Animals in Dreams: Could it Be Your Animal Spirit Guide?

Animal Spirit Guides | True Radiance Healing ArtsShamanism is a tens-of-thousands of years old form of accessing guidance and impacting health and well-being for individuals and the community. It arose with a similar philosophy and techniques all over the globe – from Australia to Asia, Africa to North America, Europe to South America.

One of the core aspects of shamanism is a belief that everything has a spirit, including the plants, animals, elements, and even the land itself. Shamans and shamanic practitioners develop relationships with these spirits so that they can work together for the good of a community or an individual who comes to the shaman for help.

This working relationship with a spirit often begins with that spirit appearing to the shaman in a vision, a dream or even in waking life. In some cultures animal helpers could be inherited or exchanged, but more often the animal will volunteer itself such as in a dream.

From a shamanic perspective, animals or even plants who come into our dreams may be offering their wisdom or assistance. We in the United States do not currently live in a predominantly shamanic culture (though shamanic traditions in this area go back much further than our country’s existence and many of the people now living in the US have come from shamanic cultures), so animals in our dreams can have other associations and other meanings, too, but for now I want to focus on the shamanic perspective.

An animal may appear in your dream to offer you their help or to invite you into a working relationship. Some animal allies come to work with us in a particular way, for example, to assist with certain kinds of healing work. Other animals may appear to us because they are allies of a longer-term nature, voluntarily walking with us for many years or even our entire life to keep us physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. Sometimes called totem animals, power animals, or animal spirit guides, these are the animal equivalent of our guardian angels.

In some traditions a shaman would have just one primary animal ally their whole life; in other traditions they might have a number of them and they might change over the course of their lifetime. The animal spirit is understood to be not simply the spirit of one specific animal, but the spirit of the species – for example, not one particular eagle, but all eagles. It is also common for animal spirits to shape-shift into human forms and vice versa.

A shaman might call on an animal ally to protect them, to assist with healing work, or to give them information such as where to find food for the community, how to resolve an issue, or to show them the cause of someone’s illness.

These animal helpers also become guides for the shaman when they journey into the world behind the world. A journey is like a meditation, where a shaman sends their consciousness into non-ordinary reality, or what the Australian Aboriginals called “The Dreamtime.” On these excursions the animal ally assists the shaman in navigating these realms, helping them to find what they seek.

Animal spirits, along with ancestors, teachers, and others, may appear to us in dreams to let us know we are being called to develop ourselves spiritually – either to shamanic work specifically or to remind us that we are connected to all of creation. Traditionally, the calling or initiation into shamanic work would often come with a dream visitation by these helping spirits.

If you were to dream of an animal ally, it might be because they are acting in their role as tour guide and navigator. They might also be inviting you into a working relationship or offering their support. You might want to get to know the particular wisdom of that animal. Sometimes the animal’s strengths or traits are highlighted in the dream for you, at other times you may want to seek out a deeper understanding of the animal.

An animal may come to your dream to help answer a question you are pondering in your life. In this case, there may be a particular habit or ability of this animal that holds the key to the guidance you are seeking.

You can get to know the animal better by going into meditation and asking them to teach you about their nature. You can read about the symbolism of animals in books about animal spirit guides, but you will get more personally relevant information if you work with the animal spirit directly.

Many shamanic cultures believe it is possible to get separated from your animal guardian. Since our animal ally is believed to be an integral part of protecting us from illness, a low immune system is considered a sign that you may be in need of a power animal retrieval. Depression and fatigue can also be signs that one has lost power or would benefit from a power animal retrieval.

From this perspective, you may want to pay particular attention to the condition of animals in your dreams: are they sick, dying, or missing? If so, you may want to go back into the dream through meditation or shamanic journeying to tend to them.

In addition to meditation or journeying, developing and maintaining a relationship with animal spirits can be done through getting to know the animal’s habits, qualities, and strengths in waking life. You might want to do something to honor an animal who comes to you, such as putting up a picture of them or eating their favorite food.

You don’t have to practice shamanism to benefit from having an animal ally. You can call on your animal helpers in times of need, such as when you would like protection or if you’re not feeling well. It adds depth and spice to our lives to have a personal connection with the natural world and with the world of spirit that is often trying to assist us. I hope you enjoy getting to know your own animal allies better.

