Turning to Wild Animal Wisdom for Guidance in Uncertain Times

Jeff Oxford

An eagle flew so closely over my car windshield that I reflexively ducked as I drove towards our local animal shelter with my kids in the backseat.  The eagle’s brief visit felt like a blessing on our decision to adopt a second dog. I knew in my heart, finally, that we were doing the right thing.


A spider had built a huge web in our front doorway.  It was the first thing I saw that morning and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I couldn’t afford to avoid writing one more day. I got the coffee started and grabbed my laptop. Determined to do the rewrites I’d been avoiding.


I awoke in my hotel bed feeling lonely, scared and lost. Next, I opened my eyes to “see” a fire sprinkler on the ceiling that was remarkably elephant shaped and I remembered, instantly, that I was absolutely loved and loveable. Happy tears came and I immediately shifted from self-pity into wonder.


I’m a shamanic healer, so reading the signs and symbols all around me (and helping my clients to do the same for themselves) is what I do for a living.  Maybe my stories sound a little ridiculous, or maybe, you too have had the strange and wondrous experience of receiving an extremely helpful message from a wild animal?


Uncertainty is something that, as humans, we must wrestle with.  And when things get extremely uncertain, we desperately want (and need) good guidance.  We shake our hands at the sky (or beg our therapist, BFF or life coach) “Tell me how this [insert problem or drama/situation] is going to end?  Or “What “should” I do? So that things go well?”


And sometimes, if we query enough people, we may get some answers…but how can we be sure they are the right ones for us?


A decade or so ago, I was faced with a desperate patch of this kind of uncertainty. My medical practice which had fit me to a tee suddenly felt like a super itchy wool body suit (with a snap crotch) that was six sizes too small. This horrible plot twist foiled my former certainty (I’ll live comfortably doing a job I’m proud of and retire at seventy-five!) and put a serious cramp in my joy.


I was in a sheer panic. I couldn’t dare quit…and throw away twenty years of training/experience? But, I was miserable.  So, I hit pause on my career and took what I now fondly refer to as my “radical sabbatical” from medicine. That summer my uncertainty level was at “Spinal Tap level eleven” …absolutely unbearable.  My undies were in such a bundle worrying about the future “what-ifs” that I couldn’t even enjoy the first summer I’d had off in over twenty years.


That’s when the wild animals came calling.  I stumbled into this ancient shamanic idea that the creatures that crossed your path had wisdom to share with you. If you paid attention, they would teach you things.  “Come on!” I scoffed darkly…that’s crazy? I was about as linear and logical as they come.


Desperation bordering on madness, however, will force you to do strange things.  Without telling a soul (lest they think me unstable), I decided to experiment with this surreal suggestion.


If the wild beasts were so smart, maybe they could toss me a wisdom bone and help me figure out how to write a book.  During my radical sabbatical I had suddenly been abducted by this crazy idea that I needed to write a book and I had no idea how to write a book, never mind what the book was even about.


So, I took to my neighborhood sidewalk and even briefly entered the woods nearby. My experiment was extremely disappointing.  No muskrats sauntered by me, no timid hares leaped and no birds of any distinction sang any songs. I returned home defeated. The only “creatures” I had seen, if you could call them that, was a group of ants I saw fleeing across the sidewalk carrying tiny grains of sand.  “Great…just my luck! Ants.” They seemed so extremely insignificant and unhelpful.


I wrote broodingly into my diary about the meaninglessness of ants. Then, it hit me.  Ants build these huge castles of sand. And they don’t do it alone. And they don’t do it overnight….


Wait. Maybe the ants were there to help me after all? I asked myself, “How could I approach this book project as an ant would?”.  That afternoon, I opened a file and wrote a few notes about what the book title was and what I might want to cover in the book and closed it again. That was my attempt to (metaphorically) move one grain of sand across the sidewalk.


Was its divinity coming through the ants as indigenous societies believed? Was it a case of simple inspiration by biology? At first, I wasn’t sure. But, because it was helping, I kept going.


After the ants, I started listening very closely to every single beastie that showed up.  Though some days, I could scarcely keep up. The more I paid attention, the more animals that came. And I recorded their advice (or what I intuited it was) in my journal. I didn’t stop and less than a year later I self-published my first book which (eventually) led to a book advance and a literary agent.


With time, I learned that each and every beastie had amazing wisdom to share, if only I would listen. I am now noticing a powerful resurgence of beasties appearing in my life now to guide me.  I think it’s because everything has become so much more uncertain again. For, all of us.  In this Pandemic it’s as if, collectively, we are all stepping into the dark forest, unsure of what lies ahead.


In traditional shamanic societies, when things get extremely uncertain, they always listen to the wild creatures because they trust in their wisdom.


Whether your uncertain of the role you want to play in this Universe moving forward or you aren’t sure how you’re going to make it through another day of ZOOM work calls with your Grandma’s barking chihuahua in the same room, I invite you to open up to the wisdom of the beasties.  What they have to share with you just might help you relax just a little bit.


Please find below two beasties (Rat and Phoenix) I have chosen to share from my book “The Book of Beasties: Your A-Z Guide to the Illuminating Wisdom of Spirit Animals


Read the one you are most drawn to or read them both.  Take what you like and leave the rest.



May we all find our way again, together!  Add a copy of Sarah’s book to your cart here.