, calling the lovey-dovey mood an infatuation that will not last, but dove teaches us that this outward sign of affection strengthens bonds and is critical for a successful relationship. If you find yourself swept up gazing into your lover’s eyes, dove totem animal is in your corner. Dove spirit animal is a great companion as we abandon ourselves to romance.

Dove Nurturing

The love of the doves extends beyond that of romantic love into the excellent care doves give their young. One example is that both mother doves and their mates produce “crop milk” for their young. The milk is secreted from the lining of the dove’s crop (organ in the throat), regurgitated and fed by mouth to the chicks. This is a relatively rare ability in the bird world with only flamingos and a few penguins able to do the same. Dove parents are also very attentive and often raise multiple broods in a year.

When considering what does dove mean, ask what you are nurturing right now? How can you partner with others to be more successful?

 

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

Purity & Dove Spirit Animal

The color white is symbolic of purity, so it follows that white doves are too. This link between doves and purity goes back to biblical times: “Even while you sleep among the sheep pens, the wings of my dove are sheathed with silver, its feathers with shining gold,” – Psalms 68:10. In this passage, we are “my dove”.

St. Teresa of Avila affectionately called the soul a “little dove”. A person who is called a dove, is often seen as innocent, sweet and pure of intention. It is a compliment.

This is an interesting paradox to consider given that white doves are typically a strain of rock pigeon. Rock pigeons are the exact same species of pigeon that lives in cities. These are the pigeons that people call flying rats. It never ceases to amaze me how much power is in a name. Change the color and name and the exact same bird with the exact same habits turns from clean to filthy.

Consider your reputation right now. Are you trying to portray the image of purity? Do you want people to think you are honest and impeccable? Are you having issues with others seeing you as disgraced or dishonorable? Or do you know of your own baseness and you’re trying to hide it? When dove spirit animal comes on the scene, it is time to consider your struggle between beauty and ugliness and realize that we all both. The potential for either good or bad is within us no matter what color we wear.

Dove Spiritual Meaning

In the same way that butterflies are seen by human souls in Japanese mythology, doves are seen as symbols of the spirit in Christian theology. Even further, the dove is representative of the Holy Spirit as seen when a dove descended from heaven during Jesus’s baptism.

The love and strong pair bonding of dove is often used as a metaphor for spiritual devotion and union.

Do you feel the presence of the sacred in your own life? Are you waiting for a visit from your Creator? Dove spirit animal reminds us that communications from Spirit can come in very obvious forms. Do not dismiss a sign just because it is clear as day. If a sign does not come, know that blatant divine favors are not given out like candy. Some of us will only receive an unmistakeable sign once in a lifetime. Dove spirit animal is here to help us maintain our faith no matter how few or far between gifts from God are.

Peace and Pacifism

Dove brought Noah an olive branch to show that the great flood had ended. Since then, images of dove holding an olive branch demonstrate the peace that comes when the flood waters of emotion subside. Water is symbolic of emotion and wars are sparked by an excess of emotion. Where can you extend an olive branch in your life?

Remember that what is in one is in the whole. Whatever feelings of vengeance you harbor are contributing energetically to the larger conflicts between nations. Your forgiveness is needed.

Mourning Dove Symbolism

In the United States, the main species of dove we have is the mourning dove. Mourning doves are also known as “turtle doves,” which we hear about a pair of in the famous “Twelve Days of Christmas” song every holiday season. The morning dove’s slow and melodic song eases the pace of the otherwise chaotic and fast-paced birdsong that fills our world. To us the song may seem sorrowful, but for the male bird singing the song it is full of the excitement and anticipation of another year with his beloved. It is a song filled with longing and love.

 

hummingbird totem spirit animal

Spirit Animals: HUMMINGBIRD ELIXIR

Hummingbird Symbolism

Everywhere she goes there is this constant hum. The whiz of her wings shakes up the air. The vibration lights up her senses. She is a vibrant being of color seeking vibrant flowers. She drinks high powered nectar full of sugar. Hummingbird is energized with enthusiasm for living. Her mate rushes by in a blur of squeaks and buzzes. The flash of ruby on his throat takes her breath away. This is how it goes in the warmth of morning. By mid-day she may perch on a tiny branch to preen and rest for a bit. Then she’ll be back to the business of lighting up the world with her sound, her energy, and her love.

Hummingbird Love & Joy

We love hummingbirds. Over and over when they show up our eyes  twinkle. Our hearts unfurl one more step towards the infinite in the presence of these tiny little creatures.

