Spirit animal


When I was a child, I had a Big Dream about a black panther, and I realize later that it was very similar to shamanic experiences and connections with a spirit animal. In the dream, there was a connection with the panther as long lost friend, and someone who had immense wisdom, insight and ability to guide me.

The world is a mirror of what is inside of ourselves, and animals can be especially helpful in mirroring and evoking certain qualities in us.

When we journey – whether in dreams, shamanic rituals, active imagination, through using the whole of us as in process work, or even through voice dialog – we are often guided to exactly those qualities that wants to come into our lives more fully. Those that may have been disowned, or just temporarily forgotten. There is an infinity of sources for reminders, including animals.

What comes up is what is needed here and now, so will change over time. But some may have to do with longer term processes, unfolding over decades, and the black panther for me seems to be one of these.

For me, the black panther evokes a beautiful combination of polarities, maybe especially a natural confidence and relaxation, and alertness and explosive activity, depending on what the situation calls for. It is firm and gentle, cute and vicious, and follows its path with receptivity yet in a non-nonsense way and undistractedly. Its velvety blackness reminds of the fertile blackness and awakening of the belly center, which nurtures each of the qualities listed above.


Shamanism is probably the earliest form for psychology, and from the little I know about it, it can be every bit as sophisticated as any contemporary western psychology. Judging from the earliest examples of rock art, it is a form of psychology that has been with us since before the dawn of civilization, which is humbling and also gives a sense of connection across time and universality.

I have worked with the black panther more lately, bringing its qualities into my daily life, and have found it a great support.I may find the black panther qualities in myself through images and movements, or just ask myself what would the black panther do?

Quick journey: heaviness and velvet blackness

I woke up this morning with an unusual and very strong heaviness, centered in the belly area. I stayed with it for a while, and then decided to explore it through a journey (tracking, allowing the process behind it to unfold, similar to active imagination although using any channels including visual, sound, sensation, movement, etc.)

  • The heaviness is everywhere, then becoming a quickly contracting sphere centered in the belly area. As it becomes very small, the movement stops.
  • Attention stays with the small sphere there for a while.
  • Then, everything else – the whole world – contracts into the same small area, and then disappear. Leaving only nothingness.
  • After a while with nothingness, the smooth velvety round full blackness emerges as a field.
  • Followed by the world of form again appearing as an overlay to this velvety blackness.
  • I see how this is an invitation to notice the world of form as the smooth full blackness, in my daily life. It is there, and I can bring my attention to it more.

After following this journey, which probably took half a minute or so, the body went out of bed and started on its morning activities. The heaviness is still there, but now as a nurturing smooth fullness, with the qualities of the velvet blackness.

Journey: rocks

I did a process work session earlier today, and started a process, which I continued on my way home, and then now. (In Process Work, the unfolding can be similar to what is described here, but they also include a more active exploration of the meaning of the process and how to bring it into daily life. When I do it on my own, it tends to unfold easily, but the meaning of it may not surface until much later if at all. Somehow, it still allows for a shift that is sometimes profound.)
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One journey

Everyone goes through a unique process of awakening into who and what they are, but there are also some shared patterns… or rather some general groups of shared patterns.

