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Have you ever had an unexplainable encounter with an animal and worried if you told someone they’d think you’re a little woo woo? Well, take comfort in the fact that you are in good company. I not only had such an encounter, but I am happy to share all the cringey details here with you! The Surprising Benefits Of Praying (Mantis) is all about my encounter with a special praying mantis.

Trees in Lake Lenape

My favorite hometown natural space is a special lake in Mays Landing called Lake Lenape. Surrounded by pitch pine forests and sporadic sandy trails, plants such as wild blueberry, black gum and other wetland species, it’s a place that heals my soul. The trees include Shortleaf pine, black oak, white oak, chestnut oaks, and blackjack oak dot the region. And of course all along the ice tea-looking Great Egg Harbor River are red-bellied, stinkpot, and snapping turtles.

The lake is beautiful all times of the year, and in the winter it is an excellent place to observe bald eagles. In the summer months, kayaking on the lake and adjoining Great Egg Harbor River is particularly relaxing. And so hopefully I have given you a enough visual imagery to picture for yourself this coveted destination.

My Unexpected Existential Crisis

As I spent another late afternoon enjoying my own personal slice of heaven, I had a bit of a defiant spiritual awakening. I’m not in the habit of challenging the Universe, and certainly not accustomed to raising my fists to the heavens shouting, “Show me something!” But that’s just what I did that one summer day. That’s when I discovered surprising benefits of praying that shocked me.

I was stranded, literally. I had just finished paddling my kayak to a serene sunset at my favorite wilderness spot. I was entertained by turtle families’ sideways glances, watching them kerplunk into the black pool depths then disappearing below the murky surface. After two hours of peaceful spying, my soul was content.

I just love watching these little turtles plop in the water.

I thought about my evening plans. I’d agreed to attend a gathering with friends, which was unusual for me because I had dedicated myself to solemn solitude with the goal of  nursing back together a broken heart. Another failed attempt at love, but in truth, the grief was for buried wounds of a traumatic childhood and years of pent up tears. 

author on kayak in Lake Lenape

Nature, and this lake in particular, provided much comfort as I recaptured the memories of my younger self. As I glided on the water, I recalled how, on these very banks, I’d squat at the lake shore and plunge my small hands into soft, clay-like mud. The cold texture was satisfying. Over and over I squeezed the clay and watched it ooze between my little fingers. Like a meditation, the soothing silence was safe from the dysfunctional adults in my life.

I suppose I was practicing mindfulness without knowing it, being present in the moment and in my five senses. I didn’t know back then that bringing my pain to nature would provide me with healing. Thank goodness I know that now. 

Nonetheless, like the diving turtles, it was time for me to go. 

I steered my kayak toward shore, and balanced my foot as I lunged from boat to sand. Dragging the kayak to my van, I distracted myself with the details of the evening’s plan. I reached my van and lifted the hatch.  Sliding the kayak in place between the two front seats, I vaguely heard an internal warning that placing my car keys inside the van was a mistake. A warning I chose to ignore.  I watched the bow of the boat wedge between the two front seats, slightly annoyed it was not fitting into place immediately. Agitated, I gave it one last jerk, and slammed the hatch with a thud.

Then the moment of horror! My keys were locked in the van and I was now stranded. Okay, maybe stranded was too dramatic a term. But I can assure you in that moment it felt terrifying. 

Rallying a response, I called Triple A. they were ninety minutes away. And they were lost. Agony turned to defeat.

Trauma Trigger

All the confidence of sailing smoothly through my grieving moments before was gone. I was experiencing PTSD, and my choice to process it mindfully provoked overwhelming emotions to fly to the surface. Humiliation. Rage. Fear. Helplessness.

graphic of trauma response when the author experienced a Surprising Benefits Of Praying

There was nothing to do but wait. Well, almost nothing. That’s when I turned my existential crisis outward. It was rare for me to turn to the Universe with indignation and contempt. However, that’s just what I did.

