Sometimes people will advice that you meditate when you are confused and looking for answers. Indeed meditation is there to help you clear your mind, but it’s unlikely that you get clear visions of anything meaningful. I may be breaking some people’s hopes, but we are by nature very visual, imaginative beings and there are 95% of chances that with random visualizations excercizes will trigger something “fake” (it won’t give you the right answers). Also, meditating does not equal soulsearching – meditation isn’t soulsearch, but it can be a tool to help introspecting. I’m not a master of meditation so this section will be short and I won’t enter into details. I simply want to clear some things up.
Meditation is a medium to achieve inner peace. It does not equal getting magical visions of your grand-poobah spirit guide, that you’ll astral travel or will talk to the gods. Reaching a state of inner peace is there to help you getting rid of parasiting thoughts that get in the way of your questioning process. Often people think meditation is there to enter an altered state of consciousness where answers will be handed to them. Don’t expect that to happen; don’t expect anything because you will trigger it, something fake. I’ve see many people mistaking “visions” and day-dreaming. Just drop the idea, what matter is that you relax and don’t let any worries influence you, so you can look at concrete facts and feelings, and deal with reality in the most honest way possible. Meditation is not about thinking of nothing. It’s about not paying attention to the parasiting flow of thoughts wandering in your mind, in order to distance yourself from them and find inner-peace. Again, the purpose is that you clear your mind and reach the perfect state to question yourself.
I’ve used a similar form of meditation to Keller’s chakra meditation guide. Her article is more comprehensive than anything I could write on the subject so I’ll direct you to it instead of babbling incoherently.
I don’t recommend visualization as a main tool for therians because it’s prone to let fantasies go wild no matter how far from reality it is. This is problematic, you can never trust what you think you saw – if you saw anything – let alone any interpretation of it. Often meditation will make you visualize what you expect the most or what would please you the most. It can be hard to stay unbiased and keep one’s mind critical when questioning oneself even with a clear mind, but fortunately you have more possibilities, including discussing.
Questioning’s biggest difficulty is that it works only when you stay honest and the most unbiased possible – and it can be pretty hard to make sure you are. I would advise that, later on in your researches, you discuss with other animal people about your soulsearch in order to get feedback, especially if you’re unsure of how sincere you are to yourself. The point in getting people’s opinions is not about validating your therianthropy, but pointing to flaws in your reasoning and also point to other possibilities you wouldn’t think of in the first place. “Discussing your therianthropy” is not about saying “here is what I experience” to ask your friends about what you are. It’s about explaining to people who have critical mind “here is the way I’ve proceeded to soulsearch, how I analyzed my experiences, and the conclusions I came to” to ask if it sounds logical, if you forgot any step or aspect of the thing. Remember you must try to explain “why” you believe so or so. Anybody can say that they soulsearched and they’re a gryphon; but when they can not tell you why a gryphon and not a mixture of two or more animals, or how they came to such conclusion, you realize they haven’t put any thought into it. If you have no idea of how you came to your conclusions, you can’t be sure about them.
Before you rush on forums to post anything or e-mail anyone: what you want is useful input. You will most likely get good, interesting, more reliable feedback from experienced animal people (I mean people who have walked their path and are farther on their road than you are; I do not mean people who’ve seemingly been there for longer than you). They should have an idea of what you’re going through, and maybe a little idea of what’s ahead of you. You may find some of them on and out of boards (but most of people on forums are newcomers and won’t help you much). Some are okay people and will lend you a paw; but some others will try to format your mind the way they want you to think, and they often are the loudest ones (thus, those newbies will turn to). They may have a valuable experience, but they like to make sure you won’t annoy them with topics or people they dislike, or they will try to use your respect to get more authority in the community. I would simply say, be extremely wary of who you think as “knowledgeable”. Take everything you read with a grain of salt. I can think of a few “respected therians” who don’t even know what they talk about, spread erroneous information, and above all are always involved in power-struggles. Listen to any advice, but be careful and don’t think everybody has the same motives and is a true altruist. Most of the non-reliable people I’ve met are in the public social networks, but you can find them in more private circles too.
Some people may say good stuff at some point, and bullshit later on. Things aren’t black or white. Also, some people often aren’t the same in private, especially due to the social pressure and conventions on boards that keeps them from being sincere. Sometimes they will seek privacy to flame or grill you. Basically, stay careful. Good people are rare, this is a thing I’ve learned with time; a good chunk of them aren’t involved in discussions and aren’t even watching. Some people are not interested in talking with you. Some wouldn’t mind. Some may reply bluntly, which doesn’t mean their advice is pointless or that they have an issue with you as a person. I think in private social networks of animal-people you are most likely to get a sincere answer, and also more likely to get interesting, good-quality feedback. On the other hand on forums where people are questioned, you will probably get more replies, though you can get grilled easily if you don’t fit the community’s standards and talk about anything taboo.
Sometimes on forums to get someone’s opinion you’d better ask in private than in public. Or you can both post and ask privately to see how the replies vary. And make comparisons between people’s replies, too. I’ll stop rambling to let you find the way to get interesting insights. In any case, don’t forget this is about feedback, becoming aware of mistakes you may have done, and being pointed to other possibilities. It may be blunt but it’s not about being belittled, and it’s certainly not about being flamed and insulted. I would say you can only count on yourself in the end. You’re the one it’s all about, right? Don’t let others lead you on.
You know how I planned to entitle this essay “Soulsearching and Labeling oneself”? I changed my mind because you already have that Labels essay to refer to if you need. Always remember: labels are never necessary. As I said elsewhere, with time I realized that I didn’t need to use any label to communicate with other animal people in a clear and concise way. In fact, labels keep us from discussing the way we personally experience our animality, as they are umbrella-terms. I’ve been using “animal-person”, “animal-folk” and “animal-self” when I need shortcuts; and guess what. It works.
In the end, “I am a [insert your animal here]“ is the most simple way to say it!