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Standing Together, and Stepping Up

Dear Sounds True friends and community,

While holding a mirror to our own organizational accountability, Sounds True unequivocally stands in solidarity with the Black community, the family of George Floyd, and the many others who have been victims of police brutality and ongoing racial injustice.

We stand with and for our Black employees, our Black authors and colleagues, our Black customers, and all of the protestors and social change activists—past, present, and future— who are working to put an end to racism in every corner of our society.

And we are committed to not just stand in solidarity but to step up.

Since George Floyd’s murder, we have been having many in-depth discussions among the 125-person staff at Sounds True about the most meaningful actions we can take as a transformational learning company to help educate ourselves and our community and contribute to the dismantling of racism.

We have been asking ourselves questions such as:

  • How can we best use our platform to better amplify the voices of wisdom teachers who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)?
  • What’s in our Shadow, as individuals and as an organization? What unconscious areas must now be brought into awareness?
  • And how do we actively address these areas so that we can evolve as an organization and be a force of genuine service in the world?

The answers to these questions are not simple, quick, or easy. It has taken me a while to write this email to you, our beloved customers and Sounds True community, because we have felt as a team the need to listen carefully and look deeply within in order to lay out an action plan moving forward that will contribute to meaningful and substantive change.

Anything less falls short of what I believe this moment is asking of us.

We also want to learn and evolve in partnership with you. We are learning and growing together as a community, and it has been important for us to create a moving-forward action plan that invites engagement from our entire audience.

With arms wide open, I invite you to witness, support, and step up with us in the following ways:

  • Over the next two years, Sounds True will be undergoing an in-depth Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Training in the workplace. This training initiative has been in development for over a year, and will be provided by TMI Consulting, led by Dr. Tiffany Jana. Dr. Jana is coauthor of the books Overcoming BiasErasing Institutional Bias, and Subtle Acts of Exclusion. As part of the training, we will be uncovering how unconscious bias, microaggressions, and micro-acts of exclusion show up in the workplace, in our personal lives, and even in our products. The training also includes a thorough audit of Sounds True’s hiring practices, HR policies, marketing materials, and more.

  • Sounds True also wants to include our customers, authors, and partner businesses in the introductory phase of this training process that we will be embarking upon. With that in mind, we are hosting a three-part webinar series on “Healing Racism” with Dr. Jana, beginning on Wednesday, June 24, at 8:00 pm ET | 5:00 pm PT. The series is free, and we are inviting our customers, authors, and business associates to join the Sounds True staff for this online training and to walk this part of our journey together. As someone on our email list, you will be receiving all of the details in future emails.

  • It is clear to us at Sounds True that we need to publish and otherwise amplify the voices of more authors and presenters who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. If you have ideas about new BIPOC authors you would like to see published at Sounds True or included in our summits and online offerings, please write to us at acquisitions@soundstrue.com.

  • The Sounds True Foundation, formed in 2018, is increasing its efforts to raise scholarship funds for BIPOC students to attend our Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program and become trained as mindfulness teachers who will bring this practice to diverse communities all over the world. We will be hosting a virtual fundraiser on June 30 for this initiative and will be emailing you with more details.

As I mentioned, working to dismantle and heal racism—in ourselves, in our organization, and in our world—is not a flash-in-the-pan effort at Sounds True. This is a long-haul commitment to the creation of a different world that is just, kind, and equitable. And we have a heckuva road to travel with you to get there.

And we are committed. We don’t want to simply talk about spiritual awakening. We want to embody it … as individuals, as a company, and as a force in the world. Humbly and boldly, we are going to give everything we have and invite you to do the same. This is the time for us to step up, together.

With love on the journey,

Tami Simon

Founder and Publisher, Sounds True

P.S. You can learn more about our commitment to creating a more compassionate world here.