If I were given only one word to describe the meaning of hummingbird symbolism, I would say, “love”. Give me two words and I say, “joy”. Love and joy can be such ambiguous answers although, especially when we don’t have access to them. Love and joy can slip through our fingers and escape the grasp of our hearts. We can’t make love or joy happen any more than we can cage the high powered, nectar fueled hummingbird.

Hummingbird spirit animal has much to teach us about the nature of love. She is not an anchored beast that has all four feet on the ground, nor is she a soaring bird of prey detached from the world below. Hummingbird spirit animal does not take a direct path. If a trail of light were to follow her wherever she goes, we’d see that she weaves through the world. The threads of love that connect us all are what weaves the world together.

Hummingbird’s wings move so quickly that we can’t decipher a single wingbeat. We can only watch where flight takes the bird. The nature of love is like this. We can’t identify where it is in time and space, but the threads of love determine the paths of our lives.

How is love changing your path right now? How can you abandon direct-line thinking and adopt the hummer-path? Where is your heart effortlessly lifting you up to? How does it feel when you are in the space of love? What makes your soul hum?

Strength of Hummingbird Spirit Animal

Hummingbird can cross a giant body of water like the Gulf of Mexico in one crossing, so it is easy to see how the strength, the stamina, the acrobatics, and the tenacity of hummingbird befuddles us. As with any great creature with abilities beyond our comprehension, hummingbird has found her way into all the great myths of the world.

Every society has a story to tell about hummingbird symbolism. In these stories, hummingbird spirit animal is associated with timelessness, tirelessness, rain, rainbows, warriors, fairies, lightness, beauty, circles, and jewels.

Hummingbirds and Immortality

Bears are omnivores, deer are herbivores, hawks are carnivores, and hummingbirds are nectarivores because they eat nectar. What a fun word – nectarivore! The word “nectar” originates from Greek words “nek” and “tar” that translate into “overcoming death”. Thus, nectar is synonymous with the “elixir of life”, a magical potion believed to make one immortal.

Not only does hummingbird drink life giving nectar, but she also literally overcomes death by going into a hibernation-like state called a “torpor” when food is scarce. Her metabolic rate is slowed to 1/15th of its normal rate. This speaks of going beyond survival.

How can you go beyond thinking only in terms of survival? Are you able to overcome your fears of failure, be that financial ruin or debilitating illness, and drink from the nectar of the Gods? What is the nectar that feeds you? Is it material wealth that you must attain or are you seeking recognition from others? Or is it the beauty of the world blossoming open in front of you?

Nectar is the literally the essence in a flower. Nectar contains a sweet scent that attracts pollinators. Hummingbird helps flowering and fruiting plants proliferate by spreading pollen about. She is the assistant in the creative power of nature. Hummingbird spirit animal goes straight to the essence, the heart, of the flower and drink up the truth that is there. By doing this she nurtures the beauty of the world.

Hummingbird animal totem can teach you how to go straight to the heart of the matter, the essence. Then you can carry that essence to other situations in your life. How will the truths you discover now result in abundance of spirit once the rains come?

Illusion and Hummingbird Symbolism

Hummingbird can hover in place, but the amount of energy and movement required to remain hung in midair is anything but still. She is a flurry of activity. Much of what hummingbird does is an optical illusion.

From one angle the black-chin of a Black-Chinned Hummingbird looks black, but in the right light it flashes a brilliant magenta. Many of the colors on male hummingbirds shimmer with a jewel-like iridescence when light skims across their feathers at the proper angle.

This is a reminder that all life is an illusion, and that magical flashes of the divine come when we’re not looking at something straight on. Our lives may look still outside, but be a blur of activity inside. In allowing the needle-like beak of the hummingbird totem animal to penetrate the opening flower of your being, nothing will ever look the same.

 

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

 

 

meaning of red-tailed hawk symbolism

Spirit Animals: RED-TAILED HAWK ALLIANCE

Red-tails adapt easily to life with and around humans and, in general, are more in service to humanity than other hawk species. There is a famous red-tailed hawk that has nested on the side of a skyscraper on the edge of New York City’s Central Park for over twenty years. The male hawk, known as “Pale Male”, has an entire film documentary about him, his various mates, and his young.