Here is how it has been for me so far…

  • Atheist
    I grew up in a family and a Northern European culture that is primary agnostic (and orange and green in spiral dynamics terms). There is a great deal of respect for religion and spirituality, at least if it has integrity, but that is about it. I guess agnostic was not good enough for me, because I decided in third or fourth grade to become a die-hard atheist, and continued with that until life propelled me into something else.
  • Absorption into witness
    15 years old, I drank a lot of vodka on new year’s eve. The morning after, I felt fine, but around noon I started feeling strange. It was as if the world retreated and I observed it all from a distance. Later, I realize that this was an absorption into the witness, into pure seeing. It was disconcerting, and I went to many doctors and did many tests (including brain scans), but all checked out OK. This continued, and deepened over time.
  • Big Mind
    Almost exactly a year later, on a clear and windy winter evening, I walked down the dark gravel road from the house to the mailbox, and it was as if all veils had been removed. Suddenly, everything was revealed as consciousness, as God, although not anywhere the God I have been told about or hear about so far in my life. The whole universe is consciousness, awake, form with no substance… tremendously alive, awake, intelligent, loving… beyond and including any and all polarities. It was impossible for me to even begin to put words on it, as it was so completely beyond words and polarities.
  • Deepening
    Over the next several years, there was a deepening into this, and it seemed to especially happen during the night… there was a sense of a tremendous influx of information, and a pulling apart and reorganizing of the human self (an aspect of the dark night of the senses). It was an extremely intense period, and one with a great deal of bliss and pain at the same time. I also had an influx of insights, essentially recreating anything I have since found in the many spiritual traditions in the world, and especially the nondual ones. There was also a great deal of intensity in terms of things coming out in the form of art and music during those years. A read at least one book a week, including Yogananda, Jung, Steiner, Buddhism, Taoism, Christian mysticism, systems theories, Jes Bertelsen (Danish psychologist and mystic) and much more. I also did a good deal of Tai Chi and Chi Gong during those years, in addition to Buddhist meditation and Christian prayer (Jesus/heart prayer) and meditation (Christ meditation).
  • Zen
    I then moved to Utah to continue my studies in psychology there, and moved into Kanzeon Zen Center. It helped ground what had been happening so far, and I also found a great deal of support in the community there.
  • Dark Night
    After some years at Kanzeon, I got married and moved to another state, which initiated several years of a dark night. Up until then, I had lived in a constant samadhi… everything was easy for me, including studies and work. Now, everything was taken away, both on an outer and inner level… it was impossible for me to do any form of meditation or prayer… from being one with the whole universe, living in cosmic consciousness, I found myself as a pitiful, tiny and separate human self.. it was all gone, and there was an agony beyond description. This was the dark night of the soul, stripping away the finer layers of identification with and holding onto content.
  • Knowing that it had to be stripped away
    In the years before this happened, I saw clearly a remaining sense of a separate self even in the midst of the dramatic awakening, one that gave birth to a certain arrogance, which – no matter how much I worked on it – remained… I knew that something had to happen to wear it off, and this was it. But it was far more awful, and more completely awful, than I could have possibly imagined. At the same time, even in the midst of it, I knew that it had to happen, but that too gave absolutely no comfort. Nothing gave any comfort, apart from throwing myself into work to benefit others… (for me, that too the form of solution-focused and partnership-oriented sustainability work at a local community level) Much later, I discovered Theresa of Avila describing just that, actively working for the benefit of others, as commonly experienced as the only comfort for those going through this phase.
  • Tail end of the dark night
    The last few years have been the tail end of the dark night, and it wasn’t until recently that I even recognized it as a classical dark night of the soul. I found Breema during this phase, which has been a great help. And I have also found other practices that have been very helpful, as described in other posts. As commonly experienced by others going through the same, I too at, at one point, got dropped into a far more clear realization… of being emptiness, awake emptiness, and no trace of any separate self anywhere. This lasted for a couple of months, and then some old patterns came up, more to wear off, to see more clearly. And that is where I am right now. There is more to bring awareness into, more to see about the mechanisms of samsara, more beliefs and identities to wear off. There has also been a great deal of fatigue the last couple of years, which is something that has come and gone throughout this journey.

Parade: seeing myself as others see me

This happened as I was about to fall asleep on the second day of the Breema retreat at Breitenbush (posted the Monday after)…

There is a parade of people in my life, one after another, and I see myself from their perspective. I see my appearance and actions, and experience in first person how this may have been experienced by the other. Then, I see myself as if with an x-ray vision, seeing the inner machinery (thoughts, emotion, confusion, motivations), and how this would have been experienced by the other if they had seen it. This happens for each person, one at the time, going from my current life to past and into childhood. Then, the same happens with animals in my life, including ants I tortured as a child (!)

There is an emphasis on the pain, confusion and suffering my behavior triggered in others, and there is a sense of a sweet openness to it all, taking it in, allowing it to sober me up and see myself more as I would see myself from another persons perspective. There is a sense of sweetness, painfulness, space, quiet receptivity, taking it all in, allowing it to work on me.

This parade was very similar to the parade of sinister characters from some weeks ago. Both happened as I was about to fall asleep, both were similar to a waking dream (happening on their own), and in both cases, there was an inside – first person – experience of each character. As with that one, this parade was very sobering.

