Barred Owl Helps Us See Into the Darkness
As a spiritual person I am constantly praying, meditating and watching nature for signs of divine guidance.
When the coronavirus pandemic first seized the collective consciousness here in the U.S. in March 2020, everything changed in a hurry.
All of a sudden you stopped going to the gym, to the movies, cancelled trips and hunkered down for what you hoped would be a relatively short period of isolation.
Normal was a hope we clung to.
“Normal” still felt familiar, like a rhythm we had grown accustomed to.
It was during my first 10-day quarantine that a beautiful barred owl showed up in my garden, staring at me long enough to make sure I saw her.
She sat on a limb – all 2 feet tall of her – her eyes piercing all the way to my soul.
I knew at the time that another power animal had come into my life.
Power animals are spiritual beings.
They may accompany you throughout your lifetime or show up at various times to guide you through major life transitions.
Over time, she has been accompanied by a baby snow leopard, a hawk, a hummingbird and in recent years a dragonfly and now all of a sudden my barred owl.
Although I pray all day long for guidance, these spiritual beings always feel like a surprise when I first meet them.
I had grown accustomed to the messages of snow leopard, hawk, hummingbird and dragonfly.
What did the barred owl want from me, I wondered?
Author Ted Andrews reports the symbolic quality of owls as silent wisdom, nocturnal vision, healing powers, prophecy and magic.
What strikes me most is their ability to see even in the darkness.
Searching for owls in my neighborhood is part of the joy of walking my dog Dixie.
I may go for years without catching a glimpse, and then all of a sudden see one high up in a tree when we’re out walking in a rain storm.
Staring up into the trees in Collier Hills, I feel blessed if I spy one even for a few seconds. I’m always listening for their calls.
The most I’ve ever stared out an owl before this year was for 5 minutes in 2009.
I realized at the time he heralded a huge shift in my life, and indeed I was not disappointed.
In March of this year, my barred owl stood still long enough to make sure I received her message.
“I will be with you now for the next 18 months,” I heard.
A few weeks later, I was down in my healing room teaching qi gong on video conference when I saw the barred owl yet again.
She was sitting in a tree outside my window.
I clocked her staring at me for a full 35 minutes!
On subsequent days I would be lying in my hammock enjoying the sunshine only to be startled by a fly by.
This morning as I was enjoying my hammock and the June fresh air, the barred owl flew over me followed by a group of smaller birds who were dive bombing her.
The barred owl appeared unconcerned by the smaller birds and flew from a tree in my garden to a tree in my next door neighbor’s yard only to fly directly over my head, her wings fully extended, so close I could almost feel the air under her wings.
She glided over my porch and out into my front garden again.
When I first asked for guidance I received the barred owl brings me a message of death – not a message anyone really wants to hear.
At that time, coronavirus cases were beginning to overtake emergency rooms.
As of this writing, more than 119,000 have died from the pandemic in the U.S. alone.
The coronavirus felt unsettling enough.
To me death meant not only the loss of many precious lives but also the death of something even bigger – perhaps this illusion we have been living in of what is “normal.”
All of a sudden people everywhere reconsidered everything – how we work, where we visit, whom we associate with.
Just going to the post office or the grocery store became a major expedition – gloves, face mask, hand sanitizer at the ready.
People kept asking me what I foresaw.
At that time in March I anticipated that we would be dealing with coronavirus for another 18 months. I knew the level of lockdown in Georgia would tighten up. But there was more.
I always like to be uplifting, to offer hope, to empower visions so that people can see their way out.
I’m not the one to dash your hopes, to crush your soul with hard talk about everything you are about to lose.
I want to show you the way back to the light.
Without discussing what I saw with anybody, I also foresaw violence in the streets.
As luck would have it I got the timing wrong – I saw the violence happening in August 2020.
Things escalated much more quickly.
On May 25, a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
The heartbreaking images of a black man’s life literally being snuffed out ricocheted across the world.
It hadn’t been enough that a young black man jogging in Brunswick, Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery, had been chased and shot dead by two white men or that a black bird watcher, Christian Cooper, had been confronted in Central Park by a white woman.
Finally George Floyd’s death grabbed the world’s attention.
The darkness of racism, a darkness so many of us had mistakenly assumed had faded into our collective history, exploded into plain view.
Here, now, in America and everywhere we can see this darkness.
We have the photographic evidence.
Racism isn’t just the shadow side of our collective consciousness.
It is a true darkness that has been hidden in plain view.
Suffered by millions, ignored by as many, and now this darkness is in plain sight forcing us to ask again what are we going to do about it.
As Ted Andrews writes in Animal Speak, “The owl is a bird of the night, and the night has long been a symbol of the darkness within – the place in which humans hide their secrets.
“The owl has great vision and hearing.
“They can adjust in an instant from a telescopic to a microscopic focus.
“One who works with owl medicine will be able to see and hear what others try to hide.
“You will hear what is not being said, and you will see what is hidden or in the shadows.
“Owl people have a unique ability to see into the darkness of others’ souls and life.
“This is very scary to most people.”
The collective weight of economic collapse, widespread death and suffering and now race riots has taken a toll on all of us.
It’s important to note that this poll was taken before the death of George Floyd.
There’s been no respite since.
Within a week of George Floyd’s death, another survey found 41 percent of black Americans suffering from depression and anxiety – the highest of any racial group.
Attempting to find peace in nature, two friends of mine and I went camping in North Georgia this past weekend.
We stopped listening to the news and turned our attention to watching the pileated woodpeckers flying above our campsite.
Upon returning to so-called civilization, we were bombarded by the news of the death of Rayshard Brooks, a black man shot twice in the back by an Atlanta policeman and the subsequent conflagration at Wendy’s and protests so extensive they shut down the interstate.
What is to be seen in such darkness?
This morning as I watched, the barred owl appeared unconcerned as the smaller birds kept dive bombing her from above and behind.
She kept to her flight path, knowing and experiencing there was nothing to be concerned about by those who appeared to be attacking her.
How can we stick to our own soul’s flight path?
How can we see through our collective darkness into the light of a new understanding?
How can we find a way of living together with our neighbors of all colors, shapes and sizes?
Last week a friend who knows I love orchids brought me a new yellow oncidium as a surprise.
In gratitude, I invited her to lunch to thank her for her generosity. While here she told me about a sign she had collected and encouraged me to post it in my yard.
Not one to display my political views, I was about to demur when I saw the message.
“Together we rise,” the sign said.
In whole hearted agreement, I stuck the sign in my front garden next to my mailbox, hoping to encourage everyone who drives by my house on Northside Drive.
This is definitely a time when we need to see into the darkness of our very own souls and do everything in our power to live in the light.
What that looks like for many of us is to face the fact that racism never actually went away and that much remains to be done for all of us to live in a free, safe and equal society.
What that may look like for you is renewed devotion to your prayer and meditation practices, to asking yourself what you can do to support others less fortunate and to figure out what you actually need to be happy right now.
What is healing? Healing happens when you have the courage to look into the darkness of your own soul.
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