Animal Medicine – Native American Healing

Dr. Joel Ying, MD

Physician, Educator, Storyteller. He hosts this website for "Living the Present Moment" as a conscious journey of Body, Mind, Emotion & Spirit. Holistic and integrative, his practice includes Tai Chi and Yoga, Craniosacral Therapy, Healing From the Core, Meditation. Always exploring his edges, he shares them in the blog, newsletter, courses, and online study group.

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Today, a pair of rabbits hopped about in my backyard, and then disappeared in the brush. A few minutes later, small deer ran across the lawn. A few minutes more, that must be mama deer lagging behind. “It’s Spring!” I said out loud to myself as I continued to stare out the window.

Living in South Florida most of my life, the seasons do not shift as dramatically as the Northern climates. Sometimes, I barely notice the seasons, but now it was clear. I thought of the new projects that I have been nurturing. This is the time that seeds should be sprouting and flowers coming out. I thought of the projects in my life (like this blog). I thought of the playfulness of the rabbits and the gentleness of the deer. I settled into the idea that this new season of Spring has arrived, and I realize that I want more playfulness and perhaps more gentleness in my life in this moment. I have been hard on myself, looking for results. And so, I invoke the energy of rabbit and deer. I hold deep gratitude that they ran across my path (or to be more exact, my backyard) today.

“It’s Spring!” Playfulness and Gentleness.

Animal Sightings

“I see so many birds and animals down here compared to the North,” said my friend, who had just moved to Southwest Florida a couple months before. “My shamanic teacher once told me that whenever an animal crosses your path, it is trying to give you a message.” She paused for a moment. “How do you get any work done here? The animals bring so many messages that you have to stop and think all the time.”

I laughed. I hardly noticed the animals. And then, I contemplated what “Animal Medicine” really means to me. For the Native Americans, “medicine” is anything that heals the body, mind, or spirit. Anything that gives you cause to contemplate your life deeply can give you a message, an insight into your life, and lead you to “healing.” Perhaps the mind needs to heal from a “limiting belief” that is keeping you from your dreams. Or the soul needs healing to make it through a tragic loss. “Medicine” can come in many ways, even sighting an animal.

Animal Medicine

“Medicine Cards” by Jamie Sams is one of my favorite “Animal Medicine” resources. Sometimes, I am reflective, contemplative, and looking for insight into life, or my day, or a problem. My mind might be looping in the same thought pattern, and I just need something new to get out of the rut. Perhaps, a new way to think about it will help. I choose an “Animal Card” from her deck of cards and read about it and contemplate what it means in the context of my life right now.

Sometimes, I pass animals without even noticing. At other times, in a contemplative mood, an animal will come across my path. If I need a little more insight into this animal. I will look it up. One resource is “Animal Speak” by Ted Andrews. When I am feeling reflective and I just know that there is a message in it for me at this time of my life, I will look to Jamie Sams or Ted Andrews for further insight. Sometimes these are new animals in new landscapes for me. Other times, I can easily arrive at what the animal means to me based on my own experience or knowledge of that animal.

Interpreting the message of animals is like interpreting dreams. “Dream Medicine” is equally potent (if you stop to contemplate your dreams). In dreams, you must ask what your dream symbols mean to you in your life in the moment. What is the message for you? While books can help, I believe the interpretations is inside of you, not in a book.  What is your subconscious trying to tell you? The dream is a conversation between the symbols of the dream from your subconscious to the conscious mind.

“Animal medicine” (for me, anyway) has that same quality of a dream. What does the animal mean to me? What qualities does it evoke for me? Books may give suggestions for what an animal sighting means (just like dream interpretation books), but if you don’t take the “conversation” to your own subconscious, then you won’t know what it means to you. And that is the important clue for me in Animal Medicine. Sitting and meditating on the meaning for me in the context of my own life, I ask myself: What is the new insight, message, or information that I have learned about myself?

Calling in Medicine

If you are facing challenges in life, there are many places that you can find “medicine” and many possibilities for “healing.” Perhaps “Animal Medicine” can give you some insight … some “healing” … some “medicine” for mind, emotions, soul, and spirit.

Perhaps take the time to sit with the “energy” or “personality” that an animal has, and see what it would be like if you brought that “energy” into your life.

Perhaps it is the hummingbird. A few years ago, I saw one dancing from flower to flower collecting sweet nectar, and I felt the invitation to find more “sweetness” in my life. What would it mean to you?

Perhaps it is the small black snake that I saw last month moving through the bushes outside the window, a potent symbol of “transformation” (shedding skin) and “power.” Does that mean something in my life right now?

Wolf Howling Full MoonWhat animals are calling to you?

For inspiration read the poem “Wolf Path” by Jamie McCall.

For more on the Native American teachings, join my FREE online course: Medicine Wheel – Move Your Life Forward.