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Spirit Animals: What I've learned

Animals are deeply rooted in the divine; they are among our greatest spiritual educators, offering guidance and wisdom for those who take the time to listen. Native Americans and other spiritual cultures have honored animals for centuries. Many indigenous people believed that everything on earth was living and deserving of respect. Animals in particular were considered sacred. Their purpose was to work with the Creator in both spirit and physical form to support humans throughout their lives, similar to the way guardian angels do in Christianity.

When humans need support or direction, animal guides appear to teach essential lessons so we can successfully move on to the next phase of our lives. They may arrive in many forms, but two major ways they communicate are through repetition and atypical animal activity.


I became enlightened in 2014 during a particularly challenging time in my life. I’d chosen to work on a year-long series of intricately detailed, mixed media paintings featuring Mother Nature as my subject. I had one distraction, however: a twinge of discomfort in my painting arm which I was quick to dismiss as an overuse injury. By Autumn of that year I could no longer paint without holding my arm up for support.


In early 2015 I underwent major shoulder surgery. What I thought would be a reasonable and common fix ended up being an extensive repair. Additional complications contributed to a long and challenging recovery that caused me physical and emotional distress.


One afternoon while sitting near my living room window I looked up to see a Red Shouldered Hawk circling the sky over my home. As days passed she would fly a bit closer. Eventually, she became a regular visitor; whenever I took respite in my living room recliner she'd come to sit in the wild cherry tree outside my picture window.


After a particularly difficult day of physical therapy I arrived back home feeling despondent and weary from my lack of progress. Upon entering the living room I noticed something large outside my window. The hawk had landed on the windowsill, mere feet from where I was standing. She studied me for several long moments, her eyes locking with mine. Something shifted within me at that moment, and then, she turned and flew away. I knew that my winged visitor was trying to tell me something. I immediately began researching information about Hawk behavior.

Whether soaring through the air or perched high in a tree, Hawks have the advantage of viewing things from a greater perspective. Once they detect something of significance, a Hawk’s attention remains focused and steadfast until her objective is met. When soaring high above the earth the Hawk doesn't concentrate on what is directly in front of her; she focuses her gaze far and wide, which allows her to see things from a greater perspective.


The Hawk never returned after that day on the windowsill, but her message was clear:

No matter the obstacle, look out into the distance; disregard the immediate issue at hand and instead, focus on the outcome. Calm your fears by calling upon Hawk; she will pilot the way, and in the end, all will be well. Looking beyond my current state of wellness played a key role in my recovery; I needed to see myself as healed instead of fixating on my current situation.

Since my encounter with the hawk I’ve since been gifted with countless messages from animal guides, not because they've allowed themselves to be seen, but because I have opened my eyes to their presence.



©2020 by Ellen Brenneman Studio, LLC.