Embody the Inner Animal

Animal Totem

Repost from 3/14/12

The fifth week of the Sensual Shaman Immersion we explore our animal spirits, and like previous Immersions it proved to be both powerful and transformational for the entire group. We journeyed to reclaim our inner animals and spent an evening roaring, purring and prowling our way through the animal kingdom. There are always some surprises in the group. A timid, vulnerable woman unleashes her inner lioness, a hummingbird teaches even the largest and most serious of participants to be light and playful in his body. While it feels unfamiliar and new for most people to embody their inner animal, I must say that I have the leg up from living with one.


The very first card I ever gave my husband was a portent of our entire relationship. I picked it up at a rest stop in Tulsa when I was home visiting my family and mailed it to him a few weeks after we had met and were dating. It had a beautiful soft and sensuous Victorian woman with flowing hair draped over a roaring lion that was at her feet. Inside it said “Missing you something fierce.” I knew then, however much on an unconscious level, that the animal spirit inside of Mark would always be front and center in our relationship.


My husband is a prime example of what it means to live with a fully realized animal spirit on a daily basis. He’s a large man – 6’-2,” 245 lbs. He grew up his life being called “animal,” “beast,” “simion,” “neanderthal.” The animal in Mark, however, is perhaps the thing I love most about him. He’s a hybrid, no one animal but parts of many. Lion – being born under the sun sign Leo, he always walks with a certain amount of pride and power, Silverback Gorilla – distinguished in his community as one of New York’s long standing ‘characters’ and is often the eldest among his peers – note: I refer to him as my silver heart as the hair on his chest was the first hair on his body to turn silver while the hair on his head remains a beautiful rich brown. Lone wolf – always straying from the pack to explore new territory and ways of being, Large Workhorse for his massive strength, ability and endurance in physical work and German Shepard for his loyalty and protective nature of his home and family. What was once yelled at him as taunts and jeers in his early years, are now celebrated in our house as beautiful ways of being. My husband is, at his heart, someone who is totally at one with his inner animal. Needless to say, even in an urban environment, I live in the wild.


In most of us however, the animal spirit lays dormant or has been conditioned out of us. It is only in the most extreme circumstances, and usually beyond our control, when we ‘snap,’ that the inner animal roars awake in us for the first time. The animal spirit can and usually rises up in us in moments when we are backed into a corner, where there are no other options but to attack, devour, hunt, consume or fall victim to it. At its most unconscious shadow level, it could be violence and power-over. But what about at a conscious level? Could it be raw passion, intuitive desire, comfort and quick thinking survival? What about the animal spirit when it is consciously celebrated instead of beaten, judged or jeered at? Could the animal spirit be devotion? Could it bring us into tribe energy? Could it put us more intuitively in touch with our bodies, our environments, each other?


Our inner primal animal spirit is in our ancient brain – the brain stem, the sacrum and tailbone. It’s deep, deep in the cells of our body. An energy and ancestry we’ve evolved from over millions of years that continues to exist within us, but often on a very repressed, refined, caged level. We are taught to have manners, not enjoy our food too loudly, don’t exhibit too many signs of pleasure, be quiet during sex and certainly don’t roar, scream or cry during ecstatic states of orgasm. We’re surely not invited to burp, fart, growl, and never scratch your back against a tree.


Somehow, this animal repression and levels of refinement never really registered with my husband, Mark. In fact, the more he was taunted by his sisters, family, and other children that he was an animal, the more defiantly he embraced it. My husband’s animal spirit has evolved over the years from early days of bullying and beating up his sisters, into playful love-centered expressions of aggression that ultimately bring us closer in our marriage. He’ll wrap me in big bear hugs when I enter the home, hold me down in spooning position when I get too distracted by my reading or computer-work to be present in my body. He devours my home-cooked food so visibly with pleasure that I have found a new dharma for myself over the years in the kitchen.


But with audible pleasure, can come the expression of audible rage. My husband’s alpha animal spirit is so strong that people will often challenge him on the street, purposely running into him, bumping his shoulders, confronting his personal space. “I can take him,” the inner animal of another male speaks silently as they confrontationally approach Mark. I used to be rattled by these otherwise unexplainable interactions that were completely unprovoked. Mark would directly trigger a primal animal response in others simply by being in their presence. For the first year I was with Mark, I found these interactions absolutely baffling. Why were men so threatened by him? I found my answers in the animal kingdom. There was a need to challenge, flex, crow when another male came in proximity of an alpha male. Mark generally avoids these encounters with a brush off of his shoulder, but in his earlier years before I knew him, his young ego had his fair share of brawls and anger black outs and attacks of rage when confronted and the challenger would often be left scampering with his tail between his legs, or unconscious on the floor in front of him. In the animal kingdom, potential alphas will confront alphas as a way of attempting to overthrow the current alphas power and mark and claim their territory. When the potential challenging alpha is defeated there is a submissiveness to the current alpha and a deepening of respect.

Betas outwardly acknowledge Mark’s power size and presence – even strangers will walk by and immediately refer to him as “Big Man!” “Hey, Big Man, Yo, Big Man, You got a dollar Big Man?”



