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CHAPTER ONE: THE SPIRITUAL AND MAGICAL ROLES OF NATURE
There was a time when humanity recognized itself as part of nature, and nature as part of itself. Dreaming and waking were inseparable realities; the natural and the supernatural merged and blended. People used images of nature to express this unity and to instill a transpersonal kind of experience.
In the past shamans, priests, and priestesses were the keepers of the sacred knowledge of life. These individuals were tied to the rhythms and forces of nature. They were capable of walking the threads that link the invisible and visible worlds. They helped people remember that all trees are divine and that all animals speak to those who listen.
The early priest/ess-magicians would adopt the guise of animalswearing skins and masksto symbolize a reawakening and endowing of oneself with specific energies. They performed rituals in accordance with the natural rhythms of the seasons to awaken greater fertility and life. To them, every species and every aspect of its environment had the power to remind them of what they could manifest within their own life. It was an aid to bridge the natural world to the supernatural, awakening the realities of both within the environs of their own lives.
Though these rituals and behaviors may seem primitive and even silly to the rational minds of modern society, they are no less powerful today. And the laws that govern themphysical and spiritualare no less viable. Different societies expressed these laws in their own unique ways, but probably the most distinctly expressed is the ancient Hermetic Law of Correspondence: "As above, so below; as below, so above."2
This principle teaches that all things are connected and have significance. We cannot separate the physical from the spiritual, the visible from the invisible. "This Principle gives one the means of solving many a dark paradox and the hidden secret of Nature. . . . The ancient Hermeticists considered this principle as one of the most important mental instruments by which man was able to pry aside the obstacles which hid from view the Unknown . . . (it) enables man to reason intelligently from the Known to the Unknown."3
It is for this reason that a study of Nature Totems is essential for understanding how the spiritual is manifesting within our natural life. A totem is any natural object, being, or animal to whose phenomena and energy we feel closely associated with during our life.
We can use animal imagery and other nature totem images as a way to learn about ourselves and the invisible world. We do not have to believe that these images and totems are beings of great intelligence, but there are archetypal powers that reside behind and oversee all manifestations in Nature. These archetypes have their own qualities and characteristics which are reflected through the behaviors and activities of animals and other expressions of Nature. When we pay attention to and acknowledge a nature totem, we are honoring the essence that lies behind it. We are opening up and attuning to that essence. We can then use it to understand our own life circumstances more clearly. We can share in its power or "medicine." Nature totemsespecially animalsare symbols of specific kinds of energy we are manifesting and aligning with in our life. The animal becomes a symbol of a specific force of the invisible, spiritual realm manifesting within our own life. The characteristics and activities of these totems will reveal much about our own innate powers and abilities. By studying the totem and then learning to merge with it, we are able to call upon its archetypal energy whenever needed.
Terrestrial animals have always had a strong symbology associated with them.
They have represented the emotional side of life, often reflecting qualities that must be overcome, controlled, and/or re-expressed. They are also symbols of powerpowers associated with the invisible realm that we can learn to manifest within the visible.
Birds have often been considered the symbols of the soul. Their ability to fly reflects the ability within us to rise to new awareness, bridging the earth and the heavens. As totems, birds each have their own peculiar characteristics, but they can all be used to stimulate greater flights of hope, inspiration and ideas. Aquatic life can also be a totem. Water is an ancient symbol of the astral plane and the creative element of life. Various fish and other forms of aquatic life symbolize guidance to specific expressions of intuition and creative imagination. They can reflect the feminine side of our essence.
2 Three Initiates, The Kybalion (Chicago: The Yogi Publication Society, 1940), p. 28.
3 The Kybalion, Ibid., pp. 29-30.
The Masked Sorceror
A prevalent symbol associated with Shamanism, its image is taken from a prehistoric cave painting. Early man, surrounded by mysterious forces, responded to them through imitation.
Man attempted to bring the divine in accord with humanity. Priests used totems and images to assist in coming face to face with the mystery. Through dance, costume, and so forth, the priest or priestess would take complete identity with the deity and its powers. This is the symbol of the prophet, medicine person, and the manifestation of the powers of nature.
Images such as this invoke a presence which helps one to transcend the physical. Wearing the skins of the animals was a means of appeasing its spirit and honoring its power.