I see the pain I inflicted on some animals as a child, seeing myself as a giant, powerful and as evil as they come. I see myself as completely oblivious to the pain I am indirectly inflicting on animals through some of my food choices, and the miserable conditions of laborers creating many of the things I use and wear. I experience the pain triggered by my behavior and words in those close to me, in innumerable situations, in many different ways. I see myself acting and behaving in patterns from my past, not corresponding to the current situation (including not living up to my potential in certain situations, just out of old habits.) And much more.

In each of these cases, I experience myself from the outside, as I would have experienced myself if I were in the other persons (or animal’s) position. The whole parade lasted for maybe thirty or forty minutes, although it is difficult to say for certain.

Journey: blue stone and deep silence

After waking up this morning, I lied in bed for a few minutes just being with whatever was present – sensations, dreams, feelings. My attention went to the heart area, and the image and sense of a deep blue brilliant stone surfaced. I stayed with it for a little while, and also chose to not go further with it right then as I had to get up.

Late in the afternoon, I sat down to relax, my attention again went to the heart area, and the same image of a a deep blue brilliant stone in the heart area came up. Now, I go into it.

I see and sense the deep blue brilliant stone in the physical heart space. It has the qualities of a gemstone, and has a translucent thin blue sphere around it. It sits on top of a small horizontal dark blue or black circle, surrounded by deep blue still water.

The blue has a deep and profound stillness… It is a vast void, timeless and spaceless, with no forms or objects arising anywhere. It is profoundly quiet and still.

There is a death of everything here, of any form, any objects, including any sense of me and I, and anything this sense could be placed on. There is a stirring of fear (and an allowing of the fear, and of the profound silence and stillness.)

The vast deep silence is now arising as everything, and all form arises as and within this profound silence and stillness.

This vast silence and stillness, arising as and within everything, stays with me. Everything is arising as and within this profound silence. It is a different ground of everything.

A journey through collective shadows

I did a source code session last night, designed to facilitate a release from “negative influences” such as the collective unconscious. It was very powerful as it happened, and even now, with a very strong sense of alive intelligent presence and luminosity around and in me.

As I was about to fall asleep, a very vivid journey started on its own…

There is a parade of dark and evil figures from all cultures and times, one after another. I experience each of them from the inside, living and breathing their life, and I see how there is the One “I” in everyone and everything, how they all are Big Mind… (and how they appear as dark and evil because they represent things that are disowned.) There is an incredible sense of depth, grittiness and fullness there, and also a deep sense of peace, of God already being it all (and nothing other than God), so just peace, rest.

It is all very beautiful and peaceful, even in the midst of the most horrifying creatures and images.. Just beauty. And freedom from it all, since they do not appear as an Other anymore, and since they are all already God.

Throughout this, the alive luminous intelligent loving presence is very strongly around and in my body, working in and on the body, especially in the kidneys (!).

This was clearly a journey through the collective shadows of humanity, from any culture and time… very vivid, real, living and breathing the life of all of these creatures from the inside, and realizing that there is only the one “I” in all of it, the one Eye, Spirit, Big Mind… as the inside seeing and subjective “I” experience of each creature, the form of creatures themselves, and the seeing of the creatures as Other. They came one after another, as a parade, human like, animal like, huge, tiny, one and many. All cast in the role of the villain. All representing things we rather would not see as ourselves as individuals, and also often don’t recognize as the I of the One I.

And in the living of their life from the inside, and seeing that the “I” of each of them, the inside experience of each of them, is the One “I” of everyone and everything, there is a release from all of this. They are no longer Other, at an individual or Spirit level, so a release from them. Just rest, peace.

I am not sure what the activity in the kidneys was about, although I know they are associated with fear in Chinese medicine, and throughout this journey there was a deep absence of fear… Where there is no Other, on individual (projection) and Spirit (Big Mind) levels, there is an absence of fear.

Journeying: hardness and energetic hole

I did a journeying (for lack of a better term) this morning, after waking up. I noticed a sense of hardness in me, and stayed with it to see what (if anything) would happen…

Hard shining black pearls

There is a small black pearl in my heart area, although a little behind my back. Now, many small black pearls throughout the heart area, of slightly different sizes and forms, all hard and shining. Then a very large one, with a center in the heart area but going far beyond this physical body.

