Reflections: Personal Guidance from Mongoose (December 18, 2008)

Discovering and Embracing My Personal Niche:

Although it may seem somewhat odd that specifically Mongoose would be the main one so far to aid in teaching this lesson of ‘finding my niche’ in life, there has nevertheless been something about him that has allowed that kind of connection to be made between he and I.  Recently I have come to feel like after 10 or more years of slowly piecing together who I am, what holds most importance to me in this world and life, and where it is I stand or want to stand in the grander scheme of things globally, things seem to be fitting together much better than they have in prior times for me for these matters.  I have numerous times over my life reshaped and redefined—or maybe more appropriately, greatly refined and altered in some ways in improvement—who and how I am, and maybe for this time these changes will stick for a much longer time, as I come closer and closer to better coming into myself and my bigger, greater path(s).

Maybe it would seem to some as that clichéd drive to “find one’s purpose in life”, but for me it’s not about a purpose chosen for me by something or someone else, or some predestined path—it’s a path defined and driven by the core parts of who I am and what I hold dear in importance.  It’s much more about “niche” than it is purpose—I know what I want my purpose to be (the broad and specific aspects of it) but it’s not realistically feasible, and so I have to understand and embrace myself more efficiently to find out what exactly that niche is and how to fill it.  And this is what I have been focusing on a lot over the past four-plus years.

Mongoose knows I am a big dreamer—it’s something I rarely show or talk about, but the dreams, the aspirations, and idealistic drives are a strong part of me, even though my realism keeps me very well grounded the majority of the time.  I primarily convey myself as a realist, which I am, yet there are huge things of importance to me that drive me to hold these big aspirations, even if they will or can never be attained.  Where Mongoose works into it is that he neither wants me to lose sight of my dreams—the sky above I look to—nor to lose touch with the reality that is my groundedness.  In some ways he can teach this careful balance to me better than a flying animal, such as a bird, because he knows full well he’ll never fly, and neither did his ancestors, for it’s the ground that is his home, his reality, to the extent that he thrives in burrows within its soil to keep him and his family safe.

The world is a huge place to anyone, and from the small perspective of a mongoose on the ground, in addition to being a prey animal, it’s quite large and sight is quite hindered in some ways.  But this isn’t a handicap to Mongoose; it’s how he lives, it’s how he knows to live and he makes great worth and value of it, not letting it stand in the way of his determination to survive amongst the vast land he thrives within.  He accepts and embraces his small stature, his short and limited perspective on the world, and yet his senses and sights, especially his place as a sentinel and a watch-guardian, convey that his sight is not truly hindered nearly as much as we, creatures larger and notably different from him, would assume.

To this world, I am simply so very minute, so tiny and near negligible on a large scale, most especially globally.  Yet I have dreams and drives that involve seeing and caring so much about the vastness of this world, the Earth as a whole and the myriad of life, non-life, and ecosystems within it.  The reality of the situation is of course that there’s so very little that I can do on such a large scale—I can make only a small impact, like I am in size to this world.  Thus I must remain realistic about this reality—I can’t “fly”, I can’t reach the “heavens” of my goals and ultimate aspirations and “save the world” in however way that would or could be.  However, these goals, these dreams are still very significant to me because they are nevertheless a continuing drive.  All while reality makes it blatantly apparent to me that there’s so little I can do to help this world and to protect the grander scale of things I wish to protect and save, without these drives and dreams as guides and motivations for me I would remain in passiveness toward being a better person in the ways I believe can contribute toward helping what I care about, regardless of if I only help a tiny amount.  They give me hope, courage, and initiative to work toward offering myself as some form of aid to this world, or at least some parts of it that I will more adequately fit into for helping.

Maybe it will be another guide that will help me focus more on further managing those dreams specifically, but what Mongoose emphasizes for me now is that they are very important to me and that I must not lose sight of them, but that at the same time I must truly accept how minute my place and impact is and can be in this world.  And further that such a small impact is not without its own deep significance—my life is impacting this world in various ways, regardless of how I live my life and what I do.  But it’s my responsibility to live up to what I believe in and what I feel is my place in this world, and thus balancing out better my impacts to be more so in my preferential, positive directions.  Just because the world is such a large place with such massive problems that I can’t even begin to make a serious dent in resolving them just myself, this is not reason enough to resign myself to continuing such passiveness to stand by what I believe in.  Or to not devote major parts of my life to helping what I wish to help or protect, and it’s not reason enough to resign my life away because of bad impacts I have made and will continue to make to whatever extent.

