One summer in Costa Rica I was teaching meditation in a morning yoga class. The mic was acting up and there was a feedback issue with the sound system. While the students sat in silent meditation, our assistant gently put her hand on my shoulder and told me I had company. I looked back and less than 3 feet behind my yoga mat, wrapped in the amp cords was a snake.

I’m not usually bothered by jungle creatures; in fact I feel a kinship with them. I like the futile job of rescuing suicidal bugs from the pool (they almost always fly back in), and I’m happy to relocate spiders for anyone who asks. But the snake’s markings were consistent with one of the poisonous varieties, so this was different. Our assistant looked at me with concern before she disappeared into the jungle to find the groundskeepers. As I sat there looking out at the peacefulness of the students in their meditation practice, and hyper aware of my new companion sliding around behind me, it felt like time was standing completely still.

Over the years I have learned to listen when nature speaks to me. Animals that show themselves in a distinct way carry with them a message if we are willing to listen. Many people are frightened of snakes, but there is a beautiful and powerful symbolism associated with these creatures. Literally shedding their old skin in a symbolic and powerful rebirth, snakes represent deep growth and radical transformation. There is a ‘bursting open’ quality to the type of transformation that snake energy heralds.

The planet is undergoing a big purification process that will continue over the upcoming years. There is a potent healing energy available that was not previously accessible. It is not a time to back away from our fears. It is a time to let our shadow side see the light of day so that it can be fully healed and free up more space for peace. It is said that at this time in history, whatever darkness remains in our hearts and psyche will be brought up to the surface for healing. If we are willing to take responsibility for our shadowy junk and consciously work through it, a deep soul cleanse will result.

Sometimes we evolve ourselves slowly, gently and we even ‘sign up for the course’ with an intent to learn. Other times we evolve through more intense experiences that may not feel welcomed or pleasant. Many hearts have been broken open through loss, betrayal, death, illness, poverty or sudden trauma. Or the rough landscape of depression, fear or anxiety has us scratching our way out of the dark. Please don’t underestimate the perfection of your difficult times. These snake experiences shake our foundation and make us feel incredibly unsteady, but they are healers in disguise. At times the jarring cleanse of our natural death and rebirth cycles are exactly what we need to evolve ourselves to our next stage of development. If we can avoid labeling these experiences as bad, shameful or wrong and instead recognize the darkness as purposeful, a gift sits quietly awaiting us on the other side.

Any of you who have experience with physical cleanses know that they can be messy and uncomfortable. Our emotional detoxes are similar. The toxins that are brought to the surface create temporary discomfort, but as they are released they make room for new energy, vitality and potential. Even common illnesses that we develop can be mini-cleanses. They can force us to stop eating and make us sleep all day. Our society labels being sick as a bad thing, but sometimes it gives our bodies a much needed break from digestion and frenetic action. Our challenge in these times is to reconsider what we previously labeled as bad, shameful or wrong. Without the dark, there is no light.

My beloved friend Loti was an earthkeeper and a wise sage in my life. One summer we shared a rustic cabina in the jungle, and she mentored me in the art of communicating with bugs and animals. I used her tools on the snake that day. With deep respect, I talked to that snake through my heart and with my intention. When it seemed to slide out of the cords toward me I said ‘no, stay in your place and I’ll stay in mine and we can be here together like this.’ It stayed there moving slowly around in the cords and out of my way for what felt like the longest 10 minutes of my life. As I write this today I can still feel the quality of being there with that snake. The snake made time stand still. This past year the snake energy of my bigger life cleanses also stopped me in my tracks. And while I don’t wish to relive the more painful times, I am very grateful for how they changed me.

The groundskeepers eventually came and relocated the snake. We later discovered that in fact it was not a venomous snake, but one of the mimicking varieties. These snakes have evolved to look dangerous as a way of protecting themselves. And so it is with the snake experiences that await all of us. What seems dark and scary at first may not actually pose any threat. Remember not to become attached to the darker times. They are only temporary and I promise they will pass! Instead of shrinking down in fear, may we all allow the potency of what shakes us up, to wake us up.

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