Every birthday, a Spirit Animal chooses me. An out of the ordinary animal crosses my path in the time around my birthday. It’s a tradition I have. This year, though, after two years running of Black Witch Moth, I decided I would choose it, sight unseen. Two creatures came to mind, one actual and one mythical: shark and mermaid. When I told John that Shark was one of my Spirit totems for the year, and would bring me a sense of connection and lead me into deeper awareness of myself, Shark medicine, he was surprised. I didn’t feel so comfortable with my choice, either. It was a nervy one but I’ve learned to honor what comes to me.
Then, I forgot about it.
But not really.
For the past few weeks every time I snorkeled in a certain Waikiki cove I began to abstractly wonder about sharks. What would happen if I encountered one? I wondered mostly whether it would change my perception of the sea, or make me too afraid to do the thing I most love.
I am a mermaid at heart. I love the sea. I love snorkeling and being with the fish and creatures. I’ve always felt at one and at home with the water, perhaps because I am a water sign. I’ve always felt essentially safe, even as I wondered about the unseen sea creatures around me. But sharks? They were abstract. Mammals I saw on television, or in an aquarium, safely, from a distance. Even swimming in the sea, I never quite could grasp the reality of actually being in shark infested waters.
Last week, I went to the cove. The tide wasn’t incredibly high, but it was up, so a little choppy, which clouds the waters slightly, not ideal for snorkeling but I decided to take a peek. Still standing in the shallows I put on my mask and dipped under. Wow! I was surrounded by thousands of silver fish! The mermaid in me became entranced, even as I did have the light thought, “these fish look like they’d make good Shark snacks.” The thousands of shiny, silver Sun dappled fish easily accommodated me and we drifted together. I decided I would swim with them and let them lead me to some potentially interesting reef.
As we moved together, the water periodically clear and then not, my mind replayed a story I had recently read in the local newspaper about a 70 plus years old woman living on the Big Island who was attacked by a shark. Despite being a marine biologist and snorkeling frequently for most of her life she had never seen a shark in the wild, until the day she was bitten.
Why was my mind replaying this, right now? Actually, this is how intuition works. When I sense an energy, my mind matches it with a familiar story, thought, image. It’s how mediums work, and truly anyone open to the psychic sensitivity of their awareness.
As I’m becoming aware of the shark story replaying in my mind, I’m also noticing the water has become very low visibility. The fish are moving a little more erratically, too. I’m now thinking about how this was something the woman in the article mentioned. She said that right before she was bitten, the water became murky, and that’s when she felt “this is probably bad.”
Suddenly, the fish who had been moving with the tide start scattering in different directions, moving so quickly that I can no longer discern them individually, so fast they look like light tracers. I look down to see the source of their distress. About six feet below me, a shark. My mind, in a millisecond of disbelief, wants it to be a dolphin. No. That shape, that signature sway and whoosh of its tail. It is quite large, the size of my arm, leg, perhaps larger, but I am not thinking about that. Only: Swim FAST!!!
Paddle, paddle, paddle. I feel I’m moving way too slow. I remember another item from the paper: when the shark bit her, she kicked it as hard as she could with her flippers. I keep my flippers moving as fast as I can. I’d use them as a weapon, if needed.
Then, I remember to look up only to realize I’d been swimming the wrong direction, away from the beach! I course correct, and fortunately I’m really not that far away from the shore. Heart pounding, I swim closer to the beachgoers area including a couple of women in my path. I am now very concerned for everyone else’s safety, too. Their innocence, the laughter I hear, suddenly strikes me as naive. As I frantically swim by, I say “I just saw a shark” and they of course look at me in surprise and start getting out. I arrive on the beach, never so relieved to feel the warm sand underneath my feet. Now, we three are on the beach, and as I am trying to catch my breath, the woman asks, “You saw a shark?” I try to speak but nothing is coming out yet. Then she says, “Consider yourself lucky! Most people never get to see a shark in its natural habitat.”