 

FEATURED

Meet the Author of . . . Every Day Is a Poem

The Author

Jacqueline Suskin has composed over forty thousand poems with her ongoing improvisational writing project, Poem Store. She is the author of six books, including Help in the Dark Season. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Yes! magazine. She lives in Northern California. For more, see jacquelinesuskin.com.

The Book

Every Day Is A Poem Book

How do we deal with the heaviness of everyday living? When we are surrounded by uncertainty, distrust, and destruction, how do we sift through the chaos and enjoy being alive?

In Every Day Is a Poem, Jacqueline Suskin aims to answer these questions by using poetry as a tool for finding clarity and feeling relief. With provocative questions, writing practices, and mindset exercises, this celebrated poet shows you how to focus your senses, cultivate curiosity, and create your own document of the world’s beauty. Emphasizing that the personal is inextricable from the creative, Suskin offers specific instructions on how to make a map of your past and engage with your pain to write a healing poem.

 

Show us a day in your life.

I’m currently the Artist in Residence at Folklife Farm, where I spend my days writing, reading, teaching online and working in the garden. 

Rainbow

I wake up and take care of my body, dance, stretch, and harvest something for breakfast.

Blueberries

Then I usually work at my desk until late afternoon when I find my way back to the garden for more harvesting and chores.

When I’m working on a book, I’ll wake up around 4 am to write before anyone else is awake. I know that whenever I wake up in the dark with an idea, it’s my job as a poet to turn the light on and write it down. 

Workspace

With this schedule, my days are fluid; and although I make showing up at my desk a main priority, I never forget that it’s summer and there are rivers to swim in, flowers to smell, and berries to pick.  

Are you learning any new tricks or skills during this time (COVID)? What’s been hardest for you? What do you miss the most? Has your book taken on a new meaning in the world’s current circumstances? Is there anything you would have included in your book if you were writing it now?

smelling flowers

During quarantine, I had to shut down the retreat program I was running at Folk Llife Farm. This was a sad shift, as we had folks signed up to stay for months in advance. Now that I’m not spending my time hosting or interacting with my local community in person, I’m engaging with my online community in a larger capacity. I miss sitting in front of my audience, writing for people after looking them in the eye, and I really miss browsing bookstores. I miss hugging my friends, having teatime and long conversations, and I miss going on tour. But I can’t complain. Poetry has its place in the world now more than ever. I’m here to translate the communal mood, to voice our collective pain, and find the beauty in all of it. My book will help others do this as well. And if there’s one thing COVID has taught me, it’s that we all need an outlet for our emotions, especially when we feel unseen and disconnected. Poetry is this outlet and we can still share it even if we can’t be with one another in person.

What is something about you that doesn’t make it into your author bio?

earth

I’m an ecstatic earth worshiper. Everything I do, every word I write, is attached to the idea that when my readers discover healing through my words, when they transform and become better by way of my work, they’ll in turn treat themselves, each other, and the earth better. This planet is a perfect gift and humans have ruined so much of it. Through my efforts as a poet, I hope to pay tribute to the earth and offer up ways for humans to change their relationship to our one and only home.

Photos of Jacqueline Suskin by James Adam Taylor

Photos around Folklife Farm by Jacqueline Suskin

Learn More

Every Day Is A Poem Book

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Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing

Dear friends,

Two days after my cat, Hedda, died in 2016, my friend Francis sent me a sketch with a note “from” Hedda that read, in part, “P.S. I love you more than tuna.” Through my tears, I thought that would be a great book title. I had a clear vision: an illustrated gift book that people would give to friends, family, colleagues, or clients after the loss of their cat. A step beyond a sympathy card, this would be the first “empathy book” for adults grieving the loss of a cat.

Thinking About You - Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing Blog

 

Inspired in part by Eckhart Tolle and Patrick McDonnell’s Guardians of Being and Charles M. Schultz’s Happiness is a Warm Puppy, P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna offers comfort and inspiration through New Yorker-style drawings and simple, evocative language. My goal was to make it heartfelt without being cloying.

