Lessons from Big Horn Sheep: Hiking

Lessons from Big Horn Sheep is a series of articles on working with animal totems in everyday life. 

One foot in front of the other. 

This is the lesson that Big Horn Sheep has tried to teach me, more often than I am apt to listen. It is his constant reminder that every journey that I will ever take will start with one step, and will proceed with the following step. To stop moving is to stop journeying, so one foot in front of the other.

I had asked for help several years ago, back when I had a single animal totem that helped me for many years. Wolverines are great as survival animal totems, and I learned many lessons from him that allowed me to reach where I was that day. My heart, however, yearned for something more – reaching new heights that I could only see in my dreams. One where I was healthy, vibrant – free from any shackles of fear that could hold me back. I needed a totem that could help me with my biggest limiter – my physical health.

On that evening I journeyed with a group – each of us was seeking a totem animal for different purposes. I journeyed beyond Yggdrasil, feeling a tug on my heart that led me to the foothills of the mountains. From here I looked up, and saw what would be my second animal totem.

I was terrified – here were several big horn sheep, of the Rocky Mountain variety, all of which were nestled in the crags of the mountains. One of them was looking at me intently, and nodded as I met his eye. Climb up to me, I heard in my mind. Climb up to me, and we shall start our journey. It was no easy climb that evening, but I did not rest until I sat by his side, gently resting a hand on his fur.

And now, we begin

One foot in front of the other.

I hear his words in my mind as I continue up the beaten path, hiking along a trail in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I can look ahead of me and see where I will go, and look beyond me and see where I’ve been. It’s entirely unlike my mind at its worst, where I’ve been known to look ahead of me and see my life regress. Up here, it’s only me, the mountain, and Big Horn Sheep, who guides the way.

The mountain does not care what I did an hour before I started walking on his trail, and he does not know what I will do once I have descended from his paths. It matters little what I do for a living, if my bills are paid, or how I’m going to solve the many troubling thoughts inside my head. The only thing that matters right now is what is in the present moment. The feel of the dirt and stone beneath my feet. The mountain air that rushes into my lungs. The birds chirping and insects buzzing. The dull ache from muscles used. The cool, clean taste of water on my lips. I am here, now, connected to the earth. Grounded.

One step forward, I pull past instances of myself that are stuck on troublesome memories of the past. Next step forward, I call back my inner scouts who have been tracking the future far too intently. Another step forward, I feel all those aspects merge into myself, all while letting them know that they are ok – comforting those past selves who weep over mistakes long past, assuring those nervous future selves who strategize for the future. In the end, all will be ok, for all that matters is this present moment, where I am me. Centered.

I have survived up to this moment, therefore I am triumphant. All of me is victorious, and with this focus, I will continue to be so.

Grounded and centered. 

One foot in front of the other.

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