When most people think of power animals, they tend to gravitate towards the sexy ones. Wolf, Eagle, Lion, Horse, Cat. Gentler souls will sometimes go for sweet ones like Rabbit or Deer. But I’ve never, ever, heard anyone mention worms.
Which is a shame. Because despite its humble appearance and habits (after all, it eats dirt!) Earthworm is an incredibly powerful totem animal.
The original alchemist
The biggest reason I love Earthworms so much is their feeding habits. They are basically living composting machines. They eat through all the icky, unwanted stuff no one else wants and transform it into sweet-smelling castings. Worm droppings are truly magical in the garden. They are incredibly nourishing to the soil and help plants grow like gangbusters! What a profound spiritual lesson: turning negatives into positives!
One worm, and one worm
Another interesting thing about Earthworms is that they are hermaphrodites. Each individual worm has both male and female parts (although a single one can’t produce offspring on its own.) When two worms mate, they both produce egg cocoons! Earthworms are thus a wonderful symbol of creative abundance and of harmonious integration of the masculine and feminine elements of one’s being.
If you feel ungrounded…
…there is no better animal to contemplate than Earthworm. You can’t get much closer to the earth than this little fellow! Try one or all of these exercises to help connect with Worm’s earthy vitality.
1) Worm watching I: Spend a few minutes (or a few hours) in the garden, inhaling the aroma of moist soil, digging in the dirt, and watching worms wriggle through the earth. Do it barefoot if you can. It will help you feel much more settled and peaceful.
2) Worm watching II: Start a vermicomposting bin (like mine at right.) (Most people use redworms, like the ones in the picture above.) Spend time with your worms when you check up on them and feed them. Move slowly and keep the lights dim – they don’t like abrupt movements or harsh light. Watch how gracefully they move through the bedding. Enjoy the rustling sounds they make as they move through the bin. Watching the worms can be relaxing, meditative and surprisingly addictive. (Yes, I’m a geek.)
3) Earthworm visualization: If you have no access to actual worms, then close your eyes and imagine that you are a worm, sliding smoothly through a tunnel of cool, moist earth. Feel how the aura of the planet embraces you, and how everything you need is right there surrounding you – shelter, nourishment, oxygen, water. You feel safe and calm, just tunneling along at a pace that feels comfortable to you… Come out of your earthworm reverie when you are ready, shake off the soil, and slowly open your eyes. Don’t you feel more grounded now? 🙂
The dark side of Earthworms
When I was a kid no one ever had a bad word to say about earthworms. (Unless the conversation happened over school lunch.) Worms were hailed as heros. We were told that lots of earthworms were a sign of a healthy soil, and that they were great for gardens, fields and forests alike.
Now, though, we know that this is not always true. Many forested regions of North America have no native populations of earthworms. When worms get introduced, they alter the natural balance of the forest. The invasive earthworms can make it difficult for many native plant species, including young trees, ferns, and wildflowers, to survive.
The lesson here? Dig deep, and observe what is really happening (including second and third degree connections), before you accept ‘common knowledge’ as truth. And realize, too, that ‘good’ and ‘bad’ often depend on context.
photo credit: Worm Bin via photopin (license)
Saw the biggest Earth worm of my life yesterday crawling across my path. He was maybe a foot long, but just as thin as an ordinary one. I was dealing with some negative circumstances in my life, and so “composting bad to good” is a definite plus. I’m inspired by Tong-Len, a teaching Pema Choedron promotes, in which you breathe in bad (visualize taking pain from people) like hot and sticky bad stuff. And then you transmute it in your body and breathe out cool air, visualizing light and all the things you enjoy. You give it away. Kind of earth-wormy.
Dealing with negative situations is definitely about letting the energy become positive before you address it. Imo you don’t even need to take action if the energy is done right. Yogananda calls it the “law of meditation”. Very striking.
I love that. Thank you.