Insects are also a part of Nature, and they can be totems for us as well. From the bee of fertility in Egyptian myths, to the Mantis of the African Bushmen, to the many tales of the Spider Woman who created the universe, they hold a dynamic place within the spiritual scheme of Nature.
By studying and reading about the animals, birds, fish, insects, reptiles, etc., you encounter in your life, you can understand more about the circumstances you also encounter. You can learn much about the kind of energies you are most likely to confront and those you are most able to manifest within your own day-to-day life circumstances. You will learn how to draw upon those energies most effectively in dealing with life situations.
Nature has bestowed upon its inhabitants a natural ability for adaptation. This enables the animal to live in a particular place in a particular way. There are both physical and behavioral adaptations. A common example is the manner in which some animals may adapt to the cold, either through growing thicker fur or even migrating.
An animal such as a mountain goat has a dynamic adaptive ability for surviving in its mountain environment. Its feet are developed in such a manner that they can grip more strongly and securely. It also has more red blood cells, which assists it in surviving the colder temperatures in the mountains. By learning how our totems adapt to survive can assist us with our own lives by applying those same principles to our life circumstances.
This book's purpose is five-fold:
- It will help you to determine your Nature totems.
- It will help you in learning how to honor, attune, and invoke their energies more effectively into your life.
- It will assist you in discovering the hidden powers and significance of yourself, as is reflected by your totem.
- It will help you in applying the skills and adaptive powers of your totem to your own life environment.
- It will help you to learn the language of Nature (physical, spiritual, and magical) as it speaks to you every day, to read and apply what it says (through signs and omens), and in doing so help you to develop a greater reverence and respect for all life, and greater power and control in your own.
The true shaman, the true naturalist, works to reconnect conscious human life with Nature and Spirit through totems and ritual. The images of the animals and the expressions of Nature help us to transcend our normal, waking consciousness so that we can more easily attune to ethereal realms and beings. The first step begins with realizing that all vision and imagery, originating in Nature or the inner mind, has validity on some level.
The Symbolism of Animal Totems
Characteristics and activities of these specific animal forms and images will reveal much about our own innate powers and abilities.
What gets most of us into trouble is interpreting what is seen in the mind or in Nature itself. Reading, studying, and learning about what you see and experience is what will facilitate relating them to yourselves. Don't accept Nature totems without question. Put them through the verification process that you will learn later in this book.
Don't discard a totem simply because it may not seem glamorous or as powerful as your ego wanted. The totem may be quite appropriate for empowering your life.
Sometimes it is only through study and exploration of the specific totem that its significance will become clear. Remember that searching out the significance of Nature's expression to you is a way of honoring it.
Humanity has lost that instinctive tie to the rhythms and patterns of Nature, and with that loss has come a loss of the reality of magic. Nature tries to show us everyday that all forms of life can teach us. As we learn to listen to Nature, we break down our outworn perceptions. We find that magical creation is the force of life inherent in all things. And it is this, above all else, that Nature teaches to those who will learn from Her.
CHAPTER TWO: AWAKENING TO YOUR SPIRIT TOTEMS
The reality of spirit beings and their assistance to those in the physical has been a part of every major religion. The Greeks spoke to spirits and gods through oracles. The Bushmen of Africa developed ritual and myth from the movements and activities of animals such as the eland and mantis. The Native Americans imitated animals in dance and ritual to establish links with the spirit realm. Belief in the spiritual realms of life and all of its varied manifestations is universal. The most common belief in many societies is that spiritual guides often use animals or animal imagery to communicate their purpose and roles to humans.
In our modern, rational society there is a tendency to scoff at such possibilities. Spirit beingswhether in the form of saints, angels, ancestral contact, fairies and elves, demons, and even animal totemsfill our ancient myths and scriptures. When beliefs are as universal as these, some credence should be given them.
Their descriptions show them to be as diverse as the humans we meet on a daily basis. They serve many functions upon the planet. They help us to recognize our own innate abilities. They help empower us and protect us. Their energies can be used to help heal, inspire, and grow.
One of the most common forms spirit guides take are in the form of animals.