Every year, six million Americans and Canadians must say a final goodbye to their cats—buddies who leapt into their hearts as kittens, purred away heartbreak through multiple breakups, snuggled by their side in homes large and small, and occasionally deleted folders of work by stretching out on a warm keyboard.

“Pet loss” is considered a disenfranchised form of grief; it’s not culturally sanctioned. We don’t have any universal rituals for this grief, like sitting shiva or holding a wake. This often leaves the bereaved feeling isolated and misunderstood, which compounds the grief and makes healing more difficult.

People grieving companion animals have a need to be seen, their grief validated. Being witnessed in grief is a powerful balm for healing.

Friends of those grieving companion animals are often at a loss for ways to show their support. P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna gives all of us the opportunity to make a profound impact with a simple gesture.

When Francis sent me the sketch and note, I felt seen. Francis’s gift acknowledged the bond I’d had with Hedda and my grief at her death. The present tense of the note also reminded me that Hedda was still with me, even if I couldn’t see her. That was significant in terms of helping me heal, and that’s the comfort I hope P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna will provide to other cat lovers.

Sounds True has created a lovely video preview for P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna. I hope you’ll check it out below.

Best Friends Animal - Thinking About You - Being Witnessed In Grief Is A Powerful Balm For Healing Blog

Ultimately, I hope this book will benefit the world in multiple ways: for the recipient, witnessing and healing; for the giver, a tangible action they can take to help another; for Best Friends Animal Society, to which I’m donating 10 percent of my proceeds, contributing to their work of keeping pets in the home. This includes helping low-income people connect with resources they need to feed, train, and care for their companion animals. And of course, I hope this will benefit Sounds True and their work in the world, which is quickly becoming more needed than ever.

Take care,

Sarah Chauncey

Book Cover

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DIY Rose Essence and Heart Breathing Ritual

The heart chakra is the central integrating chamber of the chakra system. Through the healing power of love, all things eventually find their way to connection and wholeness. 

ANODEA JUDITH

Heart Medicine Rituals

The greatest lesson I have learned so far is to exist within my heart. This is a lifelong practice for me because, like many, I was not taught to inhabit my heart space. On a physical level, the general collective is not doing so well in our hearts. This is evidenced by the stark reality that heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. This high incidence of disease points to a deeper situation of the heart, but in order to be open to the possibility that more profound heart healing is necessary and possible, we must open our minds to a more metaphysical or energetic interpretation of what the heart is and what it does. Ancestrally, the heart held a much higher evolutionary significance, and as our consciousness split, we moved from inhabiting our hearts to glorifying our minds. Perhaps this disconnect can illuminate some clues for us to consider to reclaim more balance within our hearts, ourselves, and our world. 

Vibrationally, the heart contains the strongest electromagnetic field of any organ in the body. Transference of heart energy can occur in close proximity with another human or animal; and if you apply the theories of quantum entanglement and wave function collapse, transference of heart energy can resonate beyond space or time. Plants and the elements, too, can have a positive entrainment effect on the heart, reiterating the interconnectedness of all life and the organic balance nature engenders. In both traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicines, the heart is the mind. In TCM, grief is stored in the lungs and closely related to the heart. The Hopi defined harmony as one’s heartbeat in resonance with others and the Earth.

Our liberation is tied to the heart. The cost of liberation is unique to every person and is cosmically linked to each of us. The price of liberation varies for each individual, but we are given choices: in what we think, what we feel, what we believe, how we want to be. The inability to see choice is the unconsciousness of the fear-based toxic masculine that seeks to keep us disconnected and disempowered. 

