Shapeshifting for Healing and Transformation
“Directing intention to alter energy and form means more than thinking we want to change. It means more than thinking about what we want to change… it requires us to engage body, heart and imagination. We must take on the qualities of what we desire or want to be.”
― Llyn Roberts
Isn’t it fascinating how intricately adapted animals are to their environment? How an octopus can change not only its color, but even the texture of its skin to blend in with rocks or coral when evading a predator? Or how bats use sonar to navigate and hunt in the darkness?
What would it be like to hear with the keen ears of a wolf or cat, or see with the precision of an owl or eagle? To run as fast as a cheetah, change form like a caterpillar does to a butterfly, to shed your old skin like a snake, or regenerate a broken limb like a starfish?
How might your sense of self change? How might your sense of reality expand?
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What is Shapeshifting?
Spirits of nature are endowed with unique gifts and great wisdom to share about how to live well in this world — how to persevere, how to endure, how to defend and safeguard, and how to heal.
Ancient Shamans and members of Native and Pagan cultures have looked to nature spirits for thousands of years for guidance and understanding, practicing a powerful technique that allows one to energetically merge with an animal or element in nature in order to expand beyond familiar energetic boundaries and attune to the wisdom of that animal or element’s consciousness. This technique is called shapeshifting.
To shapeshift and merge with a nature spirit is to take in its archetypal essence and step into its power; To see through its eyes, feel through its body, and sense with its instincts. While our physical form does not literally change, we experience a powerful shift in consciousness.
The Benefits of Shapeshifting
Shapeshifting allows us to experience life from a completely different perspective. In this way, we are able to broaden our perception of ourselves, of the world around us, and our relationship to it.
Greater perspective informs meaning and understanding. With a shapeshifting practice, we feel more deeply our infinite interconnectedness with the Universe, the earth, and all of its beautifully diverse array of life. Especially when working with animals or elements that we fear or feel an aversion to, we can learn to appreciate them and perhaps even grow to like them as we experience their gifts and the lessons they have to share with us.
We learn to cultivate deeper compassion and empathy in our lives, and with heightened intuition and instinct, we become more perceptive, more creative, more adaptable and more resilient to the challenges that we are faced with.
What I Learned from Shapeshifting
My first experience with shapeshifting was during my Shamanic Reiki training in New York. Our group was lead into a trance state by our teacher, where we met with our spirit animals and invited them to merge with us for guidance in our own healing process.
I’ve had an affinity for wolves for most of my life, so it was not too surprising to me that when I had called on my spirit animal it was a wolf that showed. What did surprise me, however, was that it had pure white eyes and appeared to be blind. I did not understand the significance of this at first and was admittedly quite confused, but part of the training was to let go of the thinking Ego and allow our intuition to lead without filter or question.
When I merged with the wolf I indeed could not see, but all of my other senses were heightened and magnified. I instantly realized that for my healing work, I needed to be less in my head and more attuned to what I felt in my body and the energy around me.
Some months later I found myself in the midst of what had become a particularly turbulent period of my life. No matter what I did I felt resistance, tension, conflict, pressure — like I was caught in some violent riptide that, the more I tried to swim against it, the more frenzied and exhausted I became.
Then I began to notice that jellyfish were suddenly showing up around me — in my dreams, in a meditation, as an illustration on an art print that had caught my eye, and in conversation. “Okay,” I remember thinking, “you have my attention, Jellyfish. What is your message?”
I took some time to meditate then decided to try shapeshifting and see what I could learn. I imagined myself in the body of a jellyfish and felt the sea gently supporting me and carrying me along. I felt calm, fluid, and graceful.
One attribute of Jellyfish is that they are generally passive creatures — freely and effortlessly drifting in the flow of the current. One of the lessons of Jellyfish, then, is that sometimes, we need to allow ourselves to just go with the flow and trust in the Universe to work things out.
What I hadn’t realized was that my attempt to control my situation was only further agitating it — creating undue negative energy and causing me more stress — but after reflecting on Jellyfish’s message, I began to loosen my grip on my expectations and just allow the situation to evolve. Once I did that, the energy started to shift and things became much easier — calmer, fluid, and more graceful.
How to Shapeshift
1. Find a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Personally I like to lay down for this, but you may sit in a comfortable chair if you prefer. Traditionally a drum is played in a steady rhythm that increases in tempo to about seven beats per second, which helps induce a trance state and facilitate the journey. Here is a link to a track on YouTube that I often use, but if you would prefer a different type of meditative music that is okay too.
2. Close your eyes and bring your awareness to your breath. Inhale for four counts, hold, and exhale for four counts. Allow yourself to become still.
3. When you are ready, enter into your sacred space. Take a few moments to settle in and center, then, with clear and focused intent, call in the animal or element that you wish to merge with. If you are seeking guidance and don’t know who or what to call in, you may simply ask that a spirit guide come to you for your greatest and highest good. Invite the animal or element that appears to enter into you, and feel its spirit merge with your own.
4. Slowly start to imagine yourself becoming the animal or element. Engage all of your senses. Feel your fur or your feathers, your claws, your tail or whiskers. What is it like to have wings that take you soaring among the clouds — to see from that perspective? Or to have gills that allow you to breathe under water — what is it like to feel your body move with the current of the ocean? If you are merging with the ocean itself to attune to the wisdom of water energy, how does it feel to be fluid and formless? Or perhaps it is a strong and sturdy tree that you are merging with — how does it feel to have roots deep in the ground, to have sprawling branches, or to lose your leaves? What lessons can you learn from these experiences, these sensations?
5. When you are done, thank the animal or element for its guidance and release it.
6. Take a few moments to reacquaint with your own body, to ground, then do some journaling about your experience and what it taught you.
Here is a fantastic book by Llyn Roberts for further reading!