Most ancient societies studied the natural world in order to understand the supernatural. Gods and goddesses were often depicted as animals. Throughout this book we will examine how naturein the guise of animalsis a means by which the spiritual links with the physical. We will examine the symbolic and mythical aspects attributed to animals and how that should speak to us personally.
A totem is any natural object, animal, or being to whose phenomena and energy you feel closely associated with during your life. In this book we will be focusing predominantly upon spirit totems in the guise of animals. The study of animal totems is essential for understanding how the spiritual realm is manifesting within your natural life.
We can use animal totems and their images to learn about ourselves and the invisible world. We do not have to believe that these images and totems are beings of great intelligence, but there is an archetypal power that resides behind, oversees, and manifests through these creatures. These archetypes have their own qualities and characteristics which are reflected in the behaviors and activities of the animals.
A shaman works to reconnect conscious human life with nature and spirit through animal totems. The image of the animal helps the shaman to transcend the normal, waking consciousness so that he or she can more easily attune to the more ethereal realms and beings. By discovering your animal totem, studying it and then learning to merge with it, you will be able to call its energy forth whenever needed. You will be able to connect with specific archetypal forces and patterns through the animal and understand the patterns of your own life more effectively. When you honor the totem, you honor the essence that lies behind itbe it an actual force or a specific spirit being who uses the image and form of the animal to communicate with you.
Ancient priests and priestesses used animals totems to assist them in coming face to face with the spirit world. They would imitate the animals in posture, dress, and dance, creating rituals around it so as to invoke and share in the energy manifesting in the world through that animal. The animal became a totema power or medicine. It became a symbol of a specific kind of energy. When they awakened to that totem and honored it, they released the archetypal energies behind it into their lives.
You can learn to access that same energy. By doing so, you begin to learn the language of nature and open yourself to her secrets. The first step, though, is to determine what your animal totem(s) might be. There are techniques to help you identify your personal animal totems. Most are simple and require little more than increased observation and the application of your own creative imagination. That is what this book will help teach you.
Most people equate the imagination with unreality. Nothing could be further from the truth. The imagination is a power of the mind to create and work with images. It is this ability which can open us to other realms, assist us in healing, help us to discover lost knowledge and to open to higher vision and even prophecy.
Through creative imagination we begin to see the spiritual energies surrounding and interplaying with the physical world. What we consider imagination is a reality in some form on levels beyond the normal sensory world. With creative imagination, we create a new kind of awareness, a new kind of experience in color and form. This triggers higher forms of inspiration and intuition, giving us a higher undersanding of the conditions of our lives and the spiritual energies affecting it. Images are the tools to link with the spiritually creative world. It is what helps you to identify your spirit totems and awaken their energies in your life.
As you begin to identify and recognize your animal totems, you will begin to understand your life more effectively. You will be able to develop a more unique view of yourself, along with a new look at reality. You will find yourself filled with new inspiration, and you will find yourself more creative within your life. The more you understand your totem, the more you will understand yourself.
DO YOU KNOW YOUR ANIMAL TOTEMS?
(Begin the process of discovering your animal totems by examining the animals you have been most interested in and the times of your life that interest was piqued. Use the following questionnaire to help you determine which animals are probably totems to you in your life.)
- Which animal or bird has always fascinated you? (We are drawn to that which most resonates with us. Those animals which fascinate us have something to teach us.)
- When you visit the zoo, which animal do you wish to visit the most or first? (As a child, this is especially important. Children are more naturally open and thus are able to more easily recognize the animal that will be important to them.)
- What animal(s) do you see most frequently when you are out in nature? Have you had encounters with animals in the wild? (The animals we encounter, in the city environment or in the wild, have significance for us. We can learn from them, even if only about survival within that environment.)
- Of all the animals in the world, which are you most interested in now? (Our interests in animals change. Yes, we usually have one or two that are lifetime, power animals, but others become prominent when there is something important or specific to teach us.)
- What animal most frightens you? (That which we fear the most is often something we must learn to come to terms with. When we do that, it then becomes a power. Some shamans believe that fears will take the shape of animals, and only when we confront them without fear do their powers/medicine work for us instead of against us. Such an animal becomes a shadow totem.)
