How Can a Gorilla Be a Divine Messenger?

By Teresa Lampmann, Spiritual Director and Author

As I said in my September 24, 2020 blog post, Divine Wisdom permeates my thoughts, meditations, art journals, poetry, and prayers as a guiding feminine force, a presence centered in who I am as a woman. But how does She communicate Her guidance? She communicates in the here and now using every means at Her disposal! Her message surfaces through dreams, synchronicities, daily events, nature, body sensations, emotions, creative endeavors, meditation, and mystical experiences – when I stop, look, and listen.

Whatever is happening on the surface is an invitation to look for a deeper message, to see Divine Wisdom guiding your journey. The language of Divine Wisdom is subtle, rising from that knowing place of truth in your heart. Her guidance is gentle and loving, an invitation to see for yourself, not a command.

Stop, Look, and Listen – The Gorilla Story

Here is an example. In early March 2014, I dreamed a huge male gorilla, walking upright, was out in front of the home I was in.  I was fearful, knowing his strength.  The garage door was open and before I reached the door to close it, he came walking into the garage – staring right at me.  I froze, and then woke up.

Screenshot edited
My Doodle

Later that month at a training session in spiritual direction, I was really bored with the lecture and began to doodle on my note pad.  I enjoyed playing with the doodle and before I knew it, much to my surprise, a gorilla took shape!

In April I had a second gorilla dream.  This time two gorillas were in the attic above me trying to reach through the ceiling to grab me.  There were others in the room with me but they were oblivious to the gorillas or the threat they posed.

Well obviously there was a message trying to get through and I needed to pay attention – to stop, look, and listen.  This was also an opportunity to gain insight into an issue that concerned me.  I was wondering how spiritual direction was different than psychotherapy.  The role of the psychotherapist and spiritual director felt very similar.  Also, many of the people in this spiritual director’s training program were psychotherapists, and I was not.

How Is Psychotherapy Different from Spiritual Direction?

Because I had begun psychotherapy in conjunction with this training, and in preparation for my transition to retirement, I thought this would be the ideal opportunity to experience the difference in how a psychotherapist responds and how a spiritual director responds to this recurring appearance of gorillas.

It was very insightful.  The psychotherapist went right to my childhood suggesting the gorilla was a male figure representing my father.  She tied both dreams to an incident that happened when I was ten with a very valid interpretation that offered deep healing.

My spiritual director suggested I explore the nature of gorillas to see what the divine was drawing to my attention.  She gave me a link to a video that captured gorilla families in the wild, inviting me to notice what, if anything, stirred in me when I watched.  I was surprised to discover that gorillas are very loving, gentle creatures.  I connected with a feeling that Divine Wisdom was asking me to take a deeper look at a particular situation I was in to see if a more gentle and loving approach was needed.

It was clear to me that spiritual direction and psychotherapy are two very different disciplines and I was truly grateful for that insight.  This example doesn’t represent the breadth and depth of the difference, but this experience was enough for me to deeply feel the difference. Both offer wisdom for one’s journey, but in very different ways.

In this particular situation. my psychotherapist addressed the gorillas in my dreams as emotional links to the past, bringing into my conscious awareness issues to work through to heal old wounds.

My spiritual director didn’t suggest an interpretation for the gorillas in my dreams.  She offered a process, a tool for me to notice where the divine was directing my attention. Through my dreams and doodle, Divine Wisdom was raising my awareness around an issue happening now, inviting me to stop, look, and listen for the truth to surface from my heart. 

Paying attention to the subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – signals, brings into conscious awareness the presence of Divine Wisdom constantly participating in our life, communicating on every level, inviting us to listen to our hearts for guidance. This time she engaged gorillas to deliver Her message – to heal a past emotional wound, to shift my perspective in a current situation, and to answer a question that troubled me.

Share Your Story

When have you encountered something or someone three times that made you stop, look, and listen for insight? Share your comments in the section provided. 

To get the most from this post, share your experience with a trained spiritual companion. When you listen to your heart for the truth, some established beliefs may come into question. Working them out on your own can be like trying to apply make-up without a mirror, you can’t be sure of your accuracy.

A spiritual companion serves as your mirror. She (or he) is trained to listen with an open heart and reflect back what she is hearing you say that captures the spiritual wisdom of your experience. As with looking in a mirror, you can see if what she is saying conveys what is true for you, or if you need to clarify a few points for a more accurate reflection. This dialogue, called spiritual direction, opens you to a deeper awareness of the divine light, love, and joy guiding your spiritual journey. 

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True Wisdom

Teresa Lampmann, founder of Wisdom’s Delight, LLC, completed a certificate program in women’s spirituality in 1998 and two certificate programs in spiritual direction, one in 1997 and recently in 2015.

Her book, The ABC Path toward True Wisdom, offers stories, reflections, and personal rituals to engage you in trusting your heart knows the truth.

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Photo by Mike Arney on Unsplash

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