It seems that the spirits prefer to send red-tails as messengers because of their gregarious and more approachable nature. In a sense, they are the labrador retrievers of the hawk world and both in spirit and in the flesh they can be our loyal best friends. The are also very conspicuous, found throughout North America in nearly every type of open or semi-open habitat. Seeing red-tailed hawks is such a common occurrence that one may miss the significance of red-tailed hawk symbolism all together, but just because a host of angels are sent to the skies above you doesn’t mean you should ignore them.

Symbolism of Red-Tailed Hawk Feathers

The red tail feathers of this hawk are extremely significant as they bring strong power in relation to the first chakra, otherwise known as the root chakra. The first chakra relates to situations and circumstances around family, friends, and community. Here is where our insecurities around being abandoned, outcast, and left alone are held. Here are our worries about being humiliated. To have red feathers at this chakra that is characterized by the color red amplifies the power of this message and demonstrates how integral these hawks can be in helping us work through healing wounds around our sense of belonging in tribes.

Red as a color relates to love, anger, and passion, matters we’d typically associate with the heart, but this is the personal heart, the one that ties us intimately with those we come into contact with on a daily basis.

If you look closely at the tail of a red-tail, you will see a thin black horizontal line running across the base of the feathers with each feather tipped by white. Red-tails are divine messengers meant to bring guidance from the heavens and ground the guidance out in the physical world. In grounding out the guidance (black line) the realms of spirit (white tip) are available even in the lowest, most mundane places. Many of a red-tail’s feathers are “barred” with multiple dark lines. This is a common feature of hawk feathers and speaks to how they are able to navigate multiple altitudes and embody many layers of understanding.

Relationship to the Tribe

Each red-tailed hawk has a unique plumage (coat of feathers), so despite the fact that they are literally one in a million of their kind, each is a unique individual with an important story to tell. In my book Gracious Wild: A Shamanic Journey with Hawks I tell the story written on the breast of my best friend, Graccia the female red-tailed hawk I worked with in a raptor education program:

I stood memorizing every single feather on her body. Each was as unique as a snowflake. Then, like peering through a looking glass, noticed a figure on one of the contour feathers among those in her belly. It was in the shape of a spirit, much like that of an angel. The spirit’s arms were straight out and it wore a long flowing robe that extended across the tip of Graccia’s feather. I took a step back and widened my focus. Before me stood a gathering of angels spanning the width of her breast. As I absorbed the entire picture I was without breath. Below the feathers painted with spirits were feathers hatched with horizontal lines. In reading the story written there, I saw that these markings represented the earth. The earth lines rose to form a fleet of spirits that looked like robed angels with arms outstretched. The spirit fleet then morphed into vertical lines, beings of light, shooting into the heavens. The pattern was so plainly written at this moment outside time. The story told on her breast was that of enlightened beings that are born of the earth and then merged with the heavens.

The fact that these stories are demonstrated on the hawk’s chests like a “shield” harkens back to family and tribal shields or coats of armor. If you had to draw the coat of armor for your family or your current tribe, what would it look like? If you are yearning for a new tribe, draw that coat of armor. Imagine what it would look like painted in cream and brown in the feathers of a hawk. Know that “your” people are out there.

The path may be to grow your own self-esteem so that you have the courage to be vulnerable with those around you. Graccia helped me open up and connect with those around me in a profound way, helping me see my tribe wherever I go now. Another opportunity may be to go out and risk making new friends and trying new things. With the image of your tribe to guide you, you will know your people when you meet them.

 

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

 

Divine Messengers

An overabundance of red-tailed hawk spirit animals in our lives can mean that our prayers are being answered… the answers are being brought to us on hawk’s wings. What are you wishing for right now? What are your dreams? Are you able to recognize the gifts being brought to you and the doors open before you?

If you are not able to see the gifts coming your way the red-tails may be coming to assist you and to CALL your attention to them. They can help you identify who in your tribe is granting and fostering these gifts. The hawks may be calling your attention to old habits, patterns, or defenses that are getting in the way of you relating to your fellow humans. Listen and be willing to let your guard down. Trust your reputation into the talons of the red-tail and you will be rewarded.

Red-tailed hawks typically hunt by either using the power of the wind to hold them aloft while they soar or by roosting on a high perch. Aloft or perched, they wait quietly and watch carefully. Once they see a mouse move below them they swoop down on their prey in a slow, controlled dive. The message here is to not waste your energy tirelessly trying to stir up the answer, but to find a high vantage and to take in the whole picture.

