Michille: My Spirit Animal and Creativity

Great_Blue_Heron_LandingMy creativity has been ramping up lately. And it hit me while at RWA why that is. My Spirit Animal has been crossing my path almost daily. I’ve been walking/jogging in a park with nice walking trails near my house and I see a Great Blue Heron nearly every time I’m there. I live on a farm with several water sources nearby so we have herons in our neck of the woods as well. And while at RWA in Orlando, I jogged every morning and saw two every morning. Some of you are probably thinking, “Well, Michille has gone off the rails.” And if someone had seriously uttered the words My Spirit Animal to me before I took a Jungian psychology course for my master’s degree, I would have said the same about them. But that was before . . .

I took a Jungian psychology course in which we were guided on a shamanic drumming journey in search of our “ego-free animal spirit guide” (I swear). When the professor (a guest speaker) came in the room and told us, I thought she was a lunatic. I mean, really, the vultures on her house didn’t really portend anything, right? (They actually did – someone died and the vultures never returned.) So what is a shamanic drumming journey?

We started with a ritual that involved burning herbs outside at dusk: sage, cedar, sweet grass, lavender, and mug wort for cleansing, purifying, presence of the Creator, healing and higher consciousness, respectively. It’s been a couple years, but I remember we turned to all four cardinal directions and murmured something to honor something-or-other all while the herbs were smoking and drifting around us. Then we lay down and made ourselves comfortable (very like savasana) while our guide for the journey played a steady beat on a native American drum with some serious history at about 120 to 130 beats per minute. This shifts the brain waves into a theta state (again like savasana if it’s done right), in which a person enters a light, aware trance much like lucid dreaming. Senses are heightened in this state – sight, hearing, sensation, even smell – and all the sensory experiences have meaning. The experiences offer messages which can be deciphered in order to understand one’s own personal symbols.

We journeyed to the lower world through a couple layers of middle underworlds in search of our “ego-free animal spirit guide.” Shamanic drumming journeys can seek power animals, spirit guides, ancestors, or angels to ask them questions about things, events or ourselves in relation to our lives. Once we’d entered the lower world, we created our own place and we populated it with what came to mind. The idea of being in a light trance is so that your subconscious mind can populate your world with things you might not choose in a fully conscious state. My mind created a world like a nature preserve with a Great Blue Heron, a deer, a duck, a mouse, and a bald eagle. When we were brought out of the lower world and back to this world, we analyzed the world we’d created. Bottom line, out of all the animals in the world I’d created, the Great Blue Heron was the one.

And since that class, I realize that the more Great Blue Herons I see, the more creative I am. I’m ecstatic that my creativity is back and my motivation with it. After my master’s, which was two very intense years, my fiction brain went on vacation. I studied craft ad nauseam, but didn’t do anything with it. My creative brain is firing again. WOOT!

A funny side note is that our guide, in explaining animal connections to the world and all that, she said that “if an animal sacrifices itself to you, like a bird hits the windshield, the animal is giving its energy to you for some reason.” Her advice was, “Use the energy.” Living where I do, deer sacrifice themselves on a regular basis to human energy. Groundhogs, skunks, squirrels, and rabbits do their part as well.

So I am using my Great Blue Heron energy, not from sacrifice, but because it’s showing itself to me almost daily. What is your talisman, lucky charm, ego-free animal spirit guide? Does anyone have one, or am I the only truly crazy writer among us?

23 thoughts on “Michille: My Spirit Animal and Creativity

  1. Not crazy, but very cool. On a super-practical standpoint, you’ve created a trigger or a reminder that you are a creative person, and every time you see a Great Blue Heron, you are reminded of that promise to yourself.

    I haven’t identified one yet, but there are animals I like who could fill the bill. I adore cats, Rex-the-dog fills me with joy, and I always feel lucky when I see the red-head cranes that live in the fields near my house. I feel a certain sympathy with fox fairy tales (and we have a lot of those guys too — they like to stay out of sight and bark at the dogs to drive them crazy). My most conflicted relationship might be with the crow. I admire their smarts, I find their vocalizations arresting, but there’s something very creepy and powerful about them.

    (-: I caught a short video on my cell phone of a city crow in Sapporo. It was hopping amongst the bike stands, and had a plastic bag of comic books. Maybe it fished it out of someone’s bike basket. The crazy thing was really going after these books, and finally flipped one out. Not what it wanted. Flipped out the other after a little effort. Went over, flipped it over. Decided that it had already read that one, too, apparently. Checked out the bag, but nothing left but disappointingly empty bread wrappers. Hopped away.