- Have you ever been bitten or attacked by an animal? (Historically, if a shaman survived an attack, it was believed that the animal was the shaman's spirit totem and the attack was the totem's way of testing the shaman's ability to handle the power.)
- Do you have dreams with animals in them or are there animal dreams you have never forgotten? (This is especially important if the dreams are recurring or if at least the animal image in the dream is a recurring one. Children often dream of animals, and attention should be given to these animals. They will often reflect specific spirit totems of the child.)
THE BASICS OF ANIMAL TOTEMS
Animal totems go by a variety of names. They are called spirit animals, power animals, totem helpers and others. Regardless of how people refer to them, certain beliefs are common:
- Every animal has a powerful spirit.
- This spirit may be its own, or that of a being who uses the animal image to communicate messages of the world to humans.
- Every animal has its own talents. A study of its talents will reveal the kind of medicine, magic, and power it can help you to develop within your own life. Remember, every animal has a specialty.
- Lifelong power animals are usually wild, not domesticated, animals. There are a few exceptions, but even these exceptions are often just links to the true power animal. For example, people may have dogs or cats as totems. These have their own medicine and power, but the domesticated animal may only be a softened form of its wild counterpart. A dog may be a link to the wolf, coyote, or any of the wild canine family. A cat may be a link to a member of the wild feline family, such as panthers, lions, tigers, and such. For many, beginning with the domesticated form of the totem is a way of laying a foundation so that some day they will be able to handle and work more effectively with its true power form.
- The animal chooses the person, not the other way around. Many believe that they can just choose an animal and start communicating with it. Usually ego gets in the way at these times. The individual chooses the animal he or she believes to be most glamorous and powerful, rather than what is harmonious to the individual. The results are ineffectual and often frustrating. No animal is better or worse than any other. Every animal's medicine is unique. It is always much better to be powerful in mouse medicine than to be clumsy and ineffectual in eagle medicine. You will find your greatest success in the animal that comes to you.
When I was about four years old, a spirit wolf came to me. At the time I shared a bedroom with two older brothers and one who was two years younger. On this particular night, my father had taken my two older brothers to a ball game, and I was to sleep in the room alone with my younger brother.
I was in bed when I saw lights against the wall. There was a soft film and then an older woman and a wolf stepped into the room. I started screaming and calling to my mother who came running down the hall and into the room. As I blurted out about the wolf and the lady, she kind of smiled and tucked the blankets in around me, all the while telling me that I was just having a bad dream.
I knew it wasn't a dream though, as the woman and the wolf were standing about three feet behind my mother. She just shushed me, saying to go back to sleep because she didn't want to wake up my brother Tom. She then left.
She no sooner left and the woman and the wolf drew closer. Both seemed to be smiling gently, but that didn't matter to me at the time. I started calling out to Mom again. She opened the door and again tried to tell me there was no one there that it was all a dream. This time she told me to come sleep in her bed, telling me, "They can't get you in here."
Her words had no effect, for the woman and the wolf followed us into her room. I just pulled the covers over my head and tried to pretend they weren't there.
I would see the wolf often from that time on, and occasionally the woman, who called herself Grandmother. I eventually became more and more comfortable with them, but I never told anyone again about them because I knew they would not believe me. It would be years later before I was able to put it all together and realize who and what they were.
Wolf encounters still continue to this daynot only in my dreams, but as spirit beings around me. I have also been privileged to meet the wolf in the wild. You must develop a relationship with your totem. To communicate with them demands respect. You must learn their point of view. Animals won't just warm up to you immediately. They must learn to trust you and your limitations, and you must learn to trust them and their limitations. This takes time, patience and practice.You must honor your totem for its medicine to be effective in your life. The more you honor themthe more significance you give them within your lifethe more powerful and effective they become. Some of the ways you can honor them and draw them closer into your life is by:
- Hanging pictures of them
- Drawing pictures of them
- Reading and learning as much about them as possible
- Buying figurines of your totem for yourself or purchasing small tokens and images of your totem and giving them to friends as gifts. These fetishes are a reminder of the power and spirit of your animal totem.
- Donating to wildlife organizations with time and/or money.