With red-tailed hawk symbolism, it’s time to become the observer and see things from a mystical perspective. This is not about being “better than” your tribe-mates, but about seeing things away from your ties to worry about what others will think of you. From this wide-angle view, wait to see a glimmer of movement and use your sharp, keen vision to focus in on what caught your attention. Then you can confidently dive down and grasp hold of the knowing.

Hawk spirit animals in general are about vision and the ability to shift from a wide view to a microscopic focus. It may be time for you to review your life to get in touch with a larger vision and purpose while at the same time checking in to make sure that you are focusing on key relationships. Look for the gifts of your tribe, revel in the gifts of your life, and give thanks to divine messengers. You can release your gratitude to the red-tails and they will carry the memo back to the heavens on your behalf.

gracious wild book by stacey couch

hope hardship horses

Hope in the Face of Hardship

Those of you that own a troubled horse may know a particular type of isolation I am familiar with, the type of loneliness that comes when an expert looks down their nose at you and says, “this is too much horse for you” or the kind of despair that comes from finishing yet another clinic in humiliation because your horse was the most explosive, fearful, defiant, you name it beast there and everyone knew it. I can’t tell you how many times people have politely said to me, “Green and green make black and blue,” meaning that a novice owner and untrained horse are a set-up for injury. Some owners of troubled horses decide that because the effort and training is hard that the partnership was just not “meant to be.” These owners sell or give away their horses and hopefully, but not always, find themselves a more calm, obedient mount. Others believe that nothing great comes without blood, sweat, and tears so they shoulder in and work hard to overcome all odds and wow the crowd. I have many talented friends and trainers who have done just this. I also know five times as many horses who are the “discards” still waiting for their chance at greatness. I have one of those discards standing in my pasture. She is one of the best things that has ever happened to me, and I’ve come to know beside her the greatness within. No amount of outside praise or accolades will ever match this brilliance.

Cherokee is my reminder every day of how easy it can be to lose sight of our own inner light. After 6 years and 7 trainers she is still too unpredictable to ride and still sometimes fearful. In a world that values outside measures of success and that idolizes goals, we become addicted to praise and, by default, criticism. We come to fear both, for praise only causes a craving for more praise which requires exhaustive effort and, well, the pain of criticism is an easy one to be habitually phobic of. Our fear causes us to set up a belief system that helps us make decisions when the outcome (praise or criticism) is unknown and adversity arises.

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown outlines the two paths people commonly take when encountering hardship.

  1. “When we experience something that is difficult and requires significant time and effort we are quick to think This is supposed to be easy; it’s not worth the effort, or, This should be easier: it’s only hard and slow because I’m not good at it.” I would like to add that in the new era of spiritual positivity and the chase for happiness many also now see roadblocks in a given path to be a sign from a divine source that this is not the right direction. These believers think It’s only hard and slow because it’s not meant to be. 
  2. Others believe “that everything worthwhile should involve pain and suffering.” Brene uses “never, fun, fast, and easy” to explain this mindset. For spiritual seekers looking to become more aware/conscious/enlightened this can look like I need to learn these lessons and clear these woundings before I can attain this dream; the tougher the lessons the bigger the dream. I would venture to say that in there is also the thought I need to learn these lessons before I am worthy of this dream.

Take a moment to consider: What kind of believer am I? We each have a default setting when hardship arises. What is yours?

Awareness here is the first step. If we can catch the first thought of this is too hard or I have to struggle on before our mind takes off in the whirlwind of drama around either path we can hopefully avoid errant action. This is where we break old patterns of ejecting from one friendship/job/marriage after the next or of suffering through unhappy friendships/jobs/marriages way past their expiration date.

I typically default to the “never, fun, fast, and easy” mindset and have been quick to idolize the “meant to be” mindset because that seems so easy and elegant. I sobbed after riding Cherokee for the first time, it was an overwhelming release. I realized that for once, I felt worthy of her. I wasn’t sure if the countless hours of effort and training for both myself and her had been the ticket or if I’d finally healed to the point of deserving this dream. I had been bracing for so long against the hardships and lessons that it was such a relief to have succeeded.

I only had five more rides on her which didn’t always go so well.  I started to loosen my grip on my vision of a blissful riding connection with her. Then, surprisingly, I fell out of love with her. Sounds harsh I know, but I was willing to be with that truth, albeit I kept it a secret at the time. Then I allowed myself to be with What if it’s not meant to be or What if I will never be good enough? 