Image 1

Our liberation depends largely on our ability to love unconditionally. Unconditional love means loving without circumstance or codependence. This can take different forms, from exiting a toxic relationship to taking more care of yourself. And it doesn’t stop there. If you want to get really free, you have to love yourself no matter what, and love all beings no matter what. Tall order? Yes. Impossible? No! While humans are conditioned to be in separation, plants (and animals) hold only unconditional love for all life. There are people on this Earth who radiate unconditional love, and when you are in their company, your heart is completely relaxed and open. For instance, my heart feels completely free when I am with people and animals who love me unconditionally. My heart also feels free in this way when I am in nature. Can you think of anyone who loves you unconditionally? Or perhaps it’s easier to think of an animal or pet? What if you loved yourself and everyone like that? What if you loved all your uncomfortable parts, illnesses, and neuroses like that?

EXERCISE: Making a Rose Essence and Heart Breathing Exercise

There are a few plants whose application is almost universal, and the rose is one such flower. Roses hold the frequency of unconditional love and have an affinity for the heart chakra. This ritual works best with either a wild growing or organically cultivated rose; it can be any species within the Rosa genus. Some of the lower vibratory states that can be addressed with rose include grief, loss, heartbreak, depression, and panic. 

This ritual is very simple. You’re going to combine the process for making your own medicine (see a simple how-to video here) using the rose of your choice, with the heart breathing exercise that follows. The heart breathing can be done while the flowers are in the water, working their magic. The heart energy you engage during the medicine-making process will become part of the energetic signature of your flower essence. After you bottle it and make the dosage bottle, take a few drops and see what you notice around your heart. Be sure to notate your findings. You now have a rose flower essence for your apothecary whenever you or someone else needs it. 

HEART BREATHING RITUAL

After you have placed the flowers in the bowl with the water, sit comfortably on the ground, if possible. Close your eyes or set your gaze low. Place both hands over your heart and begin to breathe into the heart space. Visualize the rose you are working with. Notice how the breath moves in and out of the heart—not forcing the air, just allowing it to move. See if you can sense into how the heart is feeling—in the front, in the back, all sides. Be sure to breathe into the back of the heart space. Notice how the heart feels when you place your awareness on it. See if it’s okay to allow whatever is arising, witnessing without judgment. 

After a few minutes, begin to bring the heart back into a neutral position. Thank your heart and the spirit of rose for sharing with you. Feel your body making contact with the Earth, deepen the breath, and slowly open your eyes.

The video on how to make your own flower essence medicine can be found here.

This is an excerpt from The Bloom Book: A Flower Essence Guide to Cosmic Balance by Heidi Smith.

Heidi Smith Bio

Bloom Book

Heidi Smith, MA, RH (AHG), is a psychosomatic therapist, registered herbalist, and flower essence practitioner. Within her private practice, Moon & Bloom, Heidi works collaboratively with her clients to empower greater balance, actualization, and soul-level 

healing within themselves. She is passionate about engaging both the spiritual and scientific dimensions of the plant kingdom, and sees plant medicine and ritual as radical ways to promote individual, collective, and planetary healing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her partner and two cats. For more, visit moonandbloom.com.

 

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Plants, People, and Cosmic Balance: A Healing Justice Invitation

Plant medicine has always been the people’s medicine, and flower essences create unique opportunities for issues surrounding accessibility, as essences are extremely safe and can be made rather inexpensively. The shift toward holism—complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and integrative medicine—and the proliferation of herbal interventions within our health-care system are proof that we are making progress. In light of this, there are a number of dynamic ways we can promote flower essences to be even more accessible and inclusive for people. Even flower essence therapy itself is a modality historically dominated by white men, but increasingly it is being pushed forward by women-identified, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC healers.

Currently, the alternative healing community is processing its own biases. Much of alternative medicine was developed in the service of the dominant culture, or the patriarchy. Therefore, it hasn’t been a healing space for many groups, including but not limited to women, people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, economically oppressed people, neurodiverse people, and (in the United States) non-native English speakers. In the words of Cara Page, a founding member of Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective, healing justice “identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence, and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts, and minds.”