- Dancing to honor your totem is a powerful link. Learn to mimic its behaviors. If it's a turtle, learn to creep like a turtle. If it's a lion, learn to crouch like a lion. If it's a bird, imitate its hopping or flying.
- And most importantly, keeping the animal alive within your imagination. See your self as the animal totem using its qualities in appropriate places within your life.
Remember that the imagination is a real link to your totem.
Owls came to me often in my dreams during childhood. Then at about the age of 12, the visits became less frequent. Before I was out of high school they had stopped. Years later, the owl came once more into my dreams. I asked it where it had been.
"I can not stay while the heart is closed."
I remember looking at it, puzzled, and I am sure the owl smiled at my response. "I am silent when around you, but I will return when the heart is open and that which you allowed to help close your heart is gone. You have needed others more than me through these years."
I then saw movement behind the owl, and I saw all of the great cats that had visited me so often in my dreams since my teenage yearsthe panthers, the cougars, and the tigers. I then was shown an image of my father and the way he often treated my brothers and I, and I awoke. Years later, the owl began to show up in my dreams againalways at a distance and always silentusually in dreams replaying childhood gatherings.
In 1989 my good friend Quenda Healing Woman gifted me with some owl teachings. My eyes filled with tears and my throat became tight.
Images of death and funerals filled my mind. I knew then my father would soon pass away.
Two months later my father died of cancer. And the owl visits me regularly once more in my dreams.
Individuals who are in close relationships may share a totem. That totem becomes a guide to making the relationship stronger and more productive. The totem may watch over the couple. Totem sharing is not limited to couples. Healing and meditation groups often share a totem animal, to oversee the activities.
A wolf is a totem that my wife and I both share. It works with each of us individually in separate ways, but also as a couple. A number of years back, my wife and I took a canoe trip at the time of my birthday into northern Ontario. On midnight of my birthday, we were awakened by distant wolf howls.
This was unique for they were rarely heard at this time of year. The howling continued off and on all night. Each time it picked up, it would come from a different direction. It was one of the best birthday presents I had ever received.
On another occasion we also made a trip to Superior National Forest, hoping to physically connect with the wolf totem. People visit Superior year after year with no wolf contact, but we felt if the wolf were truly our totem we should have faith and try. As we prepared to leave the area, disappointed, a beautiful wolf stepped out from the trees and stood about 30 feet in front of us. It turned and stared, its eyes locked on ours for what seemed an eternity. Then it crossed and followed us in the shadows of the trees before disappearing once more into the woods, leaving us thrilled and blessed.
MEETING YOUR ANIMAL TOTEM
The exercise that follows is one that will assist you in meeting your animal totem. We will be using the creative imagination to help open the animal realm to you more effectively. Don't worry that you might be making it up. You would not be imagining it if it did not have some significance to you.
It is important to be relaxed and to not perform the exercise with any pre-conceived notions. Let the animal totem present itself to you. Let it choose you.
Awakening to Your Animal Totem
Learning to draw upon the energies of your animal totem through the use of creative imagination is essential to awakening the magic and power of its medicine rather than you choose it. Keep in mind that the totem will have symbolic significance to you. The more you learn about it and meditate on how it might reflect your own life, the easier it will become to access its energies.
In exercises such as these, most people get into trouble with the interpretation of the images encountered. Your nature totem may be a bird, a mammal, or even an insect or reptile. Read, study, and learn about your nature totem to facilitate your being able to relate it to yourself. Don't just accept the totem without question. The imagination is a wonderful tool, but if not used properly, it can mislead. Put your totem through a simple verification process:
- How does it feel?
- What emotions/sensations does it arouse in you?
- Is it an animal you that interested you in the past?
- What does it make you think of?
- What is your heartfelt response? Do not haphazardly discard it, simply because it is not as glamorous as what your ego may have wanted. The totem may be quite appropriate to you, but you will not know until you study and explore more closely the qualities and characteristics of it. Use the dictionaries in this book to assist you, but do not limit yourself to them.
Do your own exploration. Searching out the significance of the totem and its application to you and your life circumstances is a way of honoring it. It is the first step in opening a communication that can lead to true animal-speak.
