How you can know your guiding image, animal, or symbol is an excellent question. The answer, for me, is through time and intention. To start, you need to know what or who your guide is. Through my experience, and that of some of my clients, you can find your guide through journeys, resonant experiences, and themes.
I have participated in an exercise where each participant journeyed to retrieve the spirit animal for a partner. During the journey we set the intention on our partner’s behalf and when the image or animal appeared we asked for confirmation and offered gratitude if they agreed to come back with us. This is a simplified explanation, but should be done with shamans or experienced journeymen (or women). Once you have identified your spirit animal, notice when they appear to you and pay attention to the meaning you attach to it.
My spirit animal is Deer. I once went on an intentional walk to clarify my purpose as a guide. This meant that I fasted, kept to myself, and spent the day outside holding the question of what my purpose. At the end of my walk I saw Deer for an instant. I followed, and at the edge of the woods I scanned to see what I could see and suddenly realized Deer and I were locking eyes. In looking up the message of Deer I understood that my purpose as a guide was to help transform others through the power of gentleness.
2. Resonant Experiences
While I have mentioned that I have had a sudden encounter with a black swan, I have known others who’ve received messages from movies. One woman in particular started to follow the rainbow based on a movie she saw. As another example for me, I was seeking guidance about whether or not to sign up for coach training. I went on a wilderness retreat where one of my assignments was to take on one aspect of nature. I became a ladybug because that is made my stop and take notice. I came to realize that I did want to pursue coaching as part of my application of ecopsychology. Now, on occasion, a ladybug appears in my office even when all the windows and doors are closed!
If you wish to consider what your guide has been, look back on your life and see if you’ve had multiple encounters with the same symbol. Some examples would be finding a penny on the ground as you’re faced with important decisions or seeing a specific number or design when you’re confused as to what to do next.
In talking with my husband while in Belize, I pointed out we saw his spirit animal but what caught his attention were the many encounters he’s now realized he’s had with one particular animal: the barracuda. It was his first car, an encounter he had while snorkeling, and the name of the restaurant we ate at when he turned 50. He can take that as he is in the beginning of a new chapter of his life, he’s on the right track, or he can even look at what the barracuda symbolizes: that it’s time to follow his own path.
For a Moment or a Lifetime
You can have many totems or guides throughout your lifetime and you can have only one. If you have had many guides then they take turns for different seasons, events, or aspects of your life. How I choose to receive guidance from those that guide me is I look up their meaning. I consult Animal Speak by Ted Andrews, which I was introduced to by my mentor during my wilderness quest. When I don’t have access to that book or the decks of cards I use in my coaching practice, I will search animal totem using my smartphone and use the same site for consistency. I choose Lins domain because the content from Animal Speak is often referenced or quoted. In a moment’s notice you can receive a translation of the message being brought to you in that one moment or by the guide that serves you for this season or this life.
As you’ve been consider who or what guides you, what has your guide revealed to you?