Plants, People, and Cosmic Balance: A Healing Justice Invitation blog image 1

One of the main themes of The Bloom Book involves balancing duality, which means challenging the perpetuation of oppressive systems. Unless we are actively engaged in dismantling racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and ableism, we are merely reinforcing the power structures we are claiming to challenge. As models of healing justice are emerging, many organizations and community collectives are generating their own missions and value statements from which to work. Meanwhile, practitioners—especially white practitioners like me—have to ask ourselves:

How is my work a function of my privilege? 

Where can I be doing better? 

Does my practice truly support inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility?

The working definitions of healing and trauma are also evolving. Within a healing justice framework, one can see how, by understanding trauma merely as “an emotional response to a terrible event,” we are ignoring a more inclusive interpretation that includes the cumulative and historical trauma of colonization. In the last decade, science has validated that trauma is intergenerational and historical. Likewise, many traditions include community in what constitutes emotional and spiritual healing, whereas Western models of mental health are focused exclusively on the individual self. 

When you open yourself up to the plant kingdom, new awareness can develop. You can become more empathic, which sounds pleasant in theory, but can be overwhelming because now you’re not just experiencing more of your own feelings, but the feelings of others as well. If you’re committed to applying a healing justice framework in your work, you will likely expose new trauma and have to reckon with your own privilege, which can be painful. You could develop more attunement with nature, which also can feel wonderful and, because of the tragic state of our Earth, completely disorienting. At this time, we are experiencing a heightened polarity between the light and the dark. We are being asked to hold a neutral space for all this duality and to have more compassion for all life. Flower essences enhance the energetic interconnection between all living things and so are especially well suited to support an expansion of consciousness.

Understanding how we function within—and our responsibility to—the collective is important because none of us operates alone. If you forget what you derive from the collective, you assume you don’t owe it anything and exist separately from everyone. Much of the privileged world enjoys the benefits of being part of the collective, whether we are conscious of it or not: rights, amenities, protection, accessible health care, clean drinking water, electricity, and so on. So, those with the material upper hand at this time have a special responsibility to the rest of those sharing the Earth.

Within a healing justice framework, we must not only question our privilege as white people, we must elevate BIPOC leadership within all the transformative justice movements. We are all dependent on one another to collectively wake up and heal.

Plants, People, and Cosmic Balance: A Healing Justice Invitation blog image 2

In this way, it is an exciting time for the community of herbalists and flower essence practitioners. Modalities that are so helpful in bringing people into balance are themselves coming into greater balance. A sign of hope within an era of great hope. The ancient wisdom explored in The Bloom Book supports that the power of the plants is coming through in dynamic new ways. This text exists, in part, to provide more context around the validity and potency of the flowers. The spectrum of human emotional experience is here for our development and delight.

The Absence of Women-Identified, WOC, and QTBIPOC Healers Throughout History 

Missing from our Western history books are most of the contributions by women-identified healers through the ages. Even more scarce are WOC, and most scarce are queer and trans people of color (QTBIPOC) within the codex of Western medical history. The misogyny of the burgeoning patriarchy from ancient Greece spread throughout Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the rest of the world through colonization by white settlers. The suppression of women healers in Europe and the Americas coincided with the rise of the ruling class, capitalism, and the privatization of medical care, away from folk-healing traditions—traditions that women played a huge role in preserving and advancing. Gender seemed to be less of a construct throughout many parts of the ancient world, as there are significant written reports of intersex and gender-fluid healers. In many cases, those who exhibited androgyny were known as having special healing powers because of their ability to connect with both masculine and feminine energy. 

Plants, People, and Cosmic Balance: A Healing Justice Invitation blog image 3

As historical contexts are becoming more inclusive and less Eurocentric, there is more room for the theory around matriarchal-centered civilizations being much more prominent than previously thought. Senegalese anthropologist and historian Cheikh Anta Diop felt that, historically, most of Africa was matriarchal in organization. Colonizers were tremendously misogynistic, which holds much information for us to ponder as we consider our connection to the feminine and the history of medicine. 