With love,

Susan

Dreams Point the Way Toward Your Life Purpose

Dreams Guide Us to Our Life Purpose | True Radiance Healing ArtsWhen I tell people that my dreams have been a guiding light in finding my life purpose, I get some strange looks.

I’ve always had a strong sense that our lives are not accidents, that we come to this life for a reason. By the time I was in my 30s, I knew the general direction to which I felt drawn…creative arts, supporting other people, spiritual exploration…but I couldn’t seem to get any clarity on what I had to offer the world that was uniquely mine.

I took every class or workshop that I could afford on an array of topics from personal productivity to shamanic healing and everything in between. I developed a great breadth of understanding about how we as human beings can thrive in our work and personal lives.

My strategy was a kind of shot-gun approach: if I learned everything then I would cover all the bases. Surely one of those things would be my life’s work.

I don’t know if you’ve ever had this feeling…that there is something you’re meant to be doing, but you just can’t pin it down. For me, it was deeply frustrating. I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall – and wasting precious time.

A clear sense of my life purpose finally came to me when I stopped running around, looking for signs of my life path out there and started looking inward, at my dreams.

Our dreams are messages from our Higher Self and they include guidance on everything from health to relationships to our life purpose.

When I began to take the time to understand my dreams and actually make decisions based on their input, my entire life changed. My life vision became clearer; I quit my “day job” and started my full-time practice supporting people in removing obstacles, changing patterns, and healing wounds using my own blend of life coaching and energy healing.

Over time, I’ve learned I can trust the information I get from my dreams. I’ve also found that if there’s a decision I’m pondering, or a choice I’ve just made, I can get feedback the very next night.

This guidance is available to you as well. It’s comforting to know that we, with our limited human perspective, are not alone on this journey. We aren’t meant to stumble through our lives haphazardly, hopefully bumping into the right path for us; we are meant to have help.

In my years as a student, I’ve also learned how to have a “dream” while fully awake. The technique some call “journeying” is one you can learn. I teach it in my workshops and private sessions with clients. It’s very powerful and comes in handy when you don’t usually remember your dreams or when you don’t want to wait until you fall asleep!

If you are ready to get your questions about your life path answered, sign up for my upcoming workshop on Living Your Life Purpose on May 14 & 15 in Edmonds, WA. I hope to see you there.

Wishing you great fulfillment,
Susan

Breaking Free of Fear

Breaking Free from Fear | True Radiance Healing ArtsFear is a common issue for many people. It can keep us from moving forward in our life in the ways we want to, rearing its head when we venture outside our routine. Fears can spring up after a difficult experience in our lives or they can follow us from early childhood.
From an evolutionary standpoint, one theory posits that our more fearful ancestors were more likely to survive and pass on their traits, thus leading us to be more fearful on average today. Getting past fear is an area I’ve worked on with many, many people — not to mention having plenty of opportunities to practice with myself!
In today’s post I offer a handful of tools for handling fears:
In some cases, you can alleviate the fear simply by talking to someone you trust about it. It’s often said that “fear breeds in the dark.” In other words, when you don’t examine fearful thoughts or beliefs in the bright light of day, they can intensify. What starts out as a mild aversion can become more serious if you let it go.
By talking about your fear with another person you get the chance to see, in many cases, how irrational or unlikely it really is. I’ve had the experience where even just hearing myself say it out loud made me realize how absurd it was–but until I did that I was convinced it was really something worth being frightened of.
When you are afraid, one tool that can help calm you down is a mantra that gets paired with the breath. If you find that your mind is getting carried away imagining a frightening scenario, take a breath in and say to yourself, “I am completely…” and on the exhale, “…stopping.” On the next inhale, tell yourself, “I am safe…” and with the exhale, “…and secure.” You can keep repeating this sentence until you feel a bit more calm.
Many times we spook ourselves with our thoughts. In other words, what we say to ourselves or what we imagine evokes the fear. We have this capacity because the part of our brain that is always on the look-out for potential threat can’t tell the difference between something we are imagining and something that is really happening now.
Take the time to deliberately notice your surroundings and how safe you are right now. Even though you may have been thinking about something that caused a fearful response, in fact you are probably not in danger in this moment.
Fear can also become a conditioned response. If you were in a frightening situation once, going back to the location or seeing the people involved in that particular event can evoke the same emotions, even though nothing bad is happening now. This conditioned response can be interrupted by stopping to relax, using the breathing mantra described above, and taking note of the elements that are different now from the initial event. It usually takes some repetition with interrupting the fear response for it to go away.
If you know you’re going into a situation that scares you, like talking in front of a group or meeting with a doctor to hear the results of a medical test, it can help to take a moment before going into the situation. Bring to mind the people who love you. Imagine their faces in front of you. Let yourself feel their love for you, and your love for them. This can reassure you and give you courage to do the things that scare you.
When you have something like a big project or a big life change that you know you want but it brings up fear for you, one of the things that can help is to break it down into baby steps. Focus on just the *very next step.* In some cases, this might look like focusing on just what you are doing today, or even just for the next hour, without letting your mind get caught up in thinking about the full scope of a project or life change.
These are just a few of the techniques I’ve found work for people when they want relief from a fear or to muster the courage to do something.
There are times a different kind of approach is helpful. For example, if you know you picked up a fear from one of your parents, teachers, or other significant person in your life then doing some work to separate your thoughts and feelings from theirs can be freeing.
Similarly, you may be carrying a fear that has been passed down not just by a parent but along a whole family line. You may have been be born into a family agreement that says, “we don’t do this kind of thing because bad things will come of it.” There can be great power in ending or renegotiating this agreement with our ancestors.
If you’re interested in how fears show up in our dreams, check out our radio show episode in the “So You Think You’re Awake?” archives.
I hope that you will try one or more of these tools for yourself. I think you’ll find them useful–I know I have.
With love,
Susan

