So I’m talking to one of the members of my Practitioners Circle when the discussion moved to working with animal totems. She is fairly new to the craft, having just begun to explore where her metaphysical abilities and interests might lie. And, as with all of us just starting out, she’s been using the internet to “enhance” her exploration. Not surprisingly, she’s quickly become overwhelmed with the staggering volume of information – books, webinars, classes, seminars, newsletters, workshops, blogs – that is available to her, all of which is fascinating and compelling but also – well – overwhelming.
Not so many years ago, it was not so – it was very hard to gather information from other metaphysical professionals. We wandered through bookstores looking for the “New Age” section, we culled the library card catalogs for topics like “ESP” or “Casey, Edgar.” Now, a cell phone and access to the internet puts EVERYTHING right at our fingertips.
Which brings us to that sense of being overwhelmed.
In an article titled, “Overcoming Information Overload,” Margarita Tartakovsky describes it this way: “Information is merely a click — or, more accurately, a Google search — away. Depending on your query, there’s likely at least a dozen, if not hundreds, of blogs on the topic, a similar number of books and many more articles. One bit of information leads to five facts, which leads to three articles, which leads to an interesting interview you must listen to right now, which leads to 10 pages in your browser. Every clue leads to another. Every clue uncovered is a prize in itself: learning something new and interesting and getting one step closer to the carrot (such as the answer to your original question). This is a good thing, but it also can overburden our brains.”
Okay, so we have overburdened brains. So what?
According to Lucy Jo Palladino, Ph.D, a psychologist and author of Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload, “Information overload occurs when a person is exposed to more information than the brain can process at one time.” Information or cognitive overload can lead to indecisiveness, bad decisions and stress, Palladino said. Indecisiveness or analysis paralysis occurs when you’re “overwhelmed by too many choices, your brain mildly freezes and by default, [and] you passively wait and see.” Or you make a hasty decision because vital facts get wedged between trivial ones, and you consider credible and non-credible sources equally, she said.
So, back to the discussion with my friend. With just a hint of despair in her voice, she remarked, “If I come across just one more class that I need to sign up for or one more book I’m supposed to read, I’m going to cry. Just the other day, I was watching a webinar that mentioned working with animal totems, and there was a link to a workshop that will show you how to recognize and work with your totems. Great, I thought, another class that takes time and that I can’t afford so I guess I’ll just have to wait on figuring out how to identify my animal totems until I can take the class. I want to make sure that I’m doing it right.”
Hang on – did you just say, “doing it right?”
Now flash back to just two days before this discussion. This same Circle member, who is also a co-worker, asked if I could come to her cubicle. When I get there, she whispers with just a hint of okay-this-is-really-icky in her voice, “There’s a bug in my cubicle,” and she points to a rather large insect that looks like some kind of beetle. Now, keep in mind that we work in a typical office environment – no open windows, no doors to the outside, few live plants – so the chances of even so much as a fly getting in are remote, let alone a some kind of big, icky beetle.
Then in equally hushed tones, she says, “You know what’s weird about this?” (As if seeing a beetle in her cubicle isn’t weird enough). “I saw this very same bug while I was getting my therapeutic massage a couple of days ago. It was inside the room with us. Do you think it could be a message?”
So now fast forward to this chat with my co-worker, who is honestly concerned about not having the time or the money to take a workshop on how to identify her own animal totems, and therefore, won’t be able to work with them.
So I asked her, “Remember the beetle in your cubicle? Why do you think you need to sign up for a class when it’s obvious that this beetle bug – icky or not – has made itself known to you already?” She looked puzzled.
Then I said, “Okay, so let’s look at this another way. Is there an animal that just resonates with you, that whenever you see it, you get a warm, fuzzy feeling?”
Without hesitating, she replied, “Oh yeah, when I was little, I had posters of lions all over my room. And whenever I go to the zoo, the first place I want to visit is the lion exhibit. And, I’ve always wanted to go to Africa to actually see lions. Plus, one of my favorite movies is” – wait for it, I think to myself – “The Lion King.”
“Then,” I said (trying hard not to have the merest hint of “are you joking” come into my voice), “Is it possible – just maybe –that Lion might be your animal totem? And that the beetle is here as your own personal messenger?
She looked a little sheepish at this point, and then she replied, “I didn’t think it would be that simple.”