The lack of representation of women and WOC healers in the historical literature of medicine is decidedly a Western trait. Not only is much history transmitted orally and through practices and traditions, but the written history is also a very biased account, formulated in large part by, and for, white men. While our participation in medicine and healing traditions has been historically restricted in the West, women have long been associated with healing, especially within the domains of life and death—as midwives and compassionate caregivers helping to bring new life and support the soul into the afterlife. Women healers have traditionally addressed the issues and needs of populations that our culture typically shames and would rather ignore. Written accounts are limited, but we do have a record of a talented few. We must honor the oral traditions that are not meant to be shared (by me anyway) with the mainstream. There is a protection in keeping knowledge hidden from the masses. This wisdom is secured within the light lineage of all healers. 

Plants, People, and Cosmic Balance: A Healing Justice Invitation blog image 4

Conclusion 

The social and healing justice movements have affected me deeply, and it is my sincere hope that we can continue to decolonize and dismantle where dominant systems are limiting the positive proliferation of alternative healing and flower essence therapy to make them more accessible and inclusive. The more we come into balance in this way, the more transformation is available to us all, our communities, and our Earth—and the more we maintain plant medicine as medicine for all people.

Healing Justice Flower Essence Allies

There are a number of herbalists such as Karen Rose of Sacred Vibes Apothecary, Jennifer Patterson of Corpus Ritual (also a Bloom Book contributor), Lauren Giambrone of Goodfight Herb Co., and Amanda David of Rootwork Herbals, (to name a few), who have been speaking on the subject of healing justice for quite some time, and I am grateful for their leadership and inspiration. Healing justice business models such as that of Third Root, a worker-owned community center that provides collaborative, holistic health care in Brooklyn, offers a standard that everyone in the healing arts should aspire to. 

I offer some essences below that are wonderful to use in process groups or healing circles that center on antiracism and anti-oppression work. Some flower allies to assist you as you dig deeper into this rich and rewarding terrain are:

Delta Gardens lemon balm—a wonderful essence for when you are immersed in deep work, to keep calm and carry on

Delta Gardens valerian—for any resistance to change, to be able to take in and assimilate new information

Flower Essence Society quaking grass—“harmonious community consciousness,” letting go of personal attachments in social groups

Flower Essence Society lupine—seeing beyond the level of self, seeing self as part of the whole

Flower Essence Society or Delta Gardens echinacea—integration of those parts of the self that may have been repressed

Flower Essence Society or Delta Gardens borage—to support the heart and offer courage

Bach Original Flower Remedies water lily—for humility and wisdom in communication, to heal the perceived separation we feel from others based on race, class, or gender

Flower Essence Society pink yarrow—for emotional vulnerability, assists in discerning what is your responsibility to emotionally process

Additional Information on Healing Justice

A Not-So-Brief History of the Healing Justice Movement, 2010-2016

What Is Healing Justice?—Healing by Choice Detroit

Healing Justice: Holistic Self-Care for Change Makers—Transform Network

Healing Justice Toolkit

Corpus Ritual

Railyard Apothecary

Good Fight Herb Co.

Rootwork Herbals 

Sacred Vibes Apothecary

Harriet’s Apothecary

Third Root 

Heidi Smith headshot

Bloom Book

Heidi Smith, MA, RH (AHG), is a psychosomatic therapist, registered herbalist, and flower essence practitioner. Within her private practice, Moon & Bloom, Heidi works collaboratively with her clients to empower greater balance, actualization, and soul-level healing within themselves. She is passionate about engaging both the spiritual and scientific dimensions of the plant kingdom, and sees plant medicine and ritual as radical ways to promote individual, collective, and planetary healing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her partner and two cats. For more, visit moonandbloom.com.

 

 

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What Does It Mean? A 4-Step Guide for Understanding Your Animal Spirit Allies

How often have you had an unusual encounter with an animal and immediately wondered, “What does it mean?” 

Perhaps you saw an owl in daylight. Or you kept noticing images of elephants everywhere. Or maybe a huge spider appeared right in front of you on the sidewalk. 

