Perennial Wisdom

Perceptual States

The images of the animals and the expressions of Nature help us to transcend our normal, waking consciousness so that we can more easily attune to the ethereal realms and beings.   ~Ted Andrews

Imagine a snake, jaguar, hummingbird and an eagle. A snake is low on the ground, slithering, winding, and focused on survival. A jaguar walks on all fours with its head high, always watchful, often hunting. A hummingbird flits here are there, seems to disappear and re-appear, and annually performs an epic journey of migration.
An eagle soars high above it all, has a broad perspective, yet can zoom in on its prey with great precision. Each animal has its literal point of view, and also symbolically captures archetypal traits that are helpful in sorting through the various perceptions of the individual members of the committee in your head. How are the perceptions of each of these animals different?
I want you to imagine that you perceive some topic in your daily life from these four different points of view. As an example, imagine you are late for an appointment. From the snake level of perception, your own reptilian brain is focused on survival. If the appointment relates to healthcare, job performance, or other survival issues the snake in your mind will be focused on the immediate concern of getting to the appointment as soon as possible! You may drive less carefully, become irritated with those who slow your progress, and be able to stave off any feelings of hunger or other distractions. From the level of jaguar your body is determining if fight or flight is in order. Adrenaline is sent to your major muscles and you are ready to pounce. From the perspective of jaguar you are more aware of your surroundings that you were at the level of snake. You will probably still drive aggressively, but also defensively. You will consider other priorities such as hunger or the needs of your loved ones and do a quick assessment to decide which is most important in the moment. From the hummingbird point of view you will see that this is one of many moments in your life where you will simply be late and you not feel much stress about it. You will be able to see a bigger picture and believe that you are not in immediate danger. You are fully aware that there may be very negative consequences for being late, but it will not kill you. You remain relaxed and go to the appointment knowing that this too, shall pass. At the level of eagle, you know this is not a big deal. In fact, you know that even if you miss the appointment entirely, it may change the path your life is going, but it will not change the direction or destination you have in mind unless you choose to change it. With an open mind you choose.
These animals symbolize human emotions and represent our physical sensations at each level of perception. A snake seems non-emotional, instinctual and focused on survival. It is sensing a material world with touch, taste, smell, and is very practical. A jaguar who is a fierce hunter and provider displays both anger and nurturing, yet he is also curious and playful. He relies on the five physical senses as well as an ability to assess his environment for danger, choose priorities, and feel the pleasure of playfulness. A hummingbird has a lighthearted non-attached nature. It seems joyful to flit around sampling the sweetness of life. Life takes on more meaning at this level and we see opportunities where there are problems. We assign meaning within the context of our lives being an epic journey. An eagle seems calm, in control, and wise. As he soars above the physical world, his sensations are of the air, not the earth. Physical matter is nearly irrelevant at this point of view.
When you change your perception, you change your experience. These four levels of perception are also symbolic of the physical world and your body (snake), the realm of thoughts and your mind (jaguar), the realm of myth and your soul (hummingbird), and the world of spirit and your energetic system (eagle). As representative of body, mind, soul, and spirit, you can dialogue with your inner snake, jaguar, hummingbird and eagle just as you have done with committee members. These four realms (world, thoughts, myth, spirit) are nested. When you shift from one level to the next, you are still able to function in the lower realm while experiencing the perspective of the higher realms.


  • Jenny

    What a brilliant insightful post. Wow. I am so much the snake that I need to take hummingbird and eagle lessons. Not that the snake’s perception isn’t important, but not seeing these other perspectives does put a lot a stress into my life. Thank you for this wisdom!!

  • Louise Edington

    Love this post! You happened to pick on my one big trigger – lateness. I cannot abide being late so become very snake like about it. I am less so with other things. I agree everything is about perception, and I mean everything. My fave quote is ‘if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change’

  • Holly

    I love your use of animal archetypes to illustrate very simply and eloquently how the same experience can be vastly different depending on our perspective. Now, most curious, where does a Dragon fit in? 🙂

    • stephanie

      I wonder if dragon represents them all…
      The dragon is the flying serpent. He also guards treasure — protection is associated with jaguar. He is certainly epic and mythical as the hummingbird represents. And he can soar above it all like an eagle.
      Also from Wikipedia:
      Quetzalcoatl is a Mesoamerican deity whose name comes from the Nahuatl language and has the meaning of “feathered serpent”.
      There are a lot of different interpretations but after reading them all, suffice it to say the Quetzalcoatl is a creation/sun god. Not quite a dragon but it seemed relevant to your comment.

  • Erika Workman

    Most of the time I am a hummingbird, while driving I’m definitely a jaguar! I am always curious about animal totems or archetypes and their symbology in my life. Thank you for this insightful piece about perception.

  • Rowena Starling

    Wayne Dyer’s quote comes to my mind with this post – “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Perspective is SO important for us in regulating our stress levels! Thank You for reminding me of this Stephanie.

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