Luckily, I understood that neither viewpoint was the truth. Every time I heard myself say I’m ready to quit or Just keep going, I used this as a cue to check in with my core self. Always, the entire six years, the truth has been that she is my horse and I am her human. Call it fate or destiny or karma I don’t care, but I know in every fiber of my being that we are family. That’s just it.

It is in this knowing that I find value every time. I don’t know why we’re supposed to be together or what she has to teach me or me her. It really seems to go beyond all of that. There is just a truth in our togetherness that is unfaltering and that itself has value. Trusting in our relationship and our intrinsic value always takes me out of the praise/criticism addiction and brings me hope in the face of hardship.

Here is what Brene Brown has to say about cultivating hopefulness:

“We develop a hopeful mind-set when we understand that some worthy endeavors will be difficult and time consuming and not enjoyable at all. Hope also requires us to understand that just because the process of reaching a goal happens to be fun, fast , and easy doesn’t mean that it has less [or more] value than a difficult goal. If we want to cultivate hopefulness, we have to be willing to be flexible and demonstrate perseverance. Not every goal will look and feel the same. Tolerance for disappointment, determination, and a belief in self are the heart of hope.” (page 66 of The Gifts of Imperfection)

So next time you catch yourself thinking that Spirit has approved your goals by making the path easy, stop to ask your inner self how you feel about the goal. Next time you start thinking that you have too many wounds to heal to be worthy of your dream ask your inner self how you feel about your path. Is this worth doing even if you fail? Remember the outcome will never be how you expect it.

Just yesterday after a quiet play session together I took a moment to stand with my bay mare out in the sunny, snowy pasture. I was in her shadow standing beside her neck as we both faced northeast, the place of rebirth and renewal. I ducked my shoulder under her jowl to wrap my arm around her head and hold the bridge of her nose in my hand. For the very first time, she softened in to my embrace. I felt the loving and gentle pressure of her jaw resting on my shoulder. I immediately understood the tenderness of her gesture and brought my entire awareness to bear. We stood doing nothing else but soaking in each other’s light. This is what love and value look like. Everything else is just an illusion.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten we belong to each other.” – Mother Theresa

Beginning shamanic journey workshop.

I Love Me… I Love You

I have come upon a magic time in my life where I hear and say those three special words from and to many people in my life. “I love you.” When I SAY the words my heart opens. When I HEAR the words my heart opens. My arms open wide to receive and give. There is nothing but wild sincerity in the action.

I remember in my youth when I was in eighth grade, about 14 years old, when my friends and I came to a place of free expression. We were fledging our families and reaching out for connection elsewhere. We were seeking independence and also acceptance amongst our peers. At that time, I probably wouldn’t have been able to count the number of times I gave hugs in one day. We were, literally, hug junkies. We hugged every time we greeted each other even if our last parting was 5 minutes ago. We hugged when someone said something funny or sweet or cute. We hugged before rushing back off to class. We started to play with those simple, yet so important three words, but that’s all we knew how to do, play.

When we said “I love you” we were testing the words out. We were asking a question rather than making a statement. “Do you love me?”

I remember that same group of childhood friends creating a group agreement that being “conceited” was the worst possible trait anyone could have. This polarization prevented us from ever looking inward to find love for fear we’d overindulge and become self-involved.

I moved the next year and was thrust into an entirely different culture full of strangers. The three words fell out of use and were only spoken to a boyfriend, in private. I spent the next decade exploring what those words triggered in me in an intimate relationship. Then I realized the real question was, “Do I love me?” After digging through the morass, clearing out the enchantments and pushing out the pity, I found that at the root of it all, yes, I do love me.

Since then the task has been to not let anything get in the way of that love, absolutely nothing. For those of you that know this path, you’ll know how easy it is to get pulled off course. Some days it comes easier to plague ourselves with guilt, judgment, and doubt than to stand in our truth.

The gift of it all is that thru self-love we can find universal love and then all that acceptance and embrace we have been seeking since our youth becomes limitless. Now I’m finding the fluid ability to open my heart and arms to brand new acquaintances, to co-workers, and to lifelong friends. I do not hesitate to share love because there is no boundary to it. I do not hesitate to receive love because I know it comes through my own filters of self-love and I am capable of navigating those.

I don’t know if this is a sign of the times or a sign of my time. Regardless, I would like to invite you to explore your relationship with those simple three words, “I love you.” If they’ve lost meaning or, worse, become a trigger for trauma, turn inward and make a commitment to traveling deep to the core of who you are. This path may take minutes, months or years, but don’t give up because beyond all the ways you tell yourself that there is no love, there is.