If you’re like many shamanically-inclined folks, the first thing you’ll want to do in these situations is google what that animal “means”. 

I understand the temptation, but please—hold off!

The universe and spirit have many ways of communicating with us, including animal messengers. And the universe does not play by a set of pre-existing rules. The messages each animal carries will be unique to you, and no book or website can tell you the full meaning of your encounter. 

The same is true of power animals—spiritual helpers in animal form who share their gifts and medicine with us. While a bit of research can certainly be helpful, if you dive right in to other people’s interpretations, you’ll be more likely to miss important elements of your personal relationship with your power animal.

Animal messenger or “normal animal doing normal things”?

I can hear it now . . . Sometimes a bird is just a bird. It doesn’t have to mean anything.

That’s true. Not everything has to mean something. 

But I have to be honest—one of my biggest pet peeves in spiritual communities is dismissing others’ experiences in this way. 

Because the truth is, the universe is always communicating with us. Who are you to say what does or doesn’t have meaning for another person?

The great advaita scholar Richard Miller, PhD, once spoke to this in a training while teaching us about the art of welcoming. As he explained, it’s too exhausting to keep trying to figure out which parts of life are trying to tell us something and which parts are so-called “normal life”, so he has the practice of “welcoming everything as a messenger”. 

This practice of welcoming is a beautiful way to fall deeper into relationship with all of life. Every sensation, emotion, encounter, or insight can provide an opportunity to open to and learn from spirit.

If this sounds overwhelming, not to worry. This doesn’t mean you need to go through life looking at every little thing as a symbol to decipher or every animal as a messenger bearing life-altering news. Instead, it means that spiritual guidance is always available to us. To access this wisdom:

  • Relax. You don’t need to overwhelm yourself by seeing every little thing that happens as a critical message. You will notice what you need to notice.  
  • If something does catch your attention, even if it’s something very common and “normal”, trust your intuition and recognize that you are noticing it for a reason.
  • You can also set an intention to receive a message from a spirit via the natural world. Bring your awareness into your heart, send your request to spirit, and then open your awareness, letting your attention wander and draw you to your answers.
  • Finally, once something does call your awareness, use the process outlined below to discover the meaning and messages it holds for you.

When to Pay Attention

Many teachers share that for an animal to actually mean something, rather than be a simple sighting, it must show itself to you four times. For example, let’s say you see a hawk on a walk, then on TV, then hear the word “hawk” in a conversation, and then find a hawk feather.

Still others will note that if an animal is behaving in an unusual way, it could very well carry a message for you.

If either of these happen, definitely pay attention.

And if you only see a normal animal doing normal things, but feel that there is a message for you, trust that too.

Maybe the Message is Love

Sometimes when our attention is drawn to something in nature—a beautiful flower, an animal sighting, or an unusual cloud—we’re receiving a blessing. In this case, you don’t necessarily need to go through the process below. Simply receive your hello from spirit and know that the “message” is love. 

Your 4-Step Guide

So, when you encounter an animal—whether a messenger in nature or an actual power animal—what are you to do? How do you figure out what the message is? How do you know what gifts your power animal carries?

Here’s the process I recommend for understanding your animal messengers and power animals. This is based on years of working with my own animal spirit guides and those of my clients.

Step 1

Journey to the spirit of the animal and ask them to teach you about themselves and your relationship. (If you don’t have a journey practice, Sandra Ingerman’s course, Experiencing the Shamanic Journey, offers a wonderful introduction to the practice.)

If the animal in question is one you’ve encountered in ordinary reality, you might like to ask:

  • Are you here to share a message with me, or are you appearing to bring my awareness to a new power animal relationship? Or both?
  • What is the message you bring me?

If you’ve received a power animal, whether from a power animal retrieval or another means, you might like to explore some or all of the following questions:

  • What medicine do you carry? 
  • What gifts would you like to share with me? 
  • How may I carry your medicine? 
  • What areas of life can you help me with?
  • Why are you appearing in my life now?
  • Are you a new power animal, or have you been with me for sometime?
  • May I have an attunement to your energy?
  • What name may I call you by?
  • How may I nurture our relationship?