Feeling Boxed In? Time to Break Your Own Rules

shutterstock_3559155 no entry sign When I was in training as a creativity coach I was also working on a jewelry show. I had been a jeweler for many years and I liked offering a spring show of all new work. The only problem was that at that point I had no ideas. So when I say I was working on a jewelry show, what I really mean was I was giving myself a bad time for not working on it.

I began to realize how much I limited my creativity. As soon as I would get an idea, I would shoot it down. It started to dawn on me how many rules I had for myself ― rules that were keeping me from starting to work.

I sat down one day and started a list of rules that I had absorbed from my family, my teachers, my culture. I paid particular attention to my rules around my creative work. Here are a few:

  1. Don’t waste materials.
  2. Only make things that people will want to buy.
  3. Save the very precious items for a “really good” project, if using them at all.

Looking at my list, it became quite clear to me why I wasn’t starting: I had boxed myself in. I couldn’t make a move that wouldn’t go against (or have a strong potential to go against) at least one of the restrictions I put on my creative work. Creating, like living, requires some experimentation and that means being willing to risk doing something that bombs.

Nearly all of us have internal rules we follow. I don’t just mean the ones laid down as laws in our society ― I mean “made up” rules we’ve picked up from those around us or created for ourselves after getting hurt (“I won’t ever do THAT again!”). Our rules often come from fears and are held in place by fear.

Here are some other rules we commonly try to abide by in our lives:

  1. Don’t look like an idiot in front of other people.
  2. If you can’t do it perfectly, don’t do it at all.
  3. You can’t call yourself an expert in anything unless you have a certificate or diploma for it.
  4. Don’t make other people uncomfortable.

Attempting to stay in line with all our rules can keep us from starting a project ― as it did for me ― or it can keep us from seeing options. Usually when we have the sense that we don’t have any choices in a situation, it’s because we’ve semi-consciously ruled out all the options before they even make it to full awareness.

Promise Necklace

Promise Necklace ~ part of the collection I created after breaking some of my own rules.

Once I had my list of rules, I re-evaluated each one and gave myself permission to break or ignore some. I still keep to wearing my seat belt while riding in the car, but I’ve completely broken my “don’t write in books” rule. It’s been tremendously liberating! And you know what else? I started a whole new collection of jewelry that spring that felt like the most original work I had ever done.

You can play, too. I think you’ll be amazed (1) how many rules you have and (2) how much energy it frees up when you are able to let go of some of those rules. Even just having the awareness of the way you restrict yourself in your life, your relationships, your work, the way you express (or not) your emotions, and more can help you to make a conscious choice about how you react, instead of being automatically lead by these rules.