Of course it can. And it should be that simple. It’s supposed to be that simple.
This experience with my co-worker comes up all the time for me, and one that we, as Practitioners, need to consider carefully when working with others. Metaphysical professionals see this all the time – an assumption on the part of the student that the way to enlightenment requires not only exploring all of the tools but using them all as well in order to ensure they do it the “right” way.
But if we believe that enlightenment cannot be achieved without using all of the tools available, and, moreover, classes and workshops are the only means by which we learn to use these tools, then the tools become a trap. Which for most of us means that instead of trusting ourselves to know what is in our best and highest interest, we “passively wait and see.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for asking for guidance when I need guidance. I sign up for classes, buy books, meet with my psychic mentor regularly. There are times when we need help from someone else who is further along the path, who has experience and wisdom and knowledge and tools that we need so that we may improve our own abilities in order to better assist, heal, and guide others.
But, for me, a critical component of practicing my craft is helping others recognize their OWN abilities, to trust their intuition, to carve out for themselves the path through the wilderness that is our time here on Earth.
You know the saying, KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. I use the KISS concept in my practice as well – but I define it as Keep It Simple, Spiritually. My practice is aimed at helping my clients empower themselves, giving them the tools they need to find their own way. And sometimes it’s as simple as helping them see what is obvious – not just to me as the Practitioner, but to them as well.
Here’s why I know this to be true.
When I first started exploring my own abilities, I, too, came across the concept of working with animal totems. And I, too, despaired of trying to figure this out in the “right” way. I thought, “Okay, I guess I’m supposed to meditate “really hard” until my animal totem reveals itself. Or maybe there’s a book I might be able to find that explains how I’m “supposed” to do this.” So I meditated “really hard” – come on, animal totem, where are you, ohm, ohm, ohm – and I saw lots of different animals but only because I wanted to and only because I thought it would be dandy if some really “cool” animal appeared to me, like Eagle (majestic) or Wolf (free-spirited and mystical) or even Lion. But I instinctively – dare I say, intuitively – knew that I was trying too hard, that I was mostly just making this up.
Then one day when I was cleaning my house, I found myself in my Rabbit Room.
That’s right, you heard me — my Rabbit Room.
I have a bedroom decorated with all of my rabbit memorabilia and artwork. And I have all of this rabbit memorabilia and artwork because for as long as I can remember, I have been completely mesmerized by all things bunny. If I went to a County Fair or petting zoo, I always made a beeline for the rabbit cages. If I saw a rabbit in the front yard, I would stop and watch it (still do, in fact). Over the years, I’ve collected rabbit statues, rabbit jewelry, and even rabbit cutlery, and people have given me paintings of rabbits. And, as part of my character that I play in historical reenactments, my symbol has always been the rabbit. I even travel with a stuffed bunny in my suitcase, who goes everywhere with me and has his own section on my Facebook page where he chronicles his travel adventures.
So standing in the middle of this room, it finally dawned on me – gee, could my animal totem actually be Rabbit? And even more importantly, could it actually be that simple?
In his now-classic book, “What Color is Your Parachute,” Richard Nelson Bolles makes this observation: “Your heart knows the places that it loves. Your mind knows the subjects that it loves. Your body knows the workout that it loves. Your soul knows the values that it loves. Therefore, my friend, what a “dream job” is all about (beyond skills) is identifying these favorite geographies, defining for yourself the places that your skills, your soul, and your body, heart, and mind, most often yearn to be.”
My work as a metaphysical practitioner is about helping people find the courage to listen to the truest part of themselves– their “favorite geographies” – in order to discover what speaks to the deepest part of their nature and to move forward from where they are to where they want to be.
In her book, This Time I Dance, Tama Kieves relates a dream she had: “You were meant to write books,” sighed the angel in the fantasy, running the movie. She bowed her head, as her feathers shuddered with my cosmic shock and loss. . . The angel in the after-death fantasy was the ghost that plagued my days. I did know. I did know. I did know.”
Surely, the most credible vital facts are what we know at the soul level about ourselves. And I think we all know our truths, our own credible vital facts.
A student once asked his teacher, “Master, what is enlightenment?” The master replied, “When hungry, eat. When tired, sleep.” (Pierre Teilhard De Chardin).
Let me add one more to the list: When seeking your truth, try looking in your Rabbit Room.