I realize, in the ensuing minutes and hours of sharing my story, she is right. Very few people do, and far, far fewer are attacked (only three attacks in Hawaii this year. And according to the blasé lifeguard I spoke with, there has never been an attack in Waikiki – despite the fact that “there are sharks that live in this cove, for sure. They sleep over there (points). They love the little fish and sea lions.” As I calm myself and prepare to leave I suddenly find myself unusually talkative (it’s the shock talking). I see a woman who looks like a serious swimmer and snorkeler, a weathered, wise beachgoer. I ask her if she had been snorkeling. She said she swims here every day for 20 years. “I have never seen a shark,” she says. Then, “But today I noticed all the little fish, and the lack of clarity in the water and had the thought, maybe I won’t go out so far…Talking with you, I’m glad I didn’t.”
In the next day’s newspaper, an article said that there were 3 sightings of four-foot sharks in that cove, so they did decide to put up signs on the beach. The following day a six-foot shark was sighted in the same cove. My neighbors ask if I had called the local news (I hadn’t), as a newscaster relayed what sounded like my exact story. I also discovered these were white tail sharks, and that this particular species can be aggressive to humans when around prey or feeding so are sharks to avoid at that time.
The Truth About Intuition and Fear
I can feel this encounter changed my consciousness. How do I describe encountering an animal like this in the wild? It is indescribable. I realized, for weeks now, I had been energetically sensing sharks in this particular cove because I had been thinking about them when I hadn’t before. Not in a fearful way. Fear is not intuition. But in a curious way. Wondering.
Well, you might ask, if my intuition had been fully online wouldn’t it have kept me out of the water entirely, out of potential danger? Spirit works on a need to know basis. When I arrived at the beach, I looked at the water, noting its unsettledness. As I went into the water, I still felt safe, as I did while swimming with the fish. At the point when my mind began matching the energies around me to the story I had read about the shark attack that’s when I needed to know/have that information. I was remembering the story of the woman because there was a potential for danger; the shark(s) were feeding nearby. Even in potential danger, Spirit does not alert us through wild fearful thoughts, but through calm directives in a language we can understand.
I have also since sorted out more truth about fear. The lifeguard told me that were I to encounter sharks again I should just stay calm (I don’t believe that in and of itself would’ve been the appropriate response for this particular situation). The truth is, humans have no predators, and so no animal truly wants a bite of you. I understand the only reason sharks bite humans is to explore their environment (apparently, we taste bad to them), if they get tangled up in a surf leash for instance and need to figure out what it is, or if your foot gets caught up with their dinner. Any aggression towards us is conditioned/learned behavior, just as we humans have– but a result of the abuse we’ve inflicted on them (If you’d like to explore this topic further, and through the lens of intuition, I recommend watching these fascinating videos of Anna Breytenbach, an animal intuitive, links here and here. There are also many great videos to explore about some beautiful connections that humans have with sharks, like here and here.)
So, fight, flight or freeze? I can now say from personal experience that your amygdala, the animal brain in your limbic system, will sort that out for you. No need to think about it; there is no decision to be made with the mind. You can’t anyhow, since that’s been hi-jacked. For instance, flight was appropriate in my case. In another situation, say you are dolphin watching at the bottom of the sea and a shark cruises in, freeze would be – just be peaceful, let them continue on. Fight was appropriate for the woman who, once bitten, needed to defend herself. For some animals, defecation is the immediate response; that keeps the predators away.
Every birthday year an animal imparts it’s medicine to me. I didn’t know how, when or why… but I just knew shark would be meaningful this year in some way. Here’s a little bit of poetry about my astrology, for you astrology lovers: I am on the tail end (pun intended) of a ten-year period of receiving Pluto transits to my personal planets. Transiting Pluto, planet of Truth, is opposing sensitive Venus in Cancer, my chart ruler. In that singular encounter, I took shark into my consciousness. Ingested it. It has been changing me ever since. I can feel it working its way around my being, asking me questions, integrating, deepening.
I feel really graced to be where I am in my expanded awareness, to have received guidance at the moment I needed it. I’ve always taken time to center before entering the ocean but this has now become a more conscious ritual. Not as a fearful practice, but as a way to acknowledge that I enter the water in full awareness, respect, and peace and love.
I’ve also had to be with the very human part of me who is afraid of getting eaten! Ask anyone what shark medicine imparts and you will hit on fearlessness. I did some gentle trauma release techniques and rebounding to help my nervous system release the fear, not of the actual moment (which wasn’t fearful, but acting in self-preservation) but of replaying and reliving that moment where my mind kicked in and told me that my life could be in danger. I’ve been allowing all of these feelings be true, to feel it all, this understandable fear and desire to stay alive. For me, the only way to work through this fear is to allow and feel it all.
