I had journeyed across the country from Los Angeles to upstate New York to present a workshop at the Omega Institute about connecting with the spirit world. After a five hour flight and two and a half hour drive, I parked at the B&B to unload my luggage and rest for a few moments, then hopped in the car and drove the few miles to the nearby town of Rhinebeck. I wanted to gather some supplies for my three-day stay, and from my previous visits knew of an outstanding health food store in the village that had many of my favorite goods.
As I was driving along the somewhat twisty road on this unseasonably hot and humid day, appreciating the forested panorama on either side, I noticed another driver fast approaching my car from behind. I gripped the wheel tighter as he approached. The other car came within a car length as I snaked my way along at 40 miles per hour, with no place along the road to pull over or for the other car to pass. I slowed a bit, thinking the other driver might pass in spite of the double yellow lines. My attention was divided between the road ahead and the vehicle in the rear view mirror that seemed to be attached by an invisible cord to our car.
Suddenly I caught something on the pavement, some small, indistinct movement just ahead. It was a tortoise that was crossing the road! He had just crossed the dividing line moving from left to right, moseying along—naturally—at a tortoise pace, clearly directed to be on the other side of the road. All in the blink of an eye, I swerved and gratefully avoided running over this beautiful creature. But what about the car behind me? Immediately I glanced in the rear view mirror, and to my great relief saw that the driver had also managed to avoid hitting the tortoise.
Once I had gotten through the initial shock of the situation I realized that my little friend was still in danger, so I did a u-turn and tracked back to the scene of the crossing. When I arrived, there was a yellow Volkswagen Beatle parked off to the side of the road. A woman was escorting the tortoise by standing behind him, shepherding him for the brief remainder of his trek by walking behind. Occasionally she would clap her hands, prompting the tortoise to scoot along a bit faster for at least a couple of steps. I breathed a sigh of relief, thanked the woman for caring so much, and continued on my journey to Rhinebeck.
When an animal shows up in an unusual way or repeatedly in a short period of time, whether in its physical or symbolic form, they’re trying to give us a message. The animal that makes an appearance in either of these ways is not just one animal, but is a representative of the entire species of that animal. It’s the essence, or spirit, of every one of these animals on the entire planet concentrated in this one being that’s trying to reach you with a message. This is why we don’t speak of simply the tortoise, a bear, the coyote, or an eagle, but instead Tortoise, Bear, Coyote, and Eagle.
When you observe an animal in this way, in order to decipher the message, close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, see that animal in your mind’s eye, and silently ask what message they have for you. Once you’ve asked, pay attention to whatever shows up next, whether through images, words, sensations, thoughts, or some combination of these. The communication may be very clear or may be somewhat cryptic or dream-like, but however it shows up, this is your answer.
So with the tortoise who crossed the road, given that I was driving, I obviously couldn’t shut my eyes. Instead, I just let it work me, asking the spirit of Tortoise what message he was trying to give me. The communication came through gradually over the next several hours, and consisted of some very simple messages that proved valuable not only for the class I was about to teach, but also every area of my life.
So here’s a summary of the message:
“SLOW DOWN! You’ve got all the time in the world. Be willing to stick your neck out, take some risks. You are protected and cared for, and you can always retreat if necessary. Know that help is always nearby when you need it—just put the word out. It will often show up in unexpected and surprising ways.”
This was helpful for me since I had started doing random “power animal readings,” tuning into someone’s animal spirit guide and relaying what the spirit guide was communicating. Tortoise encouraged me to go for it, to not hold back, trust the information I would get and pass it along to the individual I was reading. His shell was a reminder that protection was always available.
I went on to teach the class and throughout, Tortoise’s message continued to play itself out in many ways. My readings were sharp and detailed, thanks to the willingness on the part of the animal spirits to show themselves to me so clearly. Tortoise reminded us that we were safe at all times, in spite of the things of life whizzing by us, just like the cars whizzing by our friend on the road.