If after your studying and exploration you cannot find its application to you, perform the exercise again. If you have a totem appear with fangs showing or it is in any way frightening, simply come out of the exercise. There will be no harm. You can end wherever you wish. You can experience as much as you wish. Totems teach that there is but one moment and you are in charge of that moment.
Keep in mind too that frightening images are more often than not projections of your own fears. They may also be expressions of resistance. It is amazing sometimes how programmed we are not to accept anything that can't be rationally explained in the moment. Most people have some degree of programming of the idea"Better the devil you know than the one you don't."
When you start exploring the inner realms and their play upon the outer world through nature, it can be a little disturbing. There is often a sense of being vulnerable and unprotected, of having no control. If you find yourself encountering fear and resistance, think about your favorite pet, and imagine taking it along with you in the exercise. This will calm you, and its energy is always loving and protective to you on the inner realms.
With exercises such as those that follow, individuals often wonder if they are experiencing a true shamanic journey. The difference is simply in the depth of experience. In a true shamanic journey, you are actually in it, feeling it and experiencing it first hand. It will not always follow a prescribed pattern. In meditational exercises, such as the following, you often observe yourself experiencing the situation or imagining how it would be experienced. With time and practice the meditation can become a doorway to a true journey.
Most exercises to discover one's totem can follow a basic pattern:
- Entering a cave or tree.
- Leaving the cave or tree to enter a meadow or natural area.
- Experiencing peacefulness of nature.
- Allowing the totem to enter the scene.
- Allowing the animal to speak to youits movement, sounds, form, color, etc, will give you a message about its power. You may even hear its thoughts in your own. Allow it to tell you or show you how it has helped you in the past and how it will do so in the future.
- Give thanks to it for making itself known, and ask it for some tangible confirmation in the next week or so that it is truly your animal totem. Such confirmations can come in many ways. You may see its face in the markings of a stone. It may come to you in a dream. You may encounter figurines, pictures or television programs on it, but if it is truly your totem, there will come some confirmation of its presence in tangible form, in a quantity that is more than coincidence.
- Move back to the cave or tree and step back through it to its other entrance point. Then step out from it.
- Take four or five slow, deep breaths and allow yourself to feel grounded and connected.
- Begin your verification process. Research and study the totem and its qualities. Meditate and contemplate on its qualities as they apply to you and your life circumstances.
Drums and rattles are effective instruments to use, although they are not crucial. If drums and rattles are used, the rhythm should be slow and steady. You should allow the drum beat to lead you. I recommend you not do any imaging, but simply sit and feel the drumbeat for at least five minutes. This relaxes you and brings your body rhythms into synchronization with the drum. If you do not have drums or a rattle, you may use some soft music that is repetitive and nonintrusive.
Make sure you will not be disturbed. Take the phone off the hook, lock the door, and/or do whatever is necessary so that you will not be interrupted. Make yourself comfortable. Sit or lie down, whichever is easiest for you, but make sure your back is straight so that the blood can flow freely up the spine. Close your eyes and breathe deeply. Then begin to perform a progressive relaxation. Focus on each part of your body, sending warm, soothing sensations through it. Begin at the feet and work your way to the top of your head. Take your time with this. The more relaxed you are, the more effective the exercise will be. Don't worry if your mind wanders. Just bring it back to where you left off and continue. Then simply imagine the scenes that follow.
As you relax, you find yourself growing lighter and lighter. The surroundings seem to fade, and you are wrapped in the warm dark cloak of your own energy and mind. It is safe, warm and comfortable.
In your mind's eye you begin to see soft light, and slowly the view opens. You find yourself at the edge of a crystalline pool of water. The sky above is blue, and there is a soft haze on the distant horizon. Above you, the sun and the moon can be seen together in the sky. You are not sure if it is dusk or dawn, but you know it is one of those powerful "Between Times," a time in which there is a thinning of the veils between the physical and the spiritual.
To your right, at the end of the pool, is a waterfall. The spray from it is cool and misty, and where it touches the pool, water ripples outward, distorting all reflections. It gives the area a surreal appearance.
You look about you at the green grasses and the distant trees, and all is silent. It is as if nature is in a state of quiet anticipation. You look back to the waterfall and you notice a dark area behind it. You move toward it, and as you stand close to the waterfall, you see a cave half-concealed behind it. You step carefully behind the waters and into the muted darkness of the inner cave.
