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Totems in the landscape

Are there things in nature that you consider your own personal totems? You know, that natural object or animal that has some sort of special significance to you that over time, becomes an emblem of your own hopes and dreams and spiritual truths. Perhaps there is a plant you feel represents you or your desire in life. Maybe it is an animal, or a river? Is there something from nature that has, over time, become your family emblem?

When you stop to think about this, do you feel that different parts of the landscape can speak to you at different times? Your totems can change with time, season and circumstance.  We have a rich pool of totems to draw from. And, if we look after our environment, treating it with the same care, love and respect that we wish for ourselves, this pool of totems will continue on into the future.

I found myself pondering this as I walked in nature the other day. I saw how technology could help our totems travel through time. That it could help us reconnect with totems from lives past. What I mean is that with technology, we can watch a nature programme and be connected to the plants, insects, reptiles and animals of places far away. They are brought right to us, to where we stand (or sit) now.  So then to think this through a little more, maybe you don’t find things that resonate with you when you walk in your local park, or reserve, yet when you see a programme with some exotic plant or creature that lives continents away from you, you feel an instant and powerful pull towards it. It is as if you know it. Have you had that feeling? And, have you ever wondered why you have had that feeling?

What are the plants and the animals, the insects and the birds, the fish, the rivers that you feel almost inexplicably drawn to? Write them down. And, write down the feelings they bring up in you. Do they come in your dreams? Where are they from? Do you sense them nearby? Do you see them nearby? Do you feel you can summon them to you in times of need? Do they have an attribute that you can benefit from?

My shamanic teacher, Alberto Villoldo, loved to talk about non-linear time and how in shamanic thought time moves all over the place, we move all over the place. We can be anywhere in time at any time. We can reach back into our past and peek ahead at the future. These moments are all connected and are right here, right now.

What are the plants and the animals, the insects and the birds, the fish, the rivers that you feel almost inexplicably drawn to?

Georgina Langdale

So, if we can move through time and lives, then I don’t think it matters that one may not initially have a strong relationship with the plants outside your own front door, but when you see a specific plant or animal from someplace else it like your soul is suddenly all lit up. I don’t think it matters because who’s to say we were not connected to them in the same place at a different time? Who’s to say that technology means that your totem has found you again through the ether?

I think that what matters is that we recognise the things in nature that we are drawn to. I think we can return to a place of meaning, and we can find our allies and create a bridge of respect from them to wherever we are now. We can find our allies in nature wherever we are.

The other thing is that your totems can be found when you least expect them and well, they may not be that sexy!! But that’s OK!

I remember living in London and feeling overwhelmed by the concrete and brick and really yearning for a connection with nature. Then one day I looked up and I saw a buddleia plant growing out of a crack in a brick wall above my head. Anyone who knows London will know these plants. They look a bit like lilacs and they are wonderful opportunists. Amid all that concrete they have an indomitable zest for life. I realised that if that buddleia could find a foothold ten feet up a brick wall and survive and prosper in this concrete jungle, then I could survive and prosper too. That plant taught me such a valuable lesson. It became totemic. We find our allies where we need them. All we have to do is look.

In building our connections with nature, we can find what we need right outside our front door (and to be honest I recommend you do that as it helps you look deeper into the natural world around you). But also there is nothing wrong with resonating with something from far away. However, in this time of rapid degradation of habitats and loss of species, maybe you can use that resonance to take another step further and work towards helping conserve it? Help protect or restore it. It’s always a mark of respect to give something back to those that help us.

Shamans believe that every thought every action or avoided word or action we make will ripple down through the next seven generations. What is the ripple you want to create? What is the legacy you would like to see ripple down the next seven generations? In building your relationship with nature, with your totems, what can you do to help them still be there for the generations ahead?

In the last few hundred years, we have grown complacent and ignorant of our position within this intricate and interconnected web and this has caused great damage and great loss.  I am in my early 50s and 60% of the creatures that existed when I was born are now extinct. 60%-of-species-alive-half-a-century-ago-are-now-extinct! Can you believe that? It’s extraordinary and heart-breaking. How can you and I allow this to happen? Let’s be the change we wish to see. Let’s, by deepening our own connections to nature, find ourselves more motivated to create a society that works with nature and not against it. Now that’s a beautiful legacy to ripple down the years don’t you think?

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