    I’m pretty sure that’s some sort of omen, but of what, I could not tell you.

    • You’re right, Michaeline. Seeing a Great Blue Heron does remind me of my creativity. It’s telling me, “Go forth and write!” Kay and I talked about spirit animals at RWA. She said she knows a woman who just picked one. We went on the journey to find out what our animal is, so I feel there is more to it than just picking. Part of it did have to do with what the animal means to you in your every day life, so you should probably keep the crow on your list of possibles.

  2. I would love to have a spirit animal! If it’s something I needed to see a lot, it would have to be a cat. In fact, maybe that is mine, since my cats cannot seem to leave me alone when I’m writing :-).

    Michaeline mentioned foxes – I, too, have a certain sympathy for them. We have lots of them around here (I’m sure your part of MD is the same). I’d never heard the noise they make until we had one keening under my daughter’s window a several years ago as it desperately tried to figure out how to get to the newborn kittens that were born in the bushes in front of our house. It’s an eerie sound, and I’m sure many of the stories involving foxes had something to do with that otherworldly noise they make.

    • We do have a lot of red foxes near us. They bark during mating season, which is a pretty creepy sound. They come right up to our yard through the field during mating season, too. In our neck of the woods, we have the oldest hunt club, maybe in the US, so red fox are live trapped to us in the hunt. Because really, what’s more fun than getting on a horse in the winter and chasing a fox into exhaustion?

      The psychology course I took was one of the best courses I’ve ever taken. My plot structure of the hero’s journey stems from that.

  3. Next time I see something with a blue heron on it (be it a plate, sticker, statue…whatever) I’m getting it for you so you can surround yourself with them at your desk. Probably not the same energy coming from an inanimate object, but there has to be some mojo in it, right?

    I’m not sure what my animal would be. I think dogs. Only because our dog is attached to me night and day, I can be wicked-mean to my kids when they piss me off, but always loving and kind to Chewie, and I swear he lowers my blood pressure (I think most pets do).

    Your shamanic journey sounds great, though! I would love to try something like that. I’ll have to see if one could do it, what with all the Native American presence we have here in AZ. I’m sure they offer something like that in Sedona. I do remember a time when my friends and I went to Monument Valley with a Native American tour guide. My friend found out during our tour that her brother was diagnosed with colon cancer. The guide, not knowing this, parked us under this giant rock formation that looked like an eagle’s head, complete with a hole in the rock for the eye, and sang a Native healing song. My friend felt this tremendous peace settle over her as he sang. There is something to being in tune with nature and one’s self.

    • I just realized that my license plate it the Maryland one with the heron on it. I never made the connection.

      I highly recommend trying a shamanic drumming journey. It was very interesting and informative on several levels, including insights into how native Americans veiw the world and how they use the rituals and the journey to enhance.

      • I was wondering if you had that Save the Chesapeake license plate. Totally apropos.

        I’m going to look into a shamanic journey. I think it would be fascinating. And I wouldn’t mind a kick-start to my creative process. It feels really helter-skelter right now.

  4. Can my spirit animal be flowers? If not, I’d say red-winged blackbirds (except I only see them in the summer) because I love their calls and their feathers and their Baby Mises in the rushes nests. Or loons (which I never see because I don’t live far enough north) but I have pictures and figurines and even a little stuffed animal loon in my writing cave.

    • I guess you can just pick an animal. We discovered ours through a process that included subconscious work. Once mine had been identified, it made so much sense, so if you’re more in touch with your inner self, you may be able to just pick. I’m not so much, so I needed help.

      And I like loons, too. We used to vacation on Great Pond in Maine (which is actually the pond in On Golden Pond) and they were fabulous to listen to and watch. They can go under water for long stretches and swim a fair distance under water for their size. We always used to try to track them and find them when they popped back up – not an easy task.

  5. I haven’t identified a spirit animal, but during my own Master’s work (business) we had a managerial class where we meditated, chanted, drew mandalas, etc. All with the purpose of identifying our core thoughts, beliefs, and motivations. Some treated the class like a joke (an easy “A”), but if you were willing to go all in, it was venally pretty powerful. I did some of my most creative work during that period, and that was pretty mush the only class from the whole program that has lasting value for me.

    On the last day of class, we wrote down a phrase (trigger) that would bring our thoughts back to that period. For years, whenever I found the business card that I had written the phrase on, it really triggered me creatively. I was sad when I eventually lost the card, and then thrilled years later when I found it again.

