The Nature Connection
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
~ John Muir
“Everything I’ve learned about life, I’ve learned from _______. “
A plethora of books and articles have been written with this title, each with its own unique object. How would you fill in the blank? For me, the object - the great teacher of and about life - is nature.
I’m one of those individuals who believes that if you plant yourself in nature long enough, listen and look with the ears and eyes of the heart, nature will bless you with its wisdom. And that wisdom, purveyed by a flash of feather or a howl in the night, can tell you everything you need to know about how to live - really live - with dignity, joy, appreciation, courage, and so much more.
Animals are some of our greatest teachers. Grant yourself the guilty pleasure of simply sitting and watching bird antics and you’ll know what I mean. This morning as I sat in my rocker on our back porch, overlooking our garden a’flutter with birds - mating, feeding, nesting - I was grateful for the nudges of insight and inspiration that came from my observations.
From a Red-Winged Blackbird: determination, to make your place at the feeder of life when pushy, raucous starlings dominate.
From an American Goldfinch: loyalty and perseverance, through making hundreds of trips back and forth, from Bay to garden, one twig at a time, to build a nest for soon-to-be-born babes.
From a Mourning Dove: patience and generosity, to gracefully move out of the way; to share the bounty with others.
And so it goes.
Wherever you find yourself in Michigan this summer there will be an abundance of fur, fin, and feather who can share a bit of wisdom for your life’s journey. Ted Andrews, author of Discover Your Spirit Animal, wrote, “Animals reflect our spirit. They are our teachers, our guardians, our companions, and our totems … They reflect the potentials we can unfold …”
I know this to be true, for me anyway. It seems my eye is constantly attuned to the natural world, eager for what it has to say. And though I have never consciously pursued finding a “totem animal” - one unique creature whose presence reminds us of an important truth about ourselves, especially at pivotal times - I believe they are available to us.
Our Michigan Native American ancestors too believed in the power of totem animals to protect, guide, and teach. Set interpretations were often passed down from wise elders. Badger: Self reliance. Otter: Creativity and skill. Beaver: Working for our dreams. (TheAnimal-Wise Tarot by Ted Andrews, Dragonhawk Publishing, 1999)
Yet, Jungian psychology advises that when the presence of a certain animal makes itself repeatedly known (in real life or in dreams), it is prudent to simply free-associate what this animal represents to YOU. Let go of set notions and allow the creature to have its way with you. Even ask it questions. “Why are you here?” “Did I draw you to me or did you seek me out?” “What message do you wish to deliver?” Journaling the answers to these questions can be a fun exercise and, likely, you will be surprised at what is revealed (once your ego steps out of the way, that is).
As for me, I am most often drawn to birds. They seem to be completely cued into the present moment. They do what they need to do, second by second, seemingly without worry. They do not hoard and fight (usually). They exhibit great trust that everything they need to live will be provided for them - food, nesting material, shelter, warmth - one day at a time. That is a message I take to heart.
This summer, with Michigan’s wild creatures at their most playful and evident, may you stop, look, and listen, too. May you be a glad recipient of animal wisdom so the fullness of life can be yours.
Janice Lynne Lundy is an inspirational speaker, interfaith spiritual director, syndicated magazine columnist and the author of four self-help/spiritual growth books. Her newest is Your Truest Self: Embracing the Woman You Are Meant to Be (Sorin Books). Learn more about Jan at her website: www.awakenedliving.com. Join a growing community of awakened women at her blog: www.awakeisgood.blogspot.com