What are the rules you live by?

  1.  _________________
  2.  _________________
  3.  _________________
  4.  _________________
  5.  _________________

Reflecting on each one, is this a restriction you want to continue following?

If not, give yourself permission to let it go. I found it easier to start by deliberately breaking little rules like the one about not writing in books. Once you discover that these rules are made up, it gives you more confidence in breaking them.


Dreams that point out we are limiting ourselves:
Your Higher Self communicates to you each night through your dreams. Dream symbols that show you are limiting yourself or holding back in some way are:

* boxes (from being “boxed in”)
* the number 4 (similar to a box, like four walls)


“Every problem, every dilemma, every dead end we find ourselves facing in life, only appears unsolvable inside a particular frame or point of view. Enlarge the box, or create another frame around the data, and problems vanish, while new opportunities appear.”
― Rosamund Stone Zander, The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life

Wishing you freedom, choices, and love,
Susan

“That’s Not My Baby” ~ Shying Away from Being Responsible

shutterstock_187462538 baby with arms up toward leftMost of us have had the experience of not wanting to take responsibility for an issue or area of our life. This reluctance can show up as denial, procrastination or avoidance with following through with tasks.

Our reluctance to deal with a situation can have it’s root in several places, including:

  • fear of increased pressure and unmeetable expectations,
  • thinking that we’re not capable of handling it,
  • fear of giving something up to make the changes we think would be required to address the issue,
  • rebelling against responsibility because we took on too much responsibility as children,
  • telling ourselves that it’s someone else’s problem to fix or not a problem at all, or
  • just straight up not wanting to deal with it.

Dreams will sometimes urge us to take responsibility for a part of life.
Your Higher Self communicates to you each night through your dreams. The primary dream symbol indicating this would be dreaming of a baby (not being pregnant, giving birth, or young children — those have a different meaning). Often times dreams like this feature a baby that is “not our baby,” just to highlight the fact that we aren’t currently taking responsibility for it.

Is there something in your life that you’re not attending to right now? Here’s a process that can help.

Notice what you’re saying to yourself about being responsible. Usually there is a story or belief sitting just below our conscious awareness about what being responsible means for us, about us, and regarding other’s expectations for us.

Grab a piece of paper and a pen right now and give yourself 3-5 minutes to write. Do your best to keep the pen moving, even if it means repeating what you just wrote. Begin your writing with “Being responsible for this means that…”

What did you discover as you did the writing exercise?

Reflecting on what you wrote, ask yourself “Is that really true?” Is it really true if I do this well one time that I should be able to do it well from now on? Is it really true that if I take responsibility for this, I’m letting someone else off the hook for their part in it? Is it really true that I can’t handle it?

As you question your beliefs about responsibility, see if you can identify the actual facts of the situation. What is the cost to you of *not* taking responsibility for this issue or area of your life?

What would being responsible look like in this situation? What might be a small step you could take toward it?

There are times when taking responsibility brings up fear or the feeling of being overwhelmed. Bring your focus of attention to the very next step. If you find yourself generalizing about what taking responsibility means for the future or thinking of all the steps involved, return your focus to today, right now.

I’ll leave you with a poem from David Whyte, below.
With love,
Susan

Start Close In 
Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
question,
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something
simple.

To hear
another’s voice,
follow
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
listening
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
thing
close in,
the step
you don’t want to take.

~David Whyte, River Flow: New and Selected Poems

Building Confidence

shutterstock_394052506 confident womanshutterstock_394052506 confident womanWhen learning something new, we usually aren’t very good at it. Please know that this is normal. If you want to bolster your confidence with a particular skill, the best way to do that is to practice, practice, practice.

If you are someone who expects yourself to be an expert with new skills or knowledge right away, getting yourself to engage in practicing that skill can be difficult. Try redefining success as being engaged in growing as a person, rather than executing a skill perfectly.

It can be challenging for us to believe in our abilities, even when they are clear to other people. We can distract ourselves from living our own brilliance by comparing our talents to those of other people. We forget that we are our own unique mix of strengths and gifts, different from anyone else and very much needed just as we are.