Reality can be a scary thing, yet if I just hide from it in too much idealism, or too much passiveness and not enough activeness toward what good I want to do in this world, or otherwise become so discouraged that I give up before I’ve even really started much (or at whatever point along the path), then these deep, significant beliefs and aspirations of mine about these things would seem near pointless to hold, especially to such a personal level.  Even the seemingly miniscule have a place in this world and they can have the ability to affect things for the good and to fight for what is dear or important to them if they put the action and will forward to do those.

As far as my “niche” goes, I’m still well into figuring out the specifics of that, yet it is becoming much clearer.  I’m becoming increasingly aware of the various aspects of my thoughts, interests, beliefs, and so forth that may be able to work into this niche that I will hopefully fill (or greatly begin to) in the near years to come.  I am seeing better how my zoological interests, spirituality (particularly totemism), environmental and conservation concerns, therianthropy, morals and virtues I hold (or look up to), my writing, and maybe my artwork—how they can fit together, various pieces complexly aligned, to create something more integrated as a whole, working toward (some at least in part) a few main goals of mine.  But again this goes back to the idea of accepting myself, like Mongoose in a group of family members each needing to find and embrace the ways in which they best fit into the group for the protection and betterment of that unit.  This thus does not have to be one single task or ‘job’ in the group but can include a set of various tasks that the individual fills in a particular way that aligns with what place or ‘niche’ that individual fits well.  For me, I’ll have my career, whatever it may end up being, in the field of animals (likely to change one or few times over time) but that doesn’t have to be the entirety of my niche because I believe that one day my spirituality, my faith, my writing, environmental concerns, and so forth can expand beyond my career and affect other things, other people, and add aid or positive impact in other ways besides what my career will offer or allow.

It’s important that I be flexible and adaptive, while still realizing what my limits are: mongoose is mongoose, not bird, lion, beetle, or any other animal.  I am myself, and that takes more than just understanding but also deep acceptance of what my real limitations are and what things can be changed or refined about me, and that who and how I am as well as my limitations do not have to be handicaps to me on my drive to do some good in this world.  My area is not in politics, or working in labs, law, botany, art, fiction writing, or a myriad of other things even though some of them I’ve thought of how it would be wonderful if I was a fitting enough person to be in those fields because of the forms or levels of influence and affects I could potentially make with them would be.  However, they are not what fit and align with me, and I’ve reached an age when it’s become increasingly important for me to realize and accept those things that I am just not fitting enough to do or be.  Other people in this world have those other niches to fill, and I have my own to fill, and thus I need to stay true to myself.

Even though my spirituality is primarily about me so far, I hold strong intention of it becoming much more than that because I want to eventually use it to help others in this world, whether human or not.  I am, in a sense, focusing so much on developing my spirituality and thus developing myself more in some ways so that I will be more capable, more motivated, stronger (mentally and emotionally), determined, and more skilled in offering some better aid to other things in this world through positive actions, whether small or not.  Yet until I get the “me” parts of my spirituality worked out, developed, and stabilized there would be little I can do with that spirituality as aid to others, and without building it up I run the risk of losing it altogether, which I’m determined to not let happen.  I’ve spent far too much of my life without any form of spirituality and this part of my life and self is far too important to me to let it fall by the wayside in neglect or negativity.

A key component thus far of my beliefs and practices is totemism, and as I have personally come to realize, it can in some ways link into my therianthropy, including in very deep, moving ways (as I have experienced with Mongoose).  I believe that my totemism may eventually lead even further into my career of working with wild animals, and it plays significantly into my views on connections to things in this world and universe, as do my other spiritual beliefs.  Learning valuable lessons, whether for brief or lengthy spans of time, is a wonderful and valued way for me to connect even deeper to life, existence, and realms that are both seen and unseen.  And I can hope that some of these lessons and even just the lessons of connecting more with the world and existence around and within our own selves will be one of numerous things I can pass onto people as time goes on.  Not in the sense of expecting everyone to think or believe like me, or to be a totemist, but instead a more general application of the lessons that could also be altered and applied in more specific ways aside from totemism or even spirituality.

Finding a Social Sense of Belonging:

Also relative to my therianthropy and spirituality, Mongoose has been helping me accept and embrace my ‘uniqueness’ in those areas—in the sense of those aspects that are personal and part of me and my life, rather than continuing to try to alter them (or how I talk about them) to seemingly appease others.  This year I started being more open publicly (online) about a wider variety of aspects of my therianthropy that fall under concepts that are rarely mentioned among therians online, and it has felt satisfying to get those thoughts down in writing and made visible to other therians.  But what I have also come to find out with doing that is that more often than not I have received little to no feedback from other therians outside of one or two who are close to me, and after months and months I have progressively felt that there’s a notable gap between me and nearly all the other therians I associate with and come across online.

