Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Animal Totem: Self Identity and Inner Strength

One of the most important skills I am learning is how to meditate. This technique of relaxation that focuses on calming the mind and allowing a deeper awareness to surface has been instrumental in helping me to learn to control my anxiety.

One of the most important aspects of awareness for me to learn is self awareness. In order to be successful I need to define my identity as I see it. For far too long my identity was comprised of what others saw in me, and allowing that to color how one sees oneself is dangerous.

So Sensei asked me to close my eyes and envision a forest. He asked me to wander its paths and admire its beauty, taking particular care to notice the animals that inhabited it. He encouraged me to see which animal spoke to me on a spiritual level.

It could be the animal I came across most frequently, my favorite animal, or simply the one that I was most curious about. If I took on the appearance of a specific animal chances were also good that this was my totem. In the forest, you become the animal that represents your soul.

For me this was not an easy task. I was skeptical about the value of totems and spirit guides, and the idea of wandering a forest, even one that is a figment of my imagination, alone at night is not one I was exactly comfortable with. But I continued to attempt to communicate with these ancient spirits as Sensei had asked.

Finally, on my fifth attempt, a grizzly bear cub walked out of the trees and simply sat on the path in front of me. I asked it if the grizzly bear was my totem. It nodded once and then I had suddenly taken on the form of a grizzly bear cub, though smaller and weaker than my companion.

I immediately ended my meditation session and contacted Sensei, who let me know that I had done the exercise correctly and then told me to find out as much about my animal, and the meanings of having it as a totem, that I could. Here is the first page I found that was helpful and here is another.

The bear is a fitting animal for me not just because of what it represents, but the way it is in nature too. Grizzly bears live in dens, sometimes holding more than one family unit. Cubs are looked after by the adults who bring food to them until they are ready to hunt and also protect them in times of danger. Do not threaten a grizzly cub unless you can take on a fully grown bear as well, or you have a deathwish.

Family is something I long for, that is very important to me, and the fact that I take the form of a cub in the forest lets me allow the bear clan that live there to be family to me, and care for me so I grow and prosper in the real world as a result. Also, consider the fact that I want to become a teacher. I see all my students as "my kids" and anyone that knows me will know I am very passionate about what I do and I take my job of nurturing and protecting my students seriously, much like a mother whose cubs have been threatened.

Since learning this part of my identity, my confidence and tenacity have increased tenfold. I pour myself into my training and everything around me, knowing I have the strength of the bear within me. I am beginning to find my inner strength


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