— Through the Eyes of Serpent

Most of us tend to associate the term “perception” with a dozen or more states of awareness — waking up, drifting off to sleep, daydreaming, and so on. In each one, a different part of the brain is active, so we refer to them as “states of consciousness.”

The Laika engage the world through four perceptual levels, or states. Each level is linked with an archetype animal, a chakra, a compass point, and is associated with one of the four energetic bodies that make up the human energy field: the physical world (the body), the realm of thoughts and ideas (mind), the realm of myth (soul), and the world of spirit (energy).

When we shift our perception to a higher level, we can transform the myriad challenges we’re facing in our lives — we come to understand that what we perceive as a problem in one sphere is actually an opportunity at the level above it.

The Level of Serpent

The physical world (the body) is associated with the South direction and is represented by Serpent. The serpent is an instinctual creature whose extraordinary senses can tell it where there’s food or where there’s danger (a predator, for example). Similarly, in the physical realm, we humans rely on our senses to give us a picture of ourselves and the world. This is a very material level of perception, where everything is tangible, solid, and difficult to change; where reality is 99% matter and 1% Spirit.

The perceptual state of Serpent is associated with the first (“root”) chakra. Located at the base of the spine, near the tailbone, the root chakra connects us to Mother Earth, and it is here that our primitive instincts are energetically located. Serpent, the archetype animal of the South, symbolizes knowledge, sexuality and healing. Perhaps the most universal archetype, Serpent has always represented the healing power of nature, which is gradual and incremental. The staff of medicine, or Caduceus, is formed by two serpents intertwined around a rod. In many Eastern traditions, the serpent energy of the kundalini is said to reside in the root chakra.

When we see problems exclusively through the eyes of Serpent, we try to come up with physical solutions. We want to change the job, trade in the car, find a new partner, or have an affair. If we feel a headache coming on, we may label it a “migraine” and reach for some medication. If we see a child acting out in class, we label him “naughty” and punish him. Sometimes these solutions work, but often they’re too simplistic.

At Serpent, we rely totally on our instinctual senses and don’t reflect more deeply on our problems. We’re operating from that part of the brain we share with lizards and dinosaurs — that is, we’re aware of our physical bodies, but we’re not cognizant of our mental, creative, and spiritual selves. In this state, we perceive outer form and accept only the obvious, remaining blind to our feelings and those of others. We’re devoid of rich, complex thinking, and simply act and react. This state can be very useful for operating in the physical world. After all, we need to pay the bills, mow the lawn, and drive the kids to school without reading any more meaning into these actions.

Serpent is an essential state to master, as we have to be effective in the physical world and take care of business in a practical way. But when we allow our need to survive at all costs to dominate, we’re not always so pleasant to be around. We reach for the most literal signs of security, such as having a big bank account and material toys; and we give into greed, stinginess, and suspicion. We coil up and contract, striking out before the other guy can clobber us; we amass weapons and build fences. Much of humanity has lived at the level of serpent for thousands of years. Many people who take the Bible and the Koran literally, with their instructions to slay infidels, still live in this realm.

Operating from Serpent level is especially helpful for getting us through immediate crises. Our reptilian brain is in charge, working from survival instincts, and we simply do what has to be done without wasting valuable energy thinking about it, analyzing it, or getting emotionally distraught about it. The instincts of Serpent can alert us to danger before we consciously perceive it — we get a “bad vibe” about a person or place, and avoid it without knowing why, or we sense that a police officer with a radar gun is up the road, so we take our foot off the gas pedal.

While perceiving through Serpent is fundamental to operate in our physical form, it is important to be able to take our perception up a notch.

In order to change our world we need to change the way we perceive a problem: By changing our level of perception we can transform challenges into opportunities.