I realize how little I seem to be ‘like them’ and it brings a sense to my mind of a lack of belonging.  Though to be honest, I’ve known from my first active participation in the community that I was never actually “fitting in”, and I didn’t really have intentions to skew myself or how I presented myself in order to fit into the crowds nor cliques of therians I have seen.  And yet, I still felt I had some place and meaning in staying around associating with therians online (whether on boards or other sites), which is something that I’m left feeling less and less is true and applicable to me anymore.

During this year I have also been faced with needing to accept and better embrace my mongoose theriotype, which Mongoose-as-guide has helped me with greatly.  On one hand, sure, it adds uniqueness to me and my therianthropy and that’s something I like, especially since it simply turned out I have mongoose as a theriotype and I’m not just latching onto a false concept because I “want it to be my theriotype”.  On the other hand, it’s as though it’s another point of separation between me and other therians online.  I can talk extensively about mongoose-as-me and Mongoose-as-guide, but I wonder what that would even matter, even in just casual interest, to other therians or even other totemists.  I end up wondering who is honestly interested in reading and learning more about what it is like for someone to experience being a mongoose in part and/or experiences with totemic Mongoose, and how herpestids are so much more than how they are often viewed stereotypically.

Mongoose has taught me to develop a lot more respect and appreciation for him as a guide and guardian, and for mongooses as physical animals, as well as myself as being partially mongoose therianthropically.  Prior to me more deeply researching herpestids and having totemic experiences with Mongoose, I had wanted to write about my mongoose therianthropy, but kept holding off on it, in part because I would nearly scoff at myself, so to speak, for having such a theriotype; sometimes I wondered how I could take myself seriously with a mongoose theriotype, let alone anyone taking me seriously in my writings about such.  My totemic experiences with Mongoose gave me proper initiative to really seek to research and better understand mongooses, and subsequently, to better understand myself as part mongoose.  I continue to feel they are to me amazing and greatly fascinating animals, and I feel somewhat ashamed for misperceiving them in such clichéd and stereotypical ways for the majority of my life.

Sure, I don’t like that there’s a large gap between vastly most therians and myself, and being a mongoose therian along with many other aspects of how I experience my therianthropy and my other forms of animality just add to that gap, or rather, allow it to be as large as it is.  But maybe that’s an indication that I’ve been looking toward others for acceptance too much, even without realizing that’s what I may have been doing, or more likely that I have been wanting to ‘fit into’ a place where I may not actually belong well.  It seems I don’t even belong amongst casual association with most other horse therians, for reasons I’m not sure of, but then I wonder if it should really be notably important for me to be friends or acquaintances with people who have the same/similar theriotypes as me.  At this point, I think I’d possibly find more comfort and social satisfaction in associating with one or more people who have strong, non-therianthropic connections to horses and hopefully some other ungulates (and possibly being a non-horse therian as well), but I’m thus far not making it a goal to go searching for those types of people.

But I do have a current interest in finding other people who have a good, if not strong, connection to mongooses, regardless of whether the person is a mongoose therian or not—I just want to be able to find people who understand my perspective of them better and share some similar perspectives on them or totemic Mongoose.  It’s very dry and empty to talk about this important part of my life, self, and spirituality with primarily people who, for all I know, view herpestids in those clichéd, superficial, and stereotypical ways that I hear so many other people in the normal populace think of them.  I still have yet to find and reach a resolution to my recent discontent with this social part of my life (online associations, particularly with therians), though I hope that Mongoose and/or another animal guide will continue to help me through it to reach the solution that is best or better for me.

Regarding the spirituality part I mentioned, he is helping me to increasingly accept that my spirituality is different from most people I come across, even from a lot of totemists I talk to or see online.  He along with some other animal guides, like Oryx, are trying to help me to develop my spirituality and to embrace a better understanding of what fits spiritually with me and who I am.  I’ve tried in prior years to fit in amongst the more generalized Pagan community, and wanted to do rituals and work with magic, along with some other practices often associated with some forms of Paganism.  However, I kept feeling like I was trying to shove myself into practices and social communities that I didn’t and wouldn’t fit into.  It’s more important that I actually figure out and develop my spirituality to a certain, stable point and through that allow myself to understand it well (or at least much more sufficiently), and from there I can seek out those of similar beliefs, interests, and/or practices.  For now, I feel like I’m just floating, trying to find a place where I socially ‘belong’, online and offline, and at least when it comes to the spiritual matters, it maybe quite awhile longer before I’ll find just what I should do or where I should go in relation to socializing with others about spirituality.  But nevertheless, having Mongoose as a guide has certainly aided me in connecting more deeply with animal guides again, even if it is just one for now (and I’m currently probably better off working with just one at a time), and allowed me to develop my totemism some more and add clarity to my mind for how is currently best for me to work totemically.