Another ‘Mark’ of the animal kingdom I’ve come to love and appreciate is loyalty and protection. One night, after being out and about forty-five minutes later than I communicated to Mark, I came home and found Mark waiting in the hall of our apartment building, standing at the door like a German Shepard. Shocked, I asked him what he was doing out here. “Honey, listen, you’re late. I’m like a German Shepard waiting for its owner to come home. I’m most loyal to you and will wait for you forever, but it also makes me crazy when you’re late. I become hyper aware of everything. I wish you could crawl inside of me and feel for one minute what I feel for you.” I imagined a silver back gorilla beating his chest on the top of mountain screaming “I Love YOOOUUUU!!!” I smiled, my shock of seeing my husband waiting in the hall receded and I stroked his face. “That’s why I love you” I told him smiling.


When we understand and fully embody it, our inner animal spirits are our allies. The animal spirit tells us exactly what we need, what to eat, who our mate is. Animal spirit is our rawest, most primal instinct. I remember growing up baffled by how birds knew how to fly and migrate or how foxes knew how to hunt. “How do they know?” I would ask my parents. “They just know,” was the only answer I could pull out of them.


This ‘just knowing’ is part of Mark’s magic. His animal instincts are now consulted in an oracle fashion by my female friends. Mark’s senses are so heightened they have become magnified. His nose is infamous among my friends. Why? Because he can smell when a woman’s is about to menstruate. He smells and senses it somewhere deep in his very acute animal brain. If one of my women friends is experiencing a late cycle she will often consult Mark. He will then come up to her hold her in an embrace and inhale her and be able to tell her how many days until her next moon with about a 90% accuracy rate. He knows when he’s in an elevator with another woman if she is menstruating and will then give me the report. The woman in apartment 12B and 6A are menstruating right now and the woman in 4D will be in two days. The woman in 8F is going through menopause and 9G is pregnant. “How do you know this?!” I would exclaim after such direct statements were being made. “Babe. I just know,” Mark would say casually and then walk off. He just knows.


In fact, this very knowing has made my relationship to my beloved husband so successful and has also deeply nourished our marriage. When thinking of an animal that has been domesticated in our world, what do they need to thrive? – love, good food, attention, exercise and play. If anything goes out of balance in my marriage and relationship to Mark or feels strained I come back to the basic tenets of husband husbandry – love, good food, attention, exercise and play.


My new love with the theatre group Dzieci was a great learning opportunity for Mark and my’s relationship. I had become intensely passionate about working with this group of artists and all of sudden all day Sunday and one evening a week plus performances I was grooving and shaking with my new community. I felt the fear arise in Mark’s system – will I still be taken care? Will I be fed? Will I be loved? A few weeks in to my new schedule, I felt a nagging suspicion that something was out of balance in our marriage. I checked in with Mark and almost word for word he voiced the above concerns – Will I still be taken care of? Will I be fed? Will I be receive enough love? The crock pot has balanced out my new schedule and husband husbandry. I prep good smells that keep Mark’s inner animal humming all day reminding him I’m there in spirit and that all good things are coming and his inner animal feels safe, nurtured and honored.


Before meeting Mark, I had wrapped myself up in doomed relationships by avoiding my inner animal spirit. I avoided asking myself basic animal instinct questions in favor of civilized concepts like ‘do they look good on paper?’ instead of ‘do I like the way my partner smells?’


In opening to your own animal spirit, I recommend to actually take a shamanic journey where you ask to be shown and introduced to your inner animal. There’s a lot of projection in this work. Everyone wants to be a lion, or tiger, or bear, or sleek panther, but some people are jackrabbits, or dolphins, or spiders. In one Immersion I had a beautiful woman who was an eel. After you claim and entrain to your animal spirit, I invite you to research and ask yourself these questions – How does your animal mate? Is it a life long partnership, is it polyamorous, does it practice serial monogamy? Is it an alpha? What living situation, nesting arrangements make it the most comfortable? What does your animal eat? I have seen time and time again people with a strong inner animal that has been deeply repressed and these people have become vegetarians as a way of justifying that they are better or more conscious about their diets than meat eaters while depriving their bodies and spirits of true nourishment that would provide them strength. I’ve also seen individuals awaken to their inner animal spirit after a session with me or a shamanic journey and immediately go out and devour a pork roast or a bucket of KFC. “Something just awoke in me,” they would say. While I don’t advocate unfettered ravenous meat eating, I do support conscious meat eating with gratitude and celebration and also respect the handful of years I was a vegetarian for giving me the information on how to consume meat consciously.


My animal spirit has changed and evolved over the years, some come to me only once and some for years. I’ve worked with Spider who has taught me the beauty and power of weaving all aspects of my life together, Phoenix who is a healing spirit and has helped me recover from adrenal burnout, and most recently Mama Grizzly Bear who is helping me move into my protective mother energy and serve as a way to embody my largeness including my rage in a conscious direct, creative and useful way rather than repressing it.  Some animals may stay with us our entire life, others may visit to bring a message or usher us into a new way of being.


This week I asked my husband to pick up a new shower curtain liner. He went with his co-worker to Duane Reade to grab one on his lunch break. Perusing the selection he chose one labeled Safari that had prints of lions, tigers, cheetahs and zebras. “Why are you getting that one?” his co-worker asked. “You wouldn’t understand. It’s an inner animal thing. My wife gets it.”


In the coming weeks send me an email and let me know of your roars, growls and howls.