Speaking with Nature: Awakening to the Deep Wisdom of the Earth - Sandra Ingerman, Llyn Roberts 2015
Snake - Sandra
Elk and Snake
Shift your awareness from the lush Hoh Rain Forest where the elk roam to the high desert land of New Mexico. Imagine taking a walk through a forested area where you smell the sweet fragrance of juniper and piñon pine. The sun is blazing, heating the land, and you feel yourself soaking in the warmth of both the sun and the earth. The sky is clear and you can appreciate the unique light of the high desert, which attracts so many people to the area. Walking among the trees you come to a sandy arroyo surrounded by red rocks and short, prickly chamisa (rabbitbrush) bushes.
As you walk on the sand through the dry riverbed, you find yourself lost in your thoughts with your mind drifting to this and that. Out of the corner of your eye, you sense movement. There’s something moving through the brush. First you are startled out of your thoughts and daydreams, and your heart starts to beat rapidly as you feel some fear in your body. You are alert. That sense of fear shifts quickly to curiosity and wonder.
You stop and stand very still to see what is moving through the landscape. You might feel startled again as you see a beautiful bull snake winding across your path with grace and ease. Snake in all its beauty—a being with no eyelids or legs—sliding along the earth. Snake has internal ears rather than external, and two sets of eyes. One set is normal eyes that can see color; the other set of “eyes” detects radiant heat and helps them target body parts of their prey. And although they have nostrils, snakes smell with their tongues.
The shy bull snake in New Mexico is a friend to humans. A subspecies of a gopher snake, bull snakes are often yellow with brown or black blotching, average about six-feet in length, and are not venomous. There is a false myth that rattlesnakes will not inhabit an area where there are bull snakes; nevertheless bull snakes give locals a sense of comfort, for when we see them we believe there are no rattlesnakes in the area.
As you walk, the snake detects you and turns to move away from you as quickly as you might want to move away from it. But you feel yourself immobilized. There is a part of you that wants to run and part of you mesmerized in place by the Snake’s graceful movement across the earth.
Many people have a primal fear that arises when they see a snake. And of course there are those who just love Snakes and seek them out in nature.
There is much symbolism and mythology that goes along with Snake. The Bible teaches that Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden after Snake tricked them into biting into the apple to gain the seed of knowledge. Other ancient stories of snake medicine and the snake goddess have mostly been lost. There is not much information on what snake medicine offered in ancient times, but still today it is often seen to have curative powers, and rattlesnake venom is being researched as a possible cure for cancer. The rod of Asclepius depicting a snake encircling a staff is a traditional symbol of the medical arts.
There is also much psychological symbolism in that Snake represents sacred sexuality. The ouroboros symbol of a snake devouring its own tail and forming a circle depicts the cycle of life. It reminds us that death and rebirth are part of one cycle; in the eternal cycle of renewal, we are always re-creating ourselves.
The focus of this essay is how Snake can help you reconnect with your body, the feminine, and the Earth. Understanding how you can enliven your senses will assist you in deepening the spiritual practices that Llyn wrote about in Elk.
Our perception creates our reality. We change our reality by changing our perception about what is happening around us. Here are a couple of simple examples: You perceive one person as beautiful and someone else might see only that person’s flaws. The energy of people at a gathering seems bright and joyful to you, but a friend you are with experiences the energy as dense and negative. Your reality is based on how you perceive the world.
In the Western world we often pity others when we perceive them suffering. All that exists is alive and has a spirit with a destiny. We shift our reality by changing our perception and focusing on the strength and beauty of others and of the Earth. We can truly support others by seeing them in their strength rather than focusing on their challenges. We can be compassionate while avoiding moving into a state of pity.
To sink into another level of this teaching, we need to acknowledge the power of our senses—sight, hearing, smell, feel, and taste. Using our senses is a way to experience the joy and preciousness of life as we delight in our sensory awareness. Opening to and accessing our senses is essential as we remember how to truly connect with nature. We must use our visible and invisible senses to be able to experience the support we are being given.
Although we live in the physical realm in our bodies, some people don’t want to be connected with their physical reality. For a variety of reasons, maybe due to past trauma or illness, being in a body is a source of pain for them, rather than a joyful experience. In the same way we are disconnected from our bodies, many of us are disconnected from nature. For to experience nature immediately connects us back to the power and beauty of being in a body.
