Spirituality & Power Animals
by Dr. Steven Farmer Laguna Beach, CA
cant help but be spiritual. The fact of being alive is a spiritual
experi-ence, yet many have lost their conscious awareness of this fundamental
truth. Gradually over the past several centuries, the rational, logical
mind has usurped the creative wisdom of Spirit and the deeper awareness
of the interconnectivity of all life. Civilization has further eroded
mens intimate association with the natural world, and instead, earth
and all its non-human inhabitants plant, animal and mineral
have been viewed solely as resources for the sustenance of more and more
human beings. The prevailing belief has been that the planet is to be
dominated and subdued rather than viewed as a beautiful, giving, abundant
Mother Earth with whom we can have a mutually beneficial and cooperative
What happens for most of us men raised with this as the norm is that we
become removed not only from the more natural rhythms and seasons of the
earth, but dissociated from our own internal rhythms and instinctual selves.
Many never hear or else ignore the call of Spirit that beckons
us to follow our souls destiny. Instead, we chase materiality to
the exclusion of the deeper currents of life. Although this path may yield
great riches or at least a comfortable existence the cost
to our bodies and our souls is great.
One of my favorite poems by Rainier Maria Rilke (translation by Robert
Bly,) speaks to this:
Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him
as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out
into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.
One of the mens groups I have participated in would read this as
part of the opening ceremony each meeting. It speaks to the spiritual
adventurer that lies inside every man. Typically, unless he is raised
in a way that supports this kind of exploration, his souls urgings
to seek out the bigger truths of the earth and the cosmos remain dormant
until such time as they are awakened if they ever are.
Over the many years of working with men, Ive found that this awakening
can sometimes come as a result of the two by four approach.
This happens when a man is going along, thinking everythings okay
with his work and his relationship, (even though theres this nagging
voice inside saying otherwise,) and God hits him with a metaphorical two
by four. His wife divorces him, he gets laid off from his job or his addictions
catch up to him some momentous disruption of his life takes place.
He can ignore this or take it as a signal to change, but by the time hes
in his late 30s or 40s, it becomes more difficult to deny
I was in serious straits following my divorce from the mother of my two
daughters. I felt alone, confused and unclear about what direction my
life was taking. I loved my girls, but didnt feel competent as their
father. I was burdened with guilt from divorcing their mother while they
were still young. I knew I had to change my life, but wasnt sure
where to go. The seeds of my spiritual awakening had actually begun during
my marriage, following a dramatic realization that I felt unlovable as
well as unworthy of being loved. It took the separation to underscore
a heartfelt need for a deeper and more profound love a kind of love
that I later realized to be the love that all spiritual masters spoke
During the years that followed, I found solace in a sequence of spiritually
focused organizations. My involvement in each typically lasted about three
to four years, at which point I would move on and explore another church
that stands somewhere in the East. About fifteen years ago, my seeking
brought me to shamanism. From my first initiation, I knew it was the path
Id follow for the rest of my life. I also realized that each step
Id taken had been necessary to move to the next one.
Im not suggesting that every man needs to follow a shamanic path.
However, there are important aspects of shamanic practices that Ive
found to be particularly attractive to a lot of men.
One of these shamanic technologies is forming a relationship with an animal
spirit guide, or power animal. Power animals touch something deep and
ancient inside a man, a yearning for a more intimate and heartfelt relationship
with the natural world. That relationship has often been forgotten in
the haste, competitiveness and isolation from nature that are so endemic
to the modern world and modern man. Power animals help a man remember
at a profound level his ancient and interrelated connection to Mother
Earth. Working with power animals and animal spirit guides is a spiritually
practical way to work with the various energies of the earth.
The whole notion of power animals has its roots in some of the earliest
spiritual practices of humans cross-culturally. It continues in indigenous
peoples today. Its particularly fitting for today, when many men
are awakening to the wisdom of our long-ago ancestors and realizing that
so-called primitive people have much to teach us.
Our ancestors also knew another secret: we need one another. Sometimes
our lives depended on our connection to each other, and in combat situations
this is still true. These days, getting together with other men generally
happens in order to work together, play a sport or go to the pub and have
a few all perfectly legitimate ways for men to hang out together.
Yet at some point in a mans life, its important to expand
on these characteristic ways of being together, to break the sense of
isolation that many men experience to be supported by other men
in our mission and purpose on this earth. This is as spiritual as a man
In all indigenous cultures, men would spend a good deal of their time
together, whether hunting or preparing and enacting rituals to honor the
sacredness of life. In Australian aboriginal cultures, mens sacred
ceremonies were exclusive of females, and vice-versa.
Im a strong advocate of us gathering in groups on a regular basis
to share our triumphs and concerns, and to give and receive support with
one another. Ive been involved in mens groups for the majority
of my adult life, and I can say unequivocally that this has made me a
better man. Ive developed close relationships with a few men who
are spiritual brothers, ones I can call on in a time of need. And by need,
I dont mean only when Im broken and bleeding, but milder needs
Yes, there are blocks for most of us to overcome the main one being
to trust other men enough to be vulnerable. Weve all been hurt in
some way by other men, starting with father, and betrayals by other men
stay with us for a long time. We may even have been teased for being too
sensitive. In addition, when men get together, the specter of homophobia
can appear, inhibiting us from revealing our inner feelings and thoughts.
It takes a different sort of courage to confront these blocks and overcome
them, to test the waters of trusting other men, to discern who can be
trusted and who cant.
If you think of yourself as a spiritual seeker, then I strongly encourage
you to look into the idea of a mens group. You can put it together
yourself with a couple of mates that youre close to, taking a leadership
role. Again, it requires courage to take this kind of risk, but the worst
that can happen isnt all that bad, and the rewards will become self-evident
by your taking such a bold step.
Another option is to look into an organization called The Mankind Project
with other programs, they produce a core program called the New Warrior
Training, which is a male initiation experience. Thats all I can
say about it, other than that Ive gone through it and found it to
be a powerful and extremely satisfying experience. Male initiation
thats a story and an article for another time.
In addition to Power Animals: How to Connect with Your Animal Spirit
Guide, Dr. Steven D. Farmer is the author of Sacred Ceremony: How to Create
Ceremonies for Healing, Transitions, and Celebrations. He is a retired
psychotherapist, college professor, shamanic practitioner and ordained
minister. For more info, go to www.PowerAnimals.com.