    • Soooo, what’s your phrase? I admitted to having an ego-free animal spirit guide. Give it up!

      In my mind, I was the one thinking it was a joke in the beginning, but the professor was fabulous and I got sooo much out of it. We studied a million heroes journeys (the final was an analysis of the movie The Never Ending Story), we did I Ching, dream work, art therapy, Myers-Briggs, amplification, active imagination, and of course studied archetypes from all over the world from pre-historic civilization to today. It was fabulous.

      • The phrase was “lighthearted joy” which, frankly, sometimes it is difficult to ever remember feeling.

        We also did one exercise that really freaked me out a bit. The instructor passed out a playing card – one of the face cards – to each of us, we did a deep guided meditation thing, and then we were supposed to have a question in our mind and focus on the playing card and we’d get the answer to our question. To this day, I’d swear the Jack on my card really did give me the answer. It was an “unlocking your subconscious” thing, but it was a little disturbing.

        • Thanks for sharing your phrase. I like it. It’s a good one for you because you are so positive and laid back during our writer time, and you find joy in every day things like Guinness cake and hardwood under vinyl. You might be totally different in your work time.

          I can tell you today, in my work world, there were no Great Blue Herons. Only spreadsheets, debits, credits and federal regs. I’m all about numbers – closing out grants for FY17 and amending extended ones, doing the master plan for our federal aid, and and and . . .

          The dream journaling was disturbing for me in my class. Some weird mojo crops up in my dreams. And analyzing it? I’m with you on the “a little disturbing” thing.

  6. Late joining the party here, but this is so cool, Michille! I’d always thought that identifying your spirit animal required taking the steps you did—doing the ritual, going into the trance, and all that—in part because you didn’t pick the animal, the animal revealed itself to you. And the animal might not be one you’d expect. I’m so glad the herons have been working their magic on you! They’re such glorious birds, even if they weren’t your spirit animal. I wonder how a regular person could find a shaman or whoever to lead this ritual?

    • Google it. I’m sure there are shamanic drumming practitioners all over the place. And you’re right, Kay, the heron was revealed to me. I don’t think it would have occurred to me as a spirit animal if just given a choice. I probably would have gone with deer since we have so many of them around us.

    • Ask around, I’d say, particularly in your city! Totally random statistic made up from thin air, but I would bet at least one out of five people have an aunt or uncle or nephew or niece who does this sort of thing. My aunt lives in Colorado, so that doesn’t help you much.

    • LOL, put like that . . . I see a series of short stories! The Google Shaman. Practically speaking, Aunt Bea would probably rave about her favorite spiritual guide and I’d get only one side. But with google . . . possibly I’d get a whole bunch of sides.

      I was in the bookstore this weekend and fell in love with the pictures of a card set called The Good Tarot. It was so gorgeous that I ignored that the instruction book was in Japanese — I feel quite strongly that images’ most important interpretation is the one that comes to your mind when you first look at the card. But when I went online, I found a lot of people hated the cards because they were only positive interpretations, and the pictures lacked traditional nuance.

      The card that sold me was Messenger of Water, upside down. Reminded me very, very much of my character Nixie Voss. So, in this case, Google Shaman didn’t have a useful thing to say to me. But the ways of Google Shaman are mysterious!

  7. I love the idea of having an ego-free animal guide. I think mine would be a deer. I love cats but they are not ego free in my book! My post today is about creativity in case you have time to look? Have an imaginative day! Sam 🙂

    • Thanks for chiming in. I saw a Great Blue Heron on my walk again this morning. I see them almost daily. I do believe that you need to find your true animal, though, not just decide which one you like the best. If you’re interested, find a shaman or someone trained who can guide you to your true spirit animal.

        • LOL, now I’m suddenly reminded of the Disney song, “Everybody Wants to be a (Swinging) Cat” or whatever the title was. I’d sure like to be a jazz cat! Finding a trustworthy spiritual guide to help you find a spirit animal sounds like a good way to connect on a very deep level. But I bet I could also benefit from a shallow, “animal of the month” approach.

          I’ve got two cats at them moment, and they have very distinct personalities, so if October were Cat Month for me, I could definitely humanize them and make my characters have some rather catlike decisions that also work for other mammals. Maybe next month could be the wisdom and community of elephants, and the month after that I explore the aggressiveness and power of hawks. It wouldn’t be the same as a full-fledged “spirit animal” but it could be interesting . . . . Hmm. I could do it for the writing sprints, anyway.

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