Tag Archives: animals

Beauty Report: The beach and being in the present moment

Sandy beach, Long Beach. Long Island, New York, USAMy partner and I went to the beach on Monday. Being at the beach erases all troubles and allows us to be our most natural selves. When we’re at the beach, everything is ok. The sound of the waves caressing the shore lulls me to sleep. We soak in the rays of the sun, build sandcastles, watch seagulls. In this moment, life is perfect and beautiful. As we live only in the present moment, let me rephrase that to say…life is perfect and beautiful.

There is nothing like being in nature to reconnect us to Beauty. Nature soothes. Without distractions of phones, computers, traffic, noises, advertisements, or schedules, we can simply experience ourselves as human animal, primal, perfectly made for basking in the sun and playing in the waves. This is healing.

Beauty Reports are something we do in Forrest Yoga to acknowledge the overwhelming beauty of our lives, and to help us reconnect to our spirits, the things that feed us. A-ho.

 

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From the Archives: A Swan Appeared To Me in Kundalini Yoga

Here’s another archival yoga post from my old blog Metropolitan Observer. I wrote this post after a memorable and remarkable experience in a Kundalini Yoga class. I guess animal totems are still a potent theme, as just yesterday I blogged about animal symbology in divination.

Have you ever had a visual experience in a yoga class that stuck with you? If so, please share it. Would love to hear how others are being affected.

Namaste!

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Today’s class was to build intuitive faculties. This is an ability all humans have but lays dormant in many. In those who have it and know it, it’s often pushed into dormancy by ignoring it, not believing in it, or feeling cursed by it (I was one of these people and am now in the process of healing my intuitive powers).

We did two sets: one for the pituitary gland, as represented by the third eye point (6th chakra, its color is royal blue), which is the seat of intuition, and one for creating and conserving prana (life force) energy.

One of our first exercises was to assume a lunge pose and do breath of fire for about a minute while “seeing into” our future, literally lifting our gaze (eyes closed or open) and staring deep into our third eye point and seeing what comes.

I saw many things but the one that suprised me the most was a swan. A swan? I don’t even really “like” swans. They’ve never been an animal I felt any particular way about. I certainly never felt drawn to them as an animal totem as I do to the owl or the frog. So the vision of a swan in the midst of breath of fire was certainly bewildering.

Just a few days ago I found a site that has compiled a decent amount of symbolism about animal totems. When I got home, something reminded me about my swan visitation, so I decided to look it up and was amazed by what I found.

Swans represent grace, union, transformation, balance, dreams. Since they spend most of their time in water, usually building their nests at waterside, they also take on the symbolism of water: intuition, dreams, creativity, the subconscious. Finally, the swan represents harmony and balance as it exists seamlessly between three of the four elements: gliding along the water, flying through the skies, and nesting on earth. I was further blown away to find out that the swan represents divine partnership in Hinduism where the swan is the Hamsa bird, or two swans, Ham and Sa, float around “living on honey from the blooming lotus of knowledge.”

I am feeling my intuition growing throughout my Yoga Teacher Training and the puja we performed on May 14th, the night after the New Moon in Taurus (for which I also did some rituals at home) seems to have kicked it into overdrive.

I can’t recall ever thinking of a swan before. Sure I have seen them before, but I have not thought of a swan in ages, maybe ever.

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New Decks: Pathfinder, The Animal Totem Deck & Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards

I’ve always been interested in tarot, but it was my Sensual Shaman Immersion that really brought me face-to-face with animal totems. I’ve always had a passing interest in animal totems and guides, and had even downloaded some basic apps to my phone that I could look up an animal if one randomly crossed my path in a way that made me take notice. But I’d never explored it with the depth I found out this subject area has.

I’m an animal lover and have been all my life. If I could do my life over, I would totally become a zoologist or some kind of person that works directly with a wide variety of animals, not in a veterinary setting, more in a behavioral and observation setting, like a zoo keeper or other animal handler. So animals and animal symbolism have always played a role in my life. When I discovered the Pathfinder deck, I knew I had to bring it into my world and learn more about working with animals as totems and guides.

The Pathfinder deck is an 83-card deck that features a different animal portrait on each card. The Pathfinder can be used in much the same way any tarot deck is used, although there are some readings designed specifically for this deck, like the “Cat’s Paw” and “Bird Claw or Talon” spread. Each of the animal portraits was commissioned to an artist, and the cards were then sold online, mostly via word-of-mouth, by each individual artist and at a site about the cards. There’s even a blogger who dedicated a blog solely to readings done using the Pathfinder cards, but she seems to have abandoned the project since 2011. There’s still some interesting reading there.

Another deck I was recently introduced to is Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards. This deck uses animal symbolism but in a very different way than the Pathfinder deck does. Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ Shaman Cards have an image of an animal included amongst three other images: a plant life, a crystal, and a human. Tuning into the animal, crystal, plant, and human for “entrainment” (aligning your vibration with; coming into vibrational harmony with) to these different energies allows users of the Shaman cards to explore these energies and archetypes which are part of our collective consciousness.

The Shaman cards are used differently from typical tarot. First of all, the cards are large, about the size of a standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Each card has so many opportunities for entrainment that you really don’t need more than one card, although I’m sure someone has devised readings using multiple cards. But each individual Shaman card has so much to offer that it takes time getting through just one. The first step is entraining to each of the four energies (plant, animal, crystal, and human) on the card face, then entraining to the concept in the center (in the image I used to illustrate the Shaman Cards, it is “Strength”). Then you entrain to the concept, and how the four energies on the card relate to the concept in the center. It is a fascinating process that has much to reveal. For more details on how to use the Shaman Cards, as well as how to order them, check out Kenneth Ray Stubbs’ site.

I’m definitely a fan of animal symbology on both cards and in life. As I was just writing that sentence, two pigeons swooped by my window. Pigeons are common in the Northeast urban centers, but I checked Pigeon animal totemism anyway, and it says “love of home, love of community. Security in family and numbers. Your foundation, your heritage. The promise of a loving home.” Sitting here at my desk, clacking away at my laptop while looking out the window, I am in full glow of the love of my home, the love of my foundations, feeling the community I am blessed to have that offers me strength, love, and common bonds.

If you have any interest in animal totemism, symbology, or animal guides, I encourage you to look into it because it is an area rich in information. Are there any animals that speak to you? Do you have any memories of a particular incident involving an animal? Is there an animal you feel a particular affinity towards? These might be clues that may help you discover one of your animal guides.

During Isis Pheonix’s Sensual Shaman Immersion, we used shamanic journeying to discover our animal guide. In a complete surprise, mine was Eel. I will blog about that at some other time. Not a few days after discovering my totem animal through shamanic journeying, I literally came face-to-face with another animal that had uncannily similar information to Eel to offer me. That was American Woodcock, a lovely round bird that shouldn’t be in New York City, but was probably flying through on a migratory route, hit a window, and was injured and afraid when I found him huddled in a corner on 3rd Ave. and 43rd St. I’ll blog about him soon too. Then all weekend, I have had a fly in my apartment. I even opened the door, shooed him out, and he returned (or another, bigger hairier blacker fly took his place). Fly teaches adaptation, making the best even out of displeasurable circumstances. Fly can also warm us about our ego. Perhaps we are “bugging people” with our big buzzy ego. Maybe we are annoying someone just for kicks, to instigate something for fun or to get things moving.

Animal totemism can work like tarot in that it offers us a lens into our current inner world and allows us to organize our thoughts, perhaps even revealing things to use which we might not see if we were observing our situation just in a literal sense. Allow animals to speak to you and enter the world at a level beyond conscious thought; engage with the universe archetypically.

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