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There was a time in my life when giraffes were literally falling at my feet. It was early in my path as an intuitive, and I was at the grocery store one day when a small, orange object fell into my shopping cart. I reached down — it was a knitted giraffe finger puppet. I looked around for where it could have come from. I was in the coffee aisle — nowhere near toys or baby stuff. Intrigued, I went ahead and purchased it. 

About a week later, I received a gift from a friend, wrapped in colorful paper featuring — a giraffe.

A few days after the gift wrap, my boss sent me a picture from his phone because he knew I’d been having a tough day. It was a photo of a baby giraffe. 

Though I had worked with spirit animals since childhood, for some reason I didn’t think that a spirit guide would come in giraffe form (my own preconceived ideas!). The penny finally dropped when I was doing a session with a fellow intuitive. We were investigating some creative blocks I was having. She was trying to contact my “genius,” or artistic muse. We visualized together and both saw — a giraffe!

Long story short, I came to realize that Giraffe was indeed trying to contact me and was present to help me through my creative blocks. Coincidental appearances are one way that spirit animals try to make themselves known to their human friends. Or they can come in dreams, through working with an animal card deck (I like Jamie Sams’ Medicine Cards), meditation or — as finally in my case — working with a psychic.

What Is a Spirit Animal?

Spirit totems and animals have been around since the beginning of time. Because early people lived so close to the natural world, it made sense that they would incorporate the animals around them into their mythology and spirituality

Animal spirits can work as actual spirit guides — like other guides or angels — and give us protection, messages, and companionship. Small children often have “imaginary friends” who are animals. Many clients report to me that a beloved pet becomes a spirit guide after its passing, and some people feel quite strongly that their current pet or a wild animal that they see in nature are acting to guide them. This can all be true. Often, when we see an animal in nature or randomly showing up in our lives, it has a specific message to deliver but doesn’t necessarily become a daily companion. 

For example, I was on a hike in the mountains and my thoughts were rather busy with a problem I was having with a partner. I silently asked the universe, “Please, send me a sign. What am I missing here?” As I looked up, sending off my message, I heard a sound off to my left in the brush. Startled, I stopped. Standing not twenty feet away was a huge bull moose. I moved away quietly, grateful to have seen such a creature, and also smiling — moose invite us to love ourselves and honor our gifts and experience. For my situation, it was a perfect reminder.

Meditation for Meeting Your Guide

If a spirit guide isn’t clamoring for your attention at the moment, don’t despair. There are ways to make contact, and remember that most animals are rather shy. In addition to the methods I mention above, you can try a specific meditation to find your animal guide.

I used this process with my client, Andy. He had just lost his beloved dog, Jewel, of twelve years and was missing her terribly. He was hoping to connect with her. We started the session with an intention to make contact with any animals who were inside his energy field. I led him through the following visualization. You might want to record if you’re taking yourself through the meditation.

Sit comfortably or lie down. Take a few deep breaths, allowing your attention to follow your breath through your body. Imagine yourself walking slowly down a path. Notice where you are, and see if you hear or smell anything around you. As you breathe, just notice what you observe. 

Now the path is coming to a bridge. You pause before crossing, knowing that once you do, you will be in the realm of spirit. Take a few moments here to set an intention to meet your spirit animal. Be open to what might appear — from mouse to lion, elephant to bee. Ask to meet for the highest good of both of you. And now, cross the bridge. Take your time, breathing deeply. With each step, you become more peaceful, relaxed, and trusting that you have a guide that wants to meet you.

Now that you are nearing the end of the bridge, notice the path as it continues forward. See the landscape. As you look ahead of you, continuing to walk, you will see a figure coming toward you. At first, it might be too small to see, but you know that this is your guide. Continue on — you are soon going to meet! Details start to appear. Now you can see your guide, and it can see you. Observe how the animal wants to greet you. Greet it respectfully in return. Thank it for appearing.

At this point in the meditation, you can ask whatever questions you want of the animal that has appeared to you. Remember, every creature has powerful messages and medicine, even if it isn’t an animal that appeals to you. In some cases, clients even see magical animals, like dragons or centaurs. It doesn’t matter. Just be open and receive. When you are ready to end the encounter, thank your guide, say goodbye, and return over the bridge to the original path.

How Your Spirit Animal Can Help You

As I mentioned, Andy was very attached to seeing his dog. But Jewel did not show up in this meditation. Instead, Andy encountered a bee. A delightful, fuzzy bumble bee that landed in the palm of his hand. 

His first response was confusion. How could a bee become a spirit guide? However, when we looked at the qualities and magic of Bee, it became clearer why it was in Andy’s field.

Part of missing his dog was wrapped around the life he had with her: hikes, the dog park, long drives, and taking her to work. Bee wasn’t going to change the sadness Andy felt but did invite Andy to consider a few things: creating a new community, savoring the sweetness of life with Jewel (and also now without her), and to collaborate with others to create something greater than himself. Andy promised to consider this offering and to watch for Bee in his life.

To start, he paid more attention to real bees, but he also became more aware of them in other ways. Soon after our reading, he saw a flyer for a humane society fundraiser on which a bee was landing on a dog’s nose. Cute graphic, yes, but Andy saw Bee trying to guide him. He went to the fundraiser, though he wasn’t sure if he’d fit in. From that event, Andy made two new connections for friendship, started volunteering at the local shelter, and is helping dogs find homes. He knows that when the time is right, he’ll adopt a new pet. He’s grateful to Bee for helping him fill the empty space where Jewel had been in his life.

To return to my own Giraffe, I feel the guidance of this muse whenever I need a reminder that I’m a creative and magical being myself. A bit of comedy seems inherent to this graceful guide, and the last time he showed up was at a coffee bar. I was feeling a little grumpy and lost around a creative project I was working on. As I went to the counter to order coffee, my barista had a lovely giraffe tattoo on her forearm. I had to smile, made a nice connection with the barista, and forgot what I’d been feeling so grumpy about.

The important thing to remember when working with animal spirits is that the guidance might not be earth shattering. It can be subtle, playful, and it will often be very visual and intuitive, like animals themselves. 

If you want to become very attuned to animals and how they play a role in your life, I recommend working with a deck of cards. Jamie Sams’ Medicine Cards have spreads and instructions for finding your totem animals through her Native American-based system. Working weekly or daily with cards keeps animals in your awareness. Then, when you are flying and an elk shows up on the tail of your airplane, you can say, “Ah, I need to remember my stamina and perseverance!” Or when a bat flies by, you get the hint that an important rebirth process is in the works.

By connecting to animal guides, you can’t help but feel more involved in the natural world. Being friends with nature instead of feeling separate from it is not only healing for you but healing for the planet.

If you’re are looking to connect and work with a spirit animal, an advisor on Keen can help.