Step 2

After you’ve done your journey or meditation, think about any pre-existing ideas or knowledge you already have about this animal. This process can provide many clues as to how the animal will support you.

Ask yourself:

  • What is my immediate reaction to this animal? Am I excited, fearful, surprised?
  • What symbology or associations do I think of first? 
  • Are there any stories or myths that come to mind?
  • What character traits do I personally connect with this animal?

Then, reflect on what your answers might mean for either a message or the unique gifts a power animal might share with you.

Step 3 

Once you’ve finished this personal exploration, it’s time to learn more about your animal in ordinary reality. Try to find out:

    • What do they eat?
    • Where do they live?
    • What is their social nature? Family dynamics?
    • What unique features stand out about this animal? 
    • When are they most active? Quietest?
    • What are their biggest threats? 
    • What do you find most fascinating about this animal?

Ask yourself how the following information might help you understand either the message or your power animal’s gifts. 

Step 4

Finally, go ahead and look up existing ideas about your power animal might mean. Even though we don’t want to fill our minds with other people’s and cultures’ ideas first, this information can be helpful. 

As you explore, pay attention to a few things:

  • What feels right and relevant? Where do you get an immediate hit or “ah-ha” moment?
  • What doesn’t feel right or relevant? Not everything you read will relate your personal relationship.
  • Does the animal have any particular meanings within your own ancestry? What about within other cultures you feel especially connected to?*

*Make sure to explore a variety of cultural mythologies at this stage, as each might have quite different interpretations of your animal. For example: In North America, many indegenous tribes associate the owl with death. Yet in Greek and Roman mythology, the owl was a bearer of wisdom. Though in China the owl was viewed as an ominous creature, the Japanese considered the owl to be a sign of good fortune. 

At this stage, I’ll encourage you to avoid the spirit guide websites out there—in my experience, many of them seem to exist just for profit and do not have the depth of meaning you can find in a book, such as Ted Andrew’s Animal Speak, Jamie Sam’s Medicine Cards, or Sounds True’s own The Book of Beasties by Sarah Seidelman. If you’re looking online, visiting sites that detail mythological or symbolic associations from more academic perspectives can be useful.

Receiving messages from spirit through the natural world is a gift that has been bestowed on humanity since the beginning of our species on this planet. Be gentle with yourself as you learn to read the signs and deepen your relationship with the natural world. It is your birthright. 

And, while the steps outlined here can initiate your journey into understanding your power animal, getting to know your power animal and its gifts is a lifelong journey. Revisit each of these steps often, and make sure to nurture your relationship with your power animal just as you would with a beloved friend.

If you’d like help discovering who your power animal is, be sure to check out Sandra Ingerman’s 6-week course, Experiencing the Shamanic Journey, which begins on September 8, 2020.

In this course, you’ll learn how to take a shamanic journey and meet one of your power animals! 

You can learn more about this wonderful course with Sandra here.

Juniper Stokes is an intuitive healer and spiritual teacher. She helps others activate and tune into their own intuition, healing abilities, and connection with spirit through private sessions, classes, and workshops. (And yes, this includes Power Animal Readings.) In touch with the spirit realms from a young age, Juniper has trained in wide variety of healing traditions, including Sandra Ingerman’s Two Year Shamanic Teacher Training program and Samahita’s Pranayama Teacher Training, to name a few. Juniper also writes behind the scenes at Sounds True and regularly leads guided shamanic journeys for Sounds True’s Shamanic Path Facebook page, which currently has nearly 30k members. In addition to her spiritual teaching and healing, Juniper is a clinical aromatherapist, herbalist, and flower essence practitioner. Her healing products, including a line of spiritually-infused botanical perfumes, will soon be available in the Alchemessence Apothecary.

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