You are surprised, for it is illuminated with soft torches. The light given off from them give the open chamber a warmth. Somehow it looks familiar, and it makes you feel as if you were expected.
To the back of that chamber is a tunnel that is also lit with torches. You glance over your shoulder to the area beyond the waterfall, and then walk further into the cave. It is as warm and comfortable as it first appeared, and as you step further in toward that back tunnel, you feel a slight giddiness, and a soft childlike laugh slips out. For the first time in a long time, you feel like a child, about to open and explore wondrous treasures of the world.
You step from the chamber onto the path of the tunnel and begin to follow it slowly. It is well lit, and you are not at all uncomfortable. You reach out and touch the walls with your hands, and you are surprised at their warmth. It is as if you could feel the life blood of the earth itself flowing through its walls.
As you move further along, the tunnel widens and grows taller. The torches are fewer and more distant, but you notice that it seems to be getting lighter still. Then you pass a couple of torches that are not even lit. You stop and touch them, just to confirm they have not recently gone out, and then as you look ahead, you see the reason. The tunnel has widened so greatly that the sun is able to penetrate almost fifty yards back.
You can see beyond the end of the tunnel. There is a distant river and lush green grass. The sunlight sparkles off of it as it would the morning dew on a summer's day. Across the field is the edge of a rich, deep-green forest. You pause only a moment, and then you run the last fifty yards and burst from the tunnel into the warm sunlight of this beautiful meadow.
The sun is warm upon your face, and the grass soft beneath your feet. Your nose is teased with the fragrance of honey and spring wildflowers. The air is sweet, and you tilt your head back and stretch your arms wide. You spin and swirl and laugh at the beauty and lightness of this meadow.
Next to the river is a large, ancient oak tree. Surrounding it is the greenest and most lush grass you have ever seen. You run to it and sit down beneath it. You stretch out, and roll in its softness, and you inhale its sweetness. Then you sit up. Next to the tree is a stone, shaped as if carved into a chair.
You sit down upon it, and as you do, you find that it fits your form perfectly. It makes you giggle with wonder. You breathe deeply, and from this chair you look about you. It is quiet and peaceful, and you know that this meadow is a place where wildlife must surely come, and for a moment you envy the animals and the birds for having such a place of beauty.
You sit upon that stone chair and you enjoy the beauty of nature. It is as if with each breath you become more and more a part of it, and it becomes more and more a part of you.
Then suddenly your breath catches. You see a movement out of the corner of your eye at the edge of the forest. You hold your breath. Maybe you will get to see some wildlife. Then from among the trees comes movement.
It may soar above you or it may step out into the meadow. You sit still, watching, as an animal appears in your vision. Don't force it. Allow it to show itself to you. And as it does, its eyes seek you out and hold your gaze.
Never have you seen anything so wonderful, so unique. Such animals have always seemed so wild and out of touch. There is no fear as it moves closer, only recognition and wonder. Surely this must be a dream! Then, as if in response to your thoughts, it makes a sound, a movement, a gesture and you fix your eyes upon it. In that moment you begin to understand. You catch glimpses of memories of how it may have helped you in the past. You now know why you have always been fascinated with it. And then it begins to move toward that tunnel. It pauses and turns to look back at you, as if telling you it is time to go on. You stand and begin to follow it. As you approach the mouth of the tunnel, it waits. It is so close; with a few steps you could touch it.
Carefully, gently you extend your hand out to it, but before your hand gets close enough to actually touch it, it jumps and is heading back to the edge of the forest. It pauses, looking back at you once more and then disappears into the green.
You understand. It will take time to develop a relationship. There is much you have to learn from each other. Until then you must be patient. You smile a sweet sadness, and then move back into the tunnel following it back to the waterfall.
As you step from the cave and behind the waterfall, you look into the crystal pool. You see your reflection rippling, and then behind your reflection you see the form of your animal totem. You catch your breath and you laugh, thanking it for opening to you. As you do, its image disappears, and the scene around you begins to fade. You are again in the warm darkness of your own mind. The image of your totem is strong within you, as you breathe deeply and allow yourself to come back to your surroundings.