FORMING ANIMAL ALLIANCES
This is a book of co-creation, a gathering of humans and animals in mutual cooperation. I was sometimes surprised by what animals had to say — and often honored by the depth at which they shared.
Sometimes I would first research and write about an animal species, gathering information from mythology, tradition, wildlife observation, science, art, dream and literary references. That was my human way of looking in — observing, wondering, dissecting, analyzing, deliberating, musing, pondering.
My favorite part was opening to animal groups, asking for their input or teaching. In some cases, I felt animal energy while researching, sensing the excitement or eagerness of a group wanting to contribute or, in some cases, clarify. Other times, animals volunteered to speak first — to set the record straight before I had a chance to do my human digging.
This is one example of how we can form alliances with animals — in this case, a writer and many groups of animals finding a way to share teachings with other humans, with you.
The illustrator of this book, Ola Liola, experienced a similar deepening and connection to animals while drawing. While sharing notes and corresponding on this project, she wrote to me, “I feel not only a connection to an animal as I draw, but the painting process helps me deepen and get closer to understanding its essence. First it happened with cats. After I started to draw such independent animals, I slowly fell in love with them. I was not connected to them because all my life I lived with dogs. Cat was, for me, very distant. But by drawing and painting cats I found a similarity in our behavior, and now associate some features with myself. Each time I work with a new animal I feel a closeness; I feel how it enriches me. Sometimes I compare myself with these animals and feel like I have a part of each of them in my subconscious.”
Animal guides, power animals, totem animals and animal teachers — these terms can all refer to the energetic presence of an animal group. Sometimes when we work with animal teachers, we draw upon the larger dimensions of animal energy or spirit. But animal teachings come through physical animals as well, often in unusual and unexpected ways. The question is: are we listening?
One morning, shortly after narrowing my list of animal contributors for this book, a robin tapped insistently at a window pane, waking my husband and me. Though my husband shooed it off, the persistent robin flew to another window and tapped again. Suddenly, I realized that although I had cut Robin from the list, this bird wanted in. I went to the computer and added Robin, who stopped tapping. Later, while doing research, I discovered Robin inspires new endeavors, boosts creativity and teaches us about the wisdom of change.
Animal teachers come for many reasons. Some animals work with us for a lifetime. These animals generally speak to our spiritual nature, reminding us of long-range goals and overall life teachings.
Other animals come for a particular period of time, perhaps as we face a specific challenge or adventure. Sometimes multiple animals show up, with unique yet related messages, to encourage or remind us. When we finish our lesson, our teacher will move on. We may even receive a graduation message from this animal as a sign of completion.
Still other animals show up as messengers. Their teaching pertains to the moment, signals a specific opportunity or helps us decide at a crossroads. Such messengers may bring clarity or caution — a nudge to stop, encouragement to leap, or flash of spiritual insight.
Lastly, some animal teachers help with shadow material, revealing repressed fears or issues that trigger our darker emotions. Shadow teachers sometimes test us to determine whether we are ready for their medicine. Working with shadow teachers is not always easy — but can be very rewarding. Shadow animals may become some of our most powerful guides.
Animal teachers, helpers, advisors, partners and friends are all around us, all the time. If we remain alert and aware, open to learning through honest relationship, we can enjoy the many benefits and wonders that animal alliances bring. The animal world calls us home, in love.