We share this Earth with extraordinary nature beings that use the strength of different senses to help them perceive the world. Snake—without legs—is always connected to the movement in and vibration of the earth. I can only imagine what that might be like to be so close to the earth all the time.
Snake is dependent on the warmth emitted by the earth to maintain its temperature so that it can be active and move gracefully through its environment. Water that is allowed to flow naturally snakes through the earth. From an overhead perspective in an airplane, it’s easy to see the way a river winds like a snake through the landscape.
As humans we have our internal and external senses, but in the Western world we cut ourselves off from using the depth of our senses to perceive the world around us. Many of us live surrounded by so much external noise that we cannot hear a beautiful bird song, the music of a gentle breeze, strong wind, water running in nature, or rain.
We often overload our senses with so many material objects that we cannot take in nature’s beauty. Disconnected from our bodies, we don’t let ourselves fully touch all that is in our surroundings. The taste of our food is masked with so many artificial flavorings and sweeteners that we cannot appreciate the fresh taste of food from the earth.
This is all to say we are missing out on a lot that life has to offer. We cannot perceive the beauty in life or connect with nature if we have deadened senses.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of our brain that is believed to orchestrate our thoughts, actions, cognitive behavior, expression of our personality, and decision making. The prefrontal cortex makes up only a small percentage of the brain, but in the modern world we rely on it for information. We lose much of the depth and richness of life when we spend so much time in a cognitive process. We need to wake up our sensory awareness.
To shift our sense of reality and inhabit a richer and more beautiful life, we need to get close to the ground, as Snake does. We must reconnect with the earth and fully enliven our senses to contact the beauty and power of the world around us. And then we can truly appreciate the beauty that lives in all things.
We can also tap into our non-ordinary senses—our shamanic, psychic, and intuitive knowing. But here again so many of us have deadened our psychic senses.
Before an earthquake or other natural disaster occurs, animal behavior changes significantly. During the most recent destructive tidal wave in Thailand, animals had moved to higher ground and safety before the tidal wave was apparent to humans.
Birds, dogs, cats, and most animals, including snakes, become agitated before an earthquake. Most of us have disconnected from the psychic senses that inform us with the information that animals receive. The senses of nature beings are heightened enough to pick up changes occurring in the earth.
One of my frustrations in teaching shamanic journeying is how focused people are on “seeing” their journeys, as if they are watching a TV show or a movie. It has been difficult for me to persuade people to experience the depth of all their non-ordinary senses. For the spirits do not communicate solely by showing us images. Shamans take their bodies into the dreamtime and use all their senses while traveling in the invisible realms.
As we live our daily lives, we can open our non-ordinary senses to perceive a rich and magical world around us. We might hear a message in the wind or see one in the clouds as we walk to work. When our ordinary senses are not so overloaded, we find ourselves in touch with inner knowings where we simply feel the truth of guidance or wisdom in our bones.
The nature beings with all their internal and external senses are great teachers for us in how to reconnect with our inner and outer landscape. As we do this we find our perception shifting about events and transitions occurring in our lives. Life takes on deeper meaning, and we can perceive the beauty that life has to offer and how precious it is to be in a body.
I learned from my mother that having a body is a precious gift. This gift is to be honored, not rejected or judged. When we open our sensory awareness, we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell all that nature offers us, and then we inhabit a universe that right now most of us can only imagine.
Whenever I have a question about choices to make in my life, Snake is one of the nature beings that appears as an omen on my walks in the arroyo. I have come to rely on Snake for showing me a sign about moving forward, that something new is coming into my life.
My father always loved me unconditionally and taught me a lot. We had a beautiful relationship, and he sacrificed much in his life, as did my mother, to provide a safe and loving environment for my childhood. A few years ago, at the age of 97, my father dealt with serious health challenges, and I wanted to take care of him at the end of his life as he had cared for me in the beginning of mine. I was his caregiver and had to make very difficult decisions that felt beyond my capabilities.
One day I felt completely overwhelmed. I felt I just did not have the knowledge or information I needed to make the best choices for him.
I went outside and I cried out to God, the divine goddess, and the helping spirits, “Please help me. Give me a sign that will light my way in making a decision.”
It was a cold, rainy October day, and I took a long walk in the arroyo, crying and praying. As I cleared my head, a knowing about the next step in my father’s care became clear to me. At that point a baby snake crawled over the toe of one of my hiking shoes. I could hardly believe it; it was way past the time for a baby snake to be born. The season was turning and it was cold. I bent down to watch the snake as it slid away, looking to make sure it was not a worm or a long centipede. Yes, it was clearly a baby snake.