I will be honest, I had some real hesitation about going back into the ocean again. How would I feel now? As we paddled our kayak out to a sandbar yesterday, I told myself I didn’t have to go in if I didn’t want to. But I did. Getting into the water felt different this time. I felt I was entering as a respectful guest of a great mansion. This mansion would have many doors closed to me, much going on behind the scenes, that I would respectfully float on by. But some doors would be open to me. As I swam through the water I kept checking in with myself, staying in tune with the environment (how are the fish moving? is the water clear enough?) and how I was feeling. Since animals and mammals pick up on our energies, and fear is a predator/prey energy, I want to make sure that I am feeling peaceful. I was essentially relaxed. Then, I spied a 3 foot long turtle watching us from the sea wall, just a few feet away. I love sea turtles, but it surprised me! That element of surprise made me decide to head back to the boat.
I am being radically compassionate with myself, and being radically truthful with myself about how I feel in every moment. I think anyone who loves the ocean and is consistently in it, eventually comes face to face with their own fear about sharks– whether through someone you know encountering a shark, or having your own experience. Personally, it has deepened my commitment to get to the truth of fears, be they “what if…?”, my own, or other’s fearful energy. I choose to not let fear make my world smaller.
I’m realizing I have a desire to be in a more expansive connection with all of life forms around me. My curiosity about all non-human sentient presence(s), particularly the energetic, intuitive, aspects have thus become a source of fascination! It is something I haven’t explored very deeply until this point. When I inquired into the meaning of this encounter, with my own direct Spirit connection, Spirit told me that this experience surprised my limbic system in order to wake me up (sounds Uranian and Plutonian, doesn’t it?) and had it not been so dramatic, I would have ignored the message. Paradoxically, Spirit said, this jarring encounter was designed to allow the gentle awareness of other life forms embrace me, and my gentle awareness embrace them.
I began thinking about other times in my life when I have been jolted out of my ordinary reality by a surprise or shock in order to encounter deeper Truths about myself, the world, or my next step…and that’s when I remembered the card. Last Spring, while working on the Intuitive Energy Divination cards deck, which uses the symbolism of the sea and Hawaii, the image of shark showed up as a symbol for the Truth card. Yes, I had already written the below text and chosen the symbol many months before this event! Well, well, well. I just love the magic of life. My intention for creating this deck was/is to more deeply integrate the spiritual work I am doing. I will share this with you now, to tie up this amazing and wondrous experience.
Jessica, the mermaid
Interpretation: Why does Truth so often feel scary? Because we are all conditioned by a paradigm of lack. To the Ego, admitting a Truth may mean it could lose something, or have to give something else up that it thinks it wants or needs. Even the phrase “truth bomb” suggests Truth can shatter in resultant changes, yet “the truth will set you free.” What’s the Truth about truth? The irony is, Truth always gives, it never takes away. Truth only ever offers a greater sense of freedom, happiness, abundance, alignment for you. The Truth will set your Soul free, and so any changes it asks of you will only increase that. This card suggests you are receiving, or about to receive, your Soul’s Truth. It may feel like a punch to the gut. It may feel shocking, but in a good way—like receiving a surprise you didn’t know you wanted. It may feel temporarily destabilizing, as Truth asks you to reorient yourself around something that will be better for you. And, because you have an Ego, you may have temporary discomfort or resistance to these changes! Take some time and care with what you are feeling, while honoring Truth’s message. If acting on your Truth will involve other people, who will have their own responses, ideas, feelings that have nothing to do with you, remember to stay in your own energy. After all, this is coming from your Soul, which means what is good for One is good for All. Trust your Soul’s Truth! This is your innate Divine Guidance at work, in its most elegant, efficient, and enlightened form.
Symbol: Shark. People are afraid of sharks, but this smiling shark knows the Truth about fear. Which is: all Fear is an illusion. A play of light and shadow, until Light of Truth reveals itself in entirety. Who better knows this than shark, for sharks symbolically represent the strength and power of embodying our natural Divine authority—in other words, living our Soul’s Truth. When we are living our Soul’s Truth, we ARE the shark, and there is literally nothing to fear. We are supremely protected, blessed, by the act of living in alignment with our self. That’s why nothing truly can ever harm a person consciously living their Truth—especially not fear.