All of the pearls are hard and shiny. They seem far too hard. They are inert, with no interaction with the human self or anything else. I am staying with this hardness.

Sinking into dark crumbly soil

The large pearl sinks into a dark crumbly soil, which is from the belly down. It is slowly softening.

Luminous black infinity

Then there is a sense of unbelievable vastness everywhere, as a luminous blackness, somehow centered in the heart region. It is black, shining, everywhere, infinite, in all directions. It has the shiny black quality of the initial pearls, but is also a void, empty, allowing anything within it.

Fear of nothing to hold onto

Fear and disorientation comes up. There is nothing to hold onto in this infinity, no ground, nothing fixed.

Attention stays with the fear, and it shows up as a knot (or a fist) in the belly. I stay with the knot.

Space below, and dark crumbly soil

After a while, it softens and expands. There is a sense of space in the belly area, the whole lower area of the torso. A soft expansive space.

The space opens up below, allowing the whole of earth… Soft, crumbly soil. Dark, quiet, nourishing, earthy. It is like a womb, nurturing everywhere.

There is an incredible sense of spaciousness and fullness below. Dark, nourishing, spacious and full.

Infinite luminous blackness, and my human self torn into pieces by the infinity

Attention goes back to the infinite luminous blackness, everywhere yet also centered in the heart area.

There is an image of my human self floating in this infinity, and being torn in all directions by the infinite. Fear comes up again. (I see how my identification with this human self, with something decidedly finite, prevents me from going into the infinite luminous blackness, finding myself as it. Being identified with my human self, there is a sense of it being torn into pieces when I go into the infinite.)

The fear is a form of resistance to this infinity, to finding myself as this infinity.

An image of armor comes up, as an armadillo, a Japanese warrior, a tank. (This is the resistance.)

Lower spine

Attention goes to the spine in the lower back, from the tailbone to the end of the ribcage. There is a sense of an energetic hole there, a weakness, impoverished, depleted of energy. The center of the hole seems to be just below the navel (tan tien area.)

I stay with this weakened spine area. (I am also aware of the vast, spacious crumbly soil below, and of the infinite luminous blackness everywhere.)

[I get up an shower, then take a few minutes to go into this again.]

Specks of golden light, and nurturing full blackness

I continue staying with the energetic hole in the spine. After a while, numerous small specks of golden light start working in the spine area, reorganizing and healing. Then, the soft nourishing blackness fills the same area, nurturing the spine and everything else there.

I am with the golden specks and the nurturing full blackness, and sense the fullness and healing in a very tangible way.

After a while, a light gray inner lining of the spine is pulled out through the bottom of the spine. Where the lining used to be, a luminous golden blackness comes up. Healing, working.

[to be continued]


The dark crumbly vast soil below, from belly down, and somehow centered in the belly.

The luminous blackness everywhere, infinite, and centered in the heart. (The black pearls with the same quality as this luminous blackness, and revealing themselves as this infinite luminous blackness.)

The energetic hole in the lower spine, centered in tan tien.

The working on this energetic deficiency by innumerable specks of golden light (active, moving around) and the nurturing full blackness (nurturing.)


I notice how the belly center darkness is vast, dark and nurturing, as crumbly soil. The heart center darkness is a luminous blackness, a void, infinite, combining the alive luminosity and the empty blackness. And what works on the spine is active golden specks of light (yang), along with a nurturing full blackness (yin).

The initial too hard quality of the pearls seems to be connected with a resistance to finding myself as the (luminous black) infinity. And this fear and resistance, taking the form of a hard armor, comes from being identified with this human form.

Waking dream: growing a new heart

I wake up in the morning, and want to work on my heart, allowing it to come more alive again. (It shut down during the dark night.)

Christ appears and takes my heart. It is red, small and made of plastic, an artificial heart. He squeezes it an a luminous golden Christ sphere pops out of it. The plastic heart remains. Nothing more is happening.

Later in the day, I ask who can help with the plastic heart. Soil comes, dark, moist, crumbly. The plastic heart goes into the soil and is gradually composted, through intention and time. A new heart is then formed on the surface of the soil, available. The luminous Christ sphere enters the heart and it radiates, ready to be brought into my life.

There is a sense of another phase still in the future, and the composting happening now.