To me this omen symbolized a new birth and change for me and my family. I knew that life was taking a turn. Shortly after Snake appeared my father passed away. I was deeply saddened to lose him, but happy that he was finally free and had found peace. He ended up dying a graceful and peaceful death.
Snake shows itself to me in the wild when I need a reminder that death leads to new life and that a change is coming that will help me re-create my life. Snake appears to me when I need a reminder that spirit is guiding me, and I have a wealth of invisible help. Snake also shows itself during my walks when I need a sign that I am on the right track.
Snake continues to reinvent herself. She sheds her skin and, like Bear, is born anew, fresh, and regenerated. Snake teaches us how we, too, can reinvent ourselves and reawaken not just our ordinary senses, but also the non-ordinary senses so we can engage in deep, rich communication with the spirit that lives in all things.
We can spiral back to the gifts of our ordinary and non-ordinary senses, which teach us how to spiral forward in our growth and evolution.
The spiral is a prominent symbol in ancient petroglyphs. It is a symbol of growth and evolution and of the origin of life, water, and snakes. The spiral teaches us about the rhythms of nature, the seasons, and the cycles of death and rebirth.
In nature it is common to find a snake resting or sleeping in the shape of a spiral. When we spiral out of the deep sleep we are in, we allow our senses to awaken to the beauty, power, and knowledge that is within and around us.
Snake is always in touch with the vibration of the earth. One way for you to reconnect to your body is to reconnect with the earth. Leave your digital music player at home, and visit a park or your favorite place in nature. Lie on the earth and let your heart harmonize with her heartbeat. Feel the vibration of the earth, and notice your own vibration moving through your body and into alignment with the earth.
Imagine being a Snake and soaking up the warmth and love of the earth. Feel this warmth, love, and vibration being absorbed into all your cells.
Slowly become more alert, and open your senses to perceive the beauty of nature. When you are ready, get up slowly and start to take some steps. As you walk, stop and smell the fragrance of the earth, air, trees, and plants. Put your fingers into the earth and place some in your hands; feel the temperature, moistness, and texture. Place your hands on the bark of a tree and feel its texture. Gently touch the leaves of a plant that are safe to touch. Run your fingers through the grass and touch the moss. Take off your shoes and socks, and feel the earth on the soles of your feet. If you are on a beach, feel the grains of sand in your hands and around your toes. Smell the salt in the air. Lick your lips and taste the salt.
If you are by a body of water, close your eyes as you place your hands in the water. Feel the changing sensations in your body as you do this.
Listen to the beautiful sounds and music provided by nature. With your eyes closed, feel the wind playing with your hair.
Eat food that has not been “doctored” with artificial flavors. Eat slowly and enjoy the fresh natural taste. As you drink water, focus on the sweet fresh taste and feel it nurturing you as it travels down your throat.
Notice what visible and invisible senses you have stopped using to the fullest. What senses of yours have become atrophied?
If you try to wake up your senses all at once, you might get overwhelmed with too much sensory input. Have patience and slowly engage in awakening your inner and outer senses.
Sit with a plant or rock in nature. Sit very still for thirty minutes with complete focus and awareness, observing this nature being. Notice how your senses become heightened after you complete this practice.
When at home, turn on some meditative music or listen to a drumming track and hold the intention to meet the ancient snake goddess. Using all your psychic senses, notice how the snake goddess might communicate her deep wisdom about snake medicine with you. Ask for a teaching that will help you deepen the connection between your body and the earth.
When you find yourself sitting in nature, play with drawing spirals in the earth or the sand. Don’t think about it; just notice what you feel as you do this. Allow your own insights to come to you.
Shamanism is a practice of direct revelation. This means that we all have access to the spiritual wisdom we need in order to thrive and experience the beauty of life. We have access to the insights that enable us to glide through life with the grace and beauty of Snake.
As society has taught us to disconnect from our bodies and the earth, the key to healing the planet and ourselves is learning to connect again to our own psychic wisdom and psychic senses. This will enliven the adventure of being a spiritual being in a physical body.
Llyn wrote about Elk and I wrote about Snake. These are obviously very different nature beings that attracted each of us on a spiritual level. Take some time and reflect on the wildlife where you live. Notice if a specific nature being in your area is asking for your attention right now.