I decided to give meditation a try while I was living in Beijing.
I had done meditation sort of on and off before, but I never managed to get into a regular practice. With work stress making it harder and harder to breathe each day, I figured there was no time like the present. It was time to find some guided meditations online and get myself into Uber Zen Mode.
I found a website with guided meditation recordings pretty quickly. And after going through the first few free ones, I was getting pretty relaxed. This was good, I told myself. Not too weird. Feelin’ confident.
And then I got to the last recording about finding your shamanistic spirit animal.
I swear I did a sneaky glance around my ninth-floor apartment to see if anyone else was watching (spoiler alert: they weren’t). Because while mindful breathing was right up my alley, an animal spirit guide was definitely verging into territory that was A Little Too Out There. Like, I would click on this mp3, and thousands of miles away, people would know. They would judge, dude.
But I was working on being more calm and self-assured, right? So I settled my soon-to-be-enlightened rear into my fluffy duvet and closed my eyes.
The woman in the recording was all about it. Let’s dooooo this, she soothed. Let’s find your spirit aaaaaahnimaaaaal.
This is buuuullllshiiiiiiit, I thought. But what the heck, right? Let’s do this.
Deer in the Woods
I landed in a meadow, the high grass fanned around me.
These recordings are big on nature, by the way. They never guide you to a bagel shop on a New York City street.
At any rate, I ended up legging it through my dream-meadow to the edge of a forest.
Wait here, my mp3 guru advised. And look.
Something will step out of the woods.
I waited, the gold and green leaves trembling in my mind’s eye. After a moment, I knew something was approaching.
Not a moment later, a deer appeared at the edge of the forest.
To be honest, I was a little disappointed.
Beautiful, I supposed. Elegant. But it was also timid. Easily startled. Hiding.
And there were tons of deer where I came from. Deer were pretty, but they weren’t special.
I could feel myself chewing on my lip. Shoot, man. Was this how I saw myself? I could presumably conjure up any animal I wanted — any at all — and my brain picked a deer?
Ask it if it’s your spirit animal! the woman urged me.
Are you, uh…are you my spirit animal?
To my surprise, the deer shook its head, its heavy antlers glinting in the dappled sun.
The deer shook its head, and then it turned away.
Something else was coming.
I felt my pulse quicken when the tiger arrived.
The tiger arrived, and then stayed.
This is what you’re supposed to be, it seemed to say. You are much bigger, and braver, and more powerful than you think you are.
But this is a lot to live up to! I thought. This is…I mean, am I capable of being more than, you know…a deer?
The tiger licked my hand. I took its snowy ruff in my hands as it pressed its huge head to my chest.
You are, the tiger said. You will be.
And then I woke up.
Enter the Tiger
I was still kind of thinking about it the next day when I hopped on the subway. I was still thinking about it when I got off at my stop to meet G for the van carpool.
“We have one more person today,” G greeted me. (With his lovely Galway accent. Swoon!) “A new teacher coming in. I think she’s from Los Angeles.”
And you know what was even cooler? The moment when the new colleague showed up a few minutes late, extending her hand to shake mine. Her nails were incredibly long, like pale claws extending from her caramel skin.
“Hi, there,” I said. “I’m Emily. Nice to meet you.”
“Hi, Emily,” she said.
And then she told me her name, and I almost died right there on the platform.
100% Absolutely True
Her name was Tyger. It was some hella crazy coincidence. This serendipity was Grade A, USDA choice. I was grinning like an idiot the whole ride to work.
This spirit animal stuff worked.
At this point, I’d like to say that Tyger was some kind of gifted California goddess who helped me believe in myself and trust my heart and yada, yada, yada. Unfortunately, she lasted about two weeks before she was fired.
“She used the word ‘adhesive’ as an verb,” G said, scandalized. “I mean, I teach maths, but even I know that adhesive isn’t a verb.”
It turned out that Tyger had an incredibly selective schedule and an even more selective memory when it came to remembering the basic rules of English.
At least I got a little bit of magic in my life. Even now, I try to remind myself to be the tiger, not the deer.
And while I might not be a tigress 100% of the time, at least I know not to use ‘adhesive’ as a verb.
Thanks, spirit animal.
What do you guys think? Any other tigers burning bright out there? If you had to pick an animal to rep you, what would it be?