Social Balance:

Social matters have been a key point of focus so far in my work with Mongoose, including but also beyond the above mentioned points.  At the time of this writing, I am still slowly working on balancing out my social problems, mainly having to do with finding the right type and amount of socializations and with the proper types, groups, and individuals that fit well with me.  He has assisted me some in finding more confidence and boldness in myself to find other people for possible friendships or acquaintanceships, as also utilizing more confidence in myself for other matters in my life, including my educational, career, and other key goals of mine that I explained earlier in this.  Mongoose has helped me to realize more adequately some of my social flaws and which ones I need to address and try to resolve into a state that is healthier through being more balanced—independent and solitary times under minimal conflict with more social times, including a balance between online and offline socializations. 

Major social transitions have happened many times throughout my life, about every few years, and I feel that I am experiencing another one of those times yet unlike the others in regards to when I ended up having to leave behind my relationships with everyone outside of my immediate/close family.  This time I am intent to refine my relationships by aiming to develop new, healthier relationships with one or more people and to better nurture current relationships that I am more interested in keeping, especially of those who are emotionally notably close to me.  If anything, my social life for awhile has felt okay until within that last few months, but it was built on me spreading myself ‘thin’ across too quantitative an amount of people (primarily online) while causing a dwindling in the depth and qualitative aspects of my social life.  I have felt too obligated to uphold my social position and associations with many people I come across or communicate with on the internet.  Yet I feel now that I need to let go of some of those associations and focus in on those that are more important to me, those that are of higher personal quality to me, and to continue what contributions I wish to make to the online therian community through my writings.

I’m reaching a time when I need to draw back away from that which is detracting for me and what people, activities, projects, and other things I want to and need to focus on more.  My experiences with Mongoose have increased my awareness of this need to transition and he’s helping to guide me through this uncomfortable phase, considering it is an unpleasant transition to go through (as they usually are for me).  But all along the way I have tried to keep my faith in him as my guide and in the other guides and spirits that have been aiding me at various points in my life journey.  His connections to group-oriented mongooses sends an important reminder to me that I need a ‘group’ of people close to me—even though technically, unlike mongooses, those individuals do not all have to be close to or even know each other—people I can feel comfortable, safer, and happy with, whether it’s while being with them physically or even just communicating with them through phone or internet.  Yet his connections to solitary mongooses also come to my mind as the significance for me to find a sort of equilibrium that works well for me during this part of my life, because ultimately I do have a strong solitary nature to me, but the concept of a “pack”/close-group is and has been also an important part of my life since I was a child, and I need to understand myself more sufficiently to figure out how to properly embrace those different aspects and instincts.

Relation to Crow Totem and Moving Forward:

The lessons I have learned and am in the process of learning from Mongoose only loosely fall within the extensive aspects and lessons I feel are associated with him, as I have described in my essay, “The Watch-Guardian”.  However, it was similar with Crow, because whatever symbolism and lessons I would associate with Crow are not necessarily the ones that he represented for me and lessons that he taught me during his time guiding and guarding me.  Maybe it has something to do more with the depth and level of personal relation and connection to the guide that allows at least those two to guide me in ways that have a higher level of personalization than with the other guides I have worked with.  They also both connected with me in a more internal way—Mongoose managed to use my therianthropy as a sort of ‘anchor’ into my internal self, and Crow had various ways of connecting with my internal self, such as through my phantom wings, my self-concept and some of my personal interests, among other things.  Granted, I do not know how long Mongoose will be a guide to me--it may end up being something relatively short lived (although so far it has thrived well for almost four months)--but nevertheless he in some ways reminds me of my past relationship with Crow.  And honestly, I think that one other of the numerous things he is helping me with is to finish and accept my transition away from Crow and those parts of my life when I was in need of Crow’s guidance and guardianship.  Considering the extent of connection I have had with Crow, my impression is that it was important to bring into my life a totemic relationship with another guide that could connect with me in a somewhat similar internal way.

Even though I feel so discontent and sometimes depressed about my present social situation, I feel that it’s just another phase that I will make it through and come out stronger and better as a person overall.  And that amongst that situation I am nevertheless managing to maintain and develop further my faith and hope in the Spirits, my spirituality, my major goals, and finding myself more determined to achieve what I believe in as well as thus embracing better faith in myself.  The social problems will be resolved because I will find and utilize ways to solve them, and it’s only a small portion and obstacle in my long journey.  Yet what I am building and nurturing in my self and spirituality now is something that I believe will be significant to me and how I live my life for a long time to come, and it’s therefore worth it to me to go through the obstacles and ‘growing pains’ related to that development.  I can’t really expect to change such notable parts of my life and self without having to leave behind and in some ways “sacrifice” some other parts of those.  It’s of great importance to me to keep moving forward along a path that is and will be overall a better path and place for me and how I will live in future parts of my life.