You may have had an experience growing up, either at school or with your family, of really shining at something and getting in trouble for it. Some of us were discouraged from bringing too much attention to ourselves, as though it were bad manners to be gifted at something. Or you may have drawn fire from someone who was jealous or uncomfortable with your innate talents.

In this case, you may need to give yourself permission to go against the “rules” of your parents or teachers. Doing some work to further separate yourself from their influence may be helpful.

When we lack confidence generally or in a particular area of our life we tend to hold back. Confidence can evolve naturally from having a lot of experience practicing a skill, but if we are holding ourselves back from practicing then we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to develop confidence in that way.

In addition to practicing, here are a few more ways to boost your confidence:

  • Remind yourself of past accomplishments and successes. You might want to write about them and keep it someplace you can reread it when you need a boost. One exercise I sometimes invite people to do in my classes is to think of a time when you were bold or courageous and it worked out, then write about it.
  • When someone gives you positive feedback that’s meaningful to you, save it someplace you can refer back to. If they gave this compliment verbally, jot it down. If they wrote you an email or a card, you might want to post it in a place where you see it regularly.
  • Our body posture actually influences the way we think. You can use this to your advantage by taking 2 minutes to strike a “power pose.” Think of your favorite superhero standing strong with head held high, shoulders back, hands on their hips. Or you can put your arms up in the air like an athlete who has just won a gold medal. Holding this pose for just 2 minutes will actually impact your mood and your thoughts.
  • There’s an old saying: “fake it ’til you make it.” This can be helpful when it comes to building confidence. Adopt the body language, posture, gestures, expressions and tone of voice that go along with being genuinely confident and practice acting that way. You can play with this in relatively low stakes situations like when you’re at the grocery store. This way it’s easier to tap into before going into a situation that makes you nervous.
  • An affirmation can be helpful with building confidence. An affirmation is basically creating a new thinking habit by deliberately repeating the new thought. Like any new habit, it takes repetition for the new habit to take hold. It helps if the statement you come up with is one that you can believe, at least a little bit. If the statement brings up resistance and disbelief for you then you’re just practicing resistance and disbelief around the thought.
  • Notice people who are like you, with similar background, education, or age, who are successful. Instead of comparing yourself to them, see if you can take it as proof that you can do it, too.

Dreams that encourage confidence
Your Higher Self communicates to you each night through your dreams. Though these symbols can hold other meanings as well, dream symbols that convey your Higher Self wants you to be more confident are:

  • men, especially a man who is very confident. This is not because men are more confident than woman; it’s because confidence draws on masculine energy, which we all have.
  • the number 1–this reminds you that you are unique.
  • the color white, especially when mixed or featured with other colors, can reflect faith, hope, or confidence.
  • being especially confident in a dream OR having a notable lack of confidence, such as telling other dream characters you’re not capable.

If you’re curious to hear more about how confidence shows up in dreams, hop on over to our radio show archive to listen to this episode.

“We have to risk being full of ourselves in order to see what we’re full of.” ~ Michael Meade

With love,

Susan

Life Purpose in Dreams

Because our life purpose is so central to our lives, our dreams often contain information about it.

While the entire dream would have to be looked at to understand the full message, here are a few symbols to look for in dreams that comment on our life purpose:

1. A dream character in a position of authority or with a title, such as a police officer, waitress, doctor, or shop owner. Whatever gifts these character possess are yours as well.

2. Special powers you have in a dream are often a reflection of or symbolic of skills you have in waking life, such as the ability to see spirits.

3. Parties, birthday parties, or celebrating Christmas in a dream can be about your birth and the gifts you brought with you.

4. Receiving a gift in a dream often shows us the gifts we are to use as part of our life purpose.

5. Ships in a harbor can be a pun on birth (berth) and thus alert us that the dream is addressing our birth.

6. Dreams that symbolically show the birth imprint, such as leaving a building (often through a narrow opening such as a window) or coming down from a high place also typically comment on our gifts. Other examples would be landing on earth from a space ship or coming down in an elevator.

If you want to know more about how dreams show our life purpose, you can listen to the archived episode of my radio show about dreams, healing and guidance, “So You Think You’re Awake,” where we focus on dreams about life purpose.

Conquering My Fear