Mystical is mainstream
I’m so excited! I am a contributing author to this collection of stories. Animals: Personal Tales of Encounters with Spirit Animals is the first release in a series where everyday people share their mystical, spiritual experiences. Although I did not pay to have my name listed on the cover, my story is referenced on the back — well, that’s fun!
The book is available on Amazon, and I cannot wait to read each of the contributions. (In fact, my author copies arrive today!) I’ve been playing with Kindle Direct Publishing, and have created an eBook version of my originally-submitted story, here. An audio version on Audible is in process, too.
This story is also shared with you below — both in print and audio versions. May it, and all the other collected stories across the series, inspire you to recognize your own spiritual encounters. They happen more often than we might think — the mystical is actually mainstream.
Blessings. And enjoy.
Angst is Optional
I have experienced an actual, true panic attack twice in my life; during both events, a mystical encounter with Spirit saved me. This is the story of my second time.
The steering wheel’s thumb pads guide my hands comfortably, relaxed at home in the modernized eight and four o’clock positions. I bounce all over the driver’s seat, roaring along with a newly-released greatest hits cd that’s pounding out the songs of a popular punk/alternative rock band. Today the absent laughter of, “Don’t sing, Mom!” is underscored by soft snores. I smile into the rearview mirror at our middle-aged black lab sprawled across the back seat. Her head rests in one of the booster seats, next to a partially completed Transformer toy. In the other, her back foot covers a Super Mario Brothers Game Boy game cartridge. My eyes look forward down the road once more, before I glance quickly at my right to the front passenger seat. My tan leather crossbody bag, the regular solo seat occupant, today shares the space with handwritten, pre-GPS directions. Mid-afternoon’s yellow-orange warmth through the windshield, my favorite sunglasses, and well over halfway to an exciting new destination: I have always loved a road trip.
But then, I slowly stop bouncing. Wistfulness tightens across my face as my heart reaches out toward my absent children. Music and snuffles fade from awareness, leaving only the underlying hum of tire white noise. This is the weekend my kiddos are not home, and by now I’d have thought that this could feel at least ordinary. Even after all this time the lack of their presence is still alien. Incongruous. Painful, even. It feels foreign and wrong to travel without them, even though this particular excursion is planned. Guilt. I adjust my hips side to side in my seat and lean forward, hands absently drifting back to my learned and outdated muscle memory of ten and two on the wheel. My throat tightens. I swallow. I think about my children who are not home with me this weekend, and I consider why this particular trip is designed timing.
A few months ago I met a new Person of Interest — and I’ve been regularly connecting with him at a handful of his family gatherings here in the small town where I live. We’ve also been talking daily on the phone in the evenings after the kids are asleep. This is our first time getting together just the two of us. At his house. Two hours away. Which means overnight. At this point I am unaware that he is to become the love of my life, that our pairing is Divine. What in the actual hell am I doing?!? No group gathering as a buffer. I am going to his house for the weekend! The weekend! As a first date! What kind of message does that send? What kind of woman am I? What kind of mother am I? I don’t know this person, really. What am I getting myself into? I could turn around. I should turn around. I’m about a half hour away from my destination, an hour and a half back to the safety of home. I shouldn’t be doing this. I can’t do this. I don’t do this. I did not date much before I was married, and I haven’t discovered any joy in dating since it’s been over. I don’t know how to do this, I can’t do this. What am I thinking?!? I had thought that this was good, that my intuition was guiding, and now I’m super questioning. And scared. What if I got my intuition confused? What if what I thought had felt right is actually really wrong, again?
I take my sunglasses off and wipe my forehead with the back of my hand. Turn down the cd volume. Look outside around me at the greening grass in the ditches, the burgeoning crops beyond, the sky with only a cloud or two gently leading me down the road. What is happening to me? My mind won’t stop. I am losing control of my body. I am spiralling out of bounds, unusually and uncharacteristically. I am truly hyperventilating, now. Constricted left side of my chest, pounding. Blood in my ears, roaring. Tunnel vision. What is happening to me? I have a vague notion that I need to focus on the road, before it disappears from my awareness. Do I pull over? I should pull over! Should I not be driving right now, in this escalating physical state? And what is this physical state, anyway?!? What in the world am I experiencing? How can this possibly be happening? I am being completely taken over by and separated from my body and my rising manic mental loop: I can’t go I can’t do this I can’t NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!
Appearing in the road ahead of me is a shadowy, wavelike motion. A medium-sized, dark mammal emerges into my lane from the wide ditch on the right, crossing my path and moving across into the vacant oncoming lane. This is not unusual, as various critter sightings are a regular part of my driving. This untamed, wild thing is far enough ahead that there is no danger of hitting it, yet close enough that I can’t believe I haven’t identified it so far. Involuntarily and completely captured by this mystery animal, my body and brain are arrested in its furious, uncontrolled frenzy. I am existing in one split second, yet synchronously frozen in extended time.
