My experience in the bushlands allowed me to discover that I was in the crow clan. Afterwards, the elders stressed to me the importance of finding my individual spirit animal as well, since these animal allies connect individuals more deeply to their own nature. To discover my Aboriginal animal ally, I was taken deep into a cave that went straight down into the earth. While in the bright Australian sunshine, I’d been excited by the prospect of discovering my spirit animal… but as I started my climb deep down into the darkness, I was scared. I was instructed to get down on the ground, stretch my body out on a flat rock, and close my eyes. I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to leave. The walls felt as if they might collapse on top of me, and I just didn’t feel right, but I forced myself to think about this experience as the opportunity of a lifetime, reminding myself how lucky I was to be there.
As I lay on my back on the cold stone slab, my body began to shiver. The air was damp and musty. Chilly whiffs of a mouldy, fetid odour entered my nostrils – it was as if something had fallen into the cave, crawled into a crevice, and died. I could make out the faint glow of light from the opening overhead, but down in the bowels of the cave, it was so dark that it was difficult to see anything around me.
At some point I dozed off and drifted into a dream state. I found myself on a sunny rock where everything was bright green, and I didn’t know where I was. I felt much smaller than usual, yet it didn’t seem abnormal that I wasn’t my usual size; in fact, none of what surrounded me seemed unfamiliar. As I looked up at a large leaf above me, I realized that the sunlight shining through it was bathing everything underneath – including my tiny body – in a greenish light. I then peered down at my feet and observed that they’d transformed into claws; when I examined my arms, they appeared to be full of scales. Yet none of this seemed strange to me. In a remote part of my mind, I remember thinking Wow! Cool – I’m a lizard! Although I must have realized that I was dreaming, it all seemed so real.
Then all those lizardlike sensations abruptly disappeared, and something inside of me changed. I felt an intense and dark force winding its way through my body, like a sidewinder writhing back and forth inside my abdomen, and I couldn’t stop it. Then, just as quickly as it entered, it slithered out of me. It didn’t feel evil – just powerful and wild. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but the experience frightened me tremendously.
I don’t know how long I was dreaming. When I opened my eyes and returned to my own body, I felt dizzy and unwell. The elders surrounded me and asked what animal I became. I shakily answered, ‘I was some kind of lizard.’ I didn’t want to talk about it, though . . . I just wanted to leave. It took great effort on my part not to cut the process short. I knew that it was the kind of experience that people yearned for, so I denied my body’s gut reaction and convinced myself to stay longer in order to keep sharing my dream.
The Aborigines asked questions about the colour and shape of the lizard until they could determine exactly what kind I’d become. I could tell from their expressions that they hadn’t expected this to be my animal ally. I was later told that they had believed I’d become some kind of bird that lived in the bush. I didn’t quite understand: Was it better to be a bush hen than a lizard? Even after I climbed back up onto level ground and into the warm light of the Australian sun, I felt faint. Nevertheless, I told myself to be grateful for the spiritual experience that had occurred.
Confront Your True Feelings Connecting to an animal ally in the seclusion of an underground cave may sound exotic and even spiritually thrilling, but the experience wasn’t at all glamorous. Afterward, I felt disoriented and unclean, and every time I thought about the cave, I’d become sick. During my dream I’d felt as if something foreign had entered me without my permission, and I was very unsettled about it.
Whenever I told people what had happened, I convinced them – and myself – that it was an amazing spiritual experience. I denied the truth about the situation, which was that it was upsetting and disturbing. I described what I’d wanted to feel rather than what I’d actually felt. It worked for a while… I even started to feel as if my experience had been a positive one.
Unfortunately, the problem with not telling ourselves the truth is that this approach takes its toll on the soul over time. This denial of the truth not only erodes the spirit, it can have harmful consequences on the body as well. So often we have experiences that disappoint, trouble, or embarrass us, yet we blindly deny the truth of the matter. Suggesting that these events were wondrous, loving, adventurous, or remarkable – when in truth they were not – is incredibly damaging to our psyche.
Perhaps you know some people who work hard to appear to be enjoying a perfect marriage, living an effortless lifestyle, or working at a phenomenal job. Nevertheless, you can tell that beneath the surface, they’re suffering. If they’re not confronting their true feelings about their situation, they may succeed in making it look great to everyone else, but they’re actually harming themselves.
Keep in mind that lying to others about your situation diminishes your self-esteem, but lying to yourself damages your soul. The soul loves the truth. Even when it’s hard to face, it’s healing to be able to look at your life with stark honesty.
When I confronted my own feelings about my experience in the cave, I found that the reality was that I was extremely uncomfortable there. I finally admitted to myself that I felt guilty about disliking what had occurred because I’d really wanted it to be a profound spiritual experience. When I started being honest with myself about it, I realized that my experience wasn’t spiritual – it was frightening and unnerving. Once I arrived at this understanding, I was able to revisit my memory of the experience with candour. This acknowledgment of the truth made me feel stronger, clearer, and more empowered as a result. My fear of the sidewinding darkness melted in the healing light of the truth.
From The Soul Loves the Truth, © 2007 by Denise Linn, published by Hay House.