Give me a sign!” I yelled at the sky in frustration.

photo of a praying mantis looking at the camera

That’s when I felt a slight movement on my leg. I looked down and there it was. A praying mantis. Speechless, we stared at each other. Truth is, I was too scared to be amazed by the miraculous appearance of this insect. I’m not sure if you know this, but they are big. And creepily prehistoric looking. 

In my shocked state, I comprehended nothing of the mystery I just experienced. All I could do was shoo it off me because, let’s be honest, I was freaked out. 

Of course  there were more options. But fleeing the moment was as much of a spiritual awakening as my soul could muster.

I’m not exactly sure what happened next, except when I looked down again, it was gone. Where it went, I’ll never know. I never saw it again. But what I do know was that I offered a rueful apology, a humble, small plea of forgiveness with a mixture of wonder and whimsy. I also learned a valuable lesson about the benefits of praying.

Spirit Animals

As a Spirit Animal, Praying Mantis symbolizes, above all, stillness. Sacred stillness, to be precise. As a Messenger Guide, it is meant to ‘empower in the moment’. Its purpose is to come quickly into your life and then leave as soon as it is understood.

Did I understand? 

Hmmm…

Well. I am clear that the praying mantis arrived at the same time as my drastic demand for help. 

I also understand that, just as throwing a glass of cold water in a hysterical person’s face serves to break their hysteria, this animal messenger transmuted my trauma response instantaneously. Even if it was merely to provoke my frightened curiosity, it moved me out of the trauma trigger response long enough to recognize and embrace the magical Present. 

And although my everyday human soul longs for a longer, more profound or complicated explanation, maybe that’s just the point. Maybe embracing the moment, being present in the here and now not dissociated in past trauma (ptsd), is the precise spiritual lesson. Want to learn more about using mindfulness to heal trauma? Use lots of resources here.

Here’s a fun quiz to explore the fascinating world of Spirit Animals, and help you discover your very own.

Keep track of your answers, and at the end, find out what your responses reveal about your spirit animal based on your choices.

Question 1: When you’re outdoors, what type of scenery do you feel most drawn to?

  • A) Dense Forests
  • B) Vast Oceans and Beaches
  • C) Rolling Hills and Meadows
  • D) High Mountains and Peaks

Question 2: Which of these qualities do you admire the most?

  • A) Courage
  • B) Adaptability
  • C) Wisdom
  • D) Strength

Question 3: What’s your favorite time of day?

  • A) Dawn
  • B) Noon
  • C) Afternoon
  • D) Dusk

Question 4: Which climate do you prefer?

  • A) Cool and Misty
  • B) Warm and Sunny
  • C) Mild and Breezy
  • D) Crisp and Cold

Question 5: When facing a challenge, what’s your typical approach?

  • A) Face it head-on
  • B) Find a creative solution
  • C) Seek guidance and advice
  • D) Persevere through sheer determination
playful photo of dolphin diving out of the air

Question 6: What’s your preferred method of relaxation?

  • A) Meditating in silence
  • B) Dancing or moving to music
  • C) Reading or studying
  • D) Exercising or being active

Question 7: Which color resonates with you the most?

  • A) Green
  • B) Blue
  • C) Yellow
  • D) Red

Question 8: Which of these animals do you find the most intriguing?

stunning image of a husky dog on a snow covered slope
  • A) Wolf
  • B) Dolphin
  • C) Owl
  • D) Bear

Question 9: How do you handle change in your life?

  • A) Embrace it eagerly
  • B) Adapt and go with the flow
  • C) Analyze and plan for it
  • D) Tackle it with determination
photo of a polar bear looking like it's praying

Question 10: What’s your favorite season?

  • A) Spring
  • B) Summer
  • C) Autumn
  • D) Winter

Now, let’s calculate your results:

  • Mostly A’s: Your spirit animal may be a Wolf.
  • Mostly B’s: Your spirit animal may be a Dolphin.
  • Mostly C’s: Your spirit animal may be an Owl.
  • Mostly D’s: Your spirit animal may be a Bear.

Keep in mind that this is just a fun quiz and not a definitive answer. Spirit animals are a personal and spiritual concept, so your true spirit animal may be different from the one indicated here. Enjoy discovering your spirit animal. Happy healing!

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