Leaning forward in wonder, my face scrunches in curious focus. What is it? Raccoon is an obvious choice, as it’s quite common to see those that are permanently “sleeping” on the pavement. (Why did the chicken cross the road? To show the raccoon that it can actually be done.) But this is the wrong shape and movement for a raccoon. It has less bulk, and it flows with no awkwardness. Until I saw this animal move, I never thought of raccoons as clunky walkers. Could it be a skunk, then, another common roadside sighting? Nope, this being is larger than that. Also, there is no waddling, and it wears a uniformly colored coat that shines. I see sleekness. There is a smooth gait. The movement is undulating. This creature is agile. It has a grace to its presence.
Just watching it in this moment, I feel my body begin to respond, and relax. It feels like ripples, and a lithe flow emanates. What is it?!? My foot is off of the gas pedal as I coast closer to where this creature is safely crossing, dropping off into the ditch on the far side of the road. I am gliding now, releasing the pushing. Reshaping myself. Receiving. As I pass, then, realization is a strike of lightning: this is an otter. An otter. Whaat? Disbelief and reverence downloads into my being, and I am fully halted from panic as I grip the wheel.
In my psyche, otter energy is imprinted as lighthearted, fun, encouragement to be more playful. And although I cross paths with many different animals on a regular day, since my youth, I have rarely encountered actual otters. I glance around both sides of the road, all around me, at the farm fields. Where is the water? Don’t otters live around water? Lines of mature oaks stand on the far sides of both ditches, wide fields of corn and sugar beet crops beyond. This otter is literally out of nowhere: Now Here.
In a stupor of disbelief I again face forward, attending to the nonexistent traffic as I am now slowed to near stopping. This otter has crossed the road safely into the ditch on the other side, and has presented me with a clear view of itself in full the entire time. An otter for sure. Unmistakable.
What happens next is even more astonishing.
My body now becomes flooded with an absolute and complete calm that does not at all match my frantic thinking. This is not coming from me. This is an external feeling, someone or something else. It is not generated by me or from within myself. I am not the Source of this feeling, it is being bestowed upon me. My mind is still spinning up and yet my body and spirit are calming. I feel slightly disoriented with this disconnection, aware yet unafraid. This awareness is also being given to me in this moment. This is how I know it is not of myself. And then, my mind catches up and matches my body and spirit, and it calms. It can’t not. Again, this is coming from outside of myself. I feel only peace. Holy wow. Open-mouthed, I collapse back into my seat in astonishment as I glide forward, the otter vanishing into the dry ditch as I slide by.
On the heels of this peace, I unexpectedly and accidentally explode into happy, true ecstasy. As with the peace, this feeling is not generated from within, it is being imparted to me, a gift. I am inexplicably full-bodied joyous! I am being shown, through feeling, what Otter represents to me, and the meaning is that there is no need for panic. Worry not about this weekend, and all that it entails. I actually am in tune with my intuition, and am following Divine guidance. I am being encouraged to lighten up, to find the fun in the unknowns of this very situation, in this exact moment, with this specific person. To enjoy. It is safe for me to do so. In fact, it is part of a bigger plan for me to do so. Although I won’t fully realize it until many years later, this is a pivotal point in the timeline of my life.
Spirit is showing me, in an intense burst of internalized as well as actual physical Otter energy, that this path not only has nothing to fear, but also has the potential for incredible deep lifelong joy ahead down this road. I am safe. This is right. Go to see this person. For the entire weekend. Say yes. My fears are unfounded, he is not going to turn out to be a serial killer, or another narcissist, or yet again a master manipulator. He’s not even going to turn out to be a waste of time. He is truly a good soul. This is a gift..
I am even being shown why I was heading in this spiraling direction of uncharacteristic panic in the first place. Spirit is encouraging me to do the very thing I panicky-doubted: to trust. To see what unfolds from here. Not only is this situation okay, it is necessary. It is Divine guiding, Divine timing.
Looking back decades later, I can see that I almost stepped off of my life’s path at this critical point, and did not even know it at the time. It took a mystical experience for me to get out of my own way.
I am supposed to go this weekend, to say yes, to trust in the not knowing. To take a leap of heart and of faith.
I swallow my fear, my panic, which now magically tastes like trust and surrender. And in this moment I am transformed. I am ecstasy. My face can not stop smiling. I am exuberance. My body is vibrating. I am expansive, I am light, I am euphoria. I am rapture. This is not my plan, but Spirit’s. Surrender, and follow this.
I throw back my head and look up through the open sunroof at the blue sky dotted with sparse puffy clouds. And I surge forward — foot pressing down on the gas pedal, elbows straight and strong — joy absolutely erupting from every cell.
Then I hear laughter. Oh wait, that’s me.