Navigating Self Mastery

December 1, 2023

We have just landed back from a road trip to the south of France. The extended time away allowed us to reflect on our year, and there have been some big wins.

At the Spring Equinox, Jason stopped drinking alcohol, and I gave up sugar, my nemesis. Then, since the Autumn Equinox, I have successfully adopted a morning practice of yoga, breathwork and body strengthening exercises. 

Something switched on at both the Equinoxes this year. The things that previously were difficult to find the discipline for are easy now.

The question echoed in our minds: What sparked this change?

During our travels, Jason and I delved into conversations about the significance of our achievements and the positive shifts in our lives. It became evident that a common thread wove through our experiences: self-mastery.


Self-mastery means taking charge of our personal growth. It's about knowing ourselves, controlling our emotions, and staying focused on goals. This journey helps us learn, be disciplined, and handle challenges with strength. It's like being the boss of your own life, steering toward a more meaningful and happy way of living.

Self-mastery has been a topic of interest for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks were on to it. The Temple of Apollo in Delphi was the centre of their world. Inscribed above the entrance to the temple forecourt were these words: ‘Know Thyself’, according to the Greek writer Pausanias. These two words have inspired philosophers through the ages and informed Socrates throughout his entire career. I rather like these two words too.

If we know ourselves, if we crack self-mastery, we can literally turn our attention to anything we like and see our way to success. The impact of self-mastery is profound. 

Self-mastery brings empowerment. This sense of control allows us to actively shape our lives, taking charge of actions, decisions and overall destiny with confidence and resilience. Ultimately self-mastery contributes significantly to overall well-being. In essence, self-mastery is a transformative journey toward becoming the master of our own destiny, offering profound strength, fulfilment, and the freedom to live authentically.

It is quite something, isn’t it?

From my experience, self-mastery is a life-long journey, and there are many facets to achieving it. I am still on this journey, but I have come a long way if I say so myself!

So, if it is so important, why is self-mastery so difficult? During our recent November shamanic journey circle, we asked our Mystery School members this. A myriad of candid responses poured in through the Zoom chat.

Many cited the clash between desires and discipline, where staying consistent with positive habits while resisting temptations and old patterns is a persistent challenge. This is the ongoing battle between what we want now and what we want most. Then there is the role external factors have to play: the fast-paced nature of modern life and the need to balance work, family, and personal goals within the constraints of time and energy.

Achieving self-mastery is a gradual process, and so patience is required. There can be frustration with the lack of immediate results, especially with the pressure of instant gratification in today’s society.

Fear of failure is another reason. Setbacks and mistakes are inevitable on the path to self-mastery, yet the fear of falling short can be paralysing. In this instance, a mindset shift is required to overcome the fear and view failures as learning opportunities.

In a nutshell, self-mastery is a rollercoaster of challenges. It involves wrestling with inner conflicts, juggling life's demands, embracing the awkwardness of change, and practising the fine art of patience. It's not always a smooth ride, but our Mystery School members made it clear: acknowledging and tackling these difficulties head-on is all part of the messy, beautiful journey toward mastering yourself.

Turning to nature for help

Now, considering all of this, how can we take steps to bring ourselves nearer to the pursuit of self-mastery? Here at The Way of the Buzzard, we turn to nature for guidance. A few years back, we crafted an extensive Animal Spirit Guide library for our Mystery School featuring over 100 animals native to the UK. For each species, we delved into its natural history, extracting the inherent messages. While every animal in the library has lessons in self-mastery, one stands out among them all: Bat.

Bats are extraordinary creatures, conquering the realm of the air, a domain primarily reserved for birds and insects. In fact, their evolutionary adaptation for true flight has made them more agile than birds, utilising wings that are not only thinner but also consist of more bones. Bats' strengths lie not only in their ability to fly but also in their adaptability. With over 1,200 species worldwide, comprising about 20% of all classified mammal species, bats are a testament to evolutionary success.

One of the reasons behind Bat’s success as a species is they have conquered the dark. Contrary to popular belief, Bats have excellent eyesight adapted for night vision. In the darkness, they employ two key senses for navigation: touch-sensitive receptors on their wings, allowing them to detect changing airflow, and advanced echolocation powered by their exceptional hearing.

Bats showcase an unparalleled skill at listening. By emitting sound waves and interpreting the echoes that bounce off objects, bats can navigate with remarkable precision. Their advanced ears enable them to detect objects as thin as a human hair in complete darkness, showcasing a level of auditory ability that goes beyond conventional sight.

So, what can Bat teach us about self-mastery?

Bat wisdom

The messages from these nocturnal creatures offer intriguing insights into the inner workings of personal growth.

Dropping into the Inner Work

Bats, comfortable in the dark, thrive in realms many avoid. Their message? There's a triumph in darkness, which is a necessary space for growth. Just as bats navigate the unseen, we too must drop into our inner selves. This includes exploring the unconscious and facing difficult times, emerging on the other side more evolved. The wisdom gained from this inner work is like a guide through the shadows, steering us toward our own enlightenment.


To master ourselves, we must listen. Bats, attuned to the whispers of the night, teach us to tune our ears to our inner wisdom and the messages from Otherworlds. It involves quieting ourselves enough to hear our internal dialogue and addressing any resistance to what our soul truly desires. Moreover, we must be receptive to the messages of our spirit guides, recognising that guidance can manifest in various ways.

Using Our Voice

Bats, through their echolocation, emphasise the importance of using our voice. To master ourselves, we must speak up when unheard, be honest about our feelings, and articulate our truths and boundaries. Just as Bats navigate through sound waves, our voices guide us through the complexities of relationships and personal growth.

Focusing on Our Strengths

Bats excel at honing in on their strengths, and we can learn from their approach. The message here is twofold: first, identify and focus on what you excel at. When you leverage your strengths, challenges become more manageable. Second, use your strengths to overcome obstacles preventing you from mastering a particular skill or aspect of your life. Ask yourself: What do you excel at, and how can these strengths propel you toward mastering that elusive goal?

In summary, the wisdom from the bat isn't just a quirky metaphor; it's a profound guide to self-mastery. By embracing the lessons of dropping into inner work, listening, using our voice, and focusing on our strengths, we can navigate the shadows of personal growth with the resilience and insight of these nocturnal mentors.

Otherworldly insights

As we explored self-mastery during our November shamanic journey circle, I led a guided shamanic journey to the Lowerworld. Over one hundred people went to find Bat, with the intention of seeking advice on one of these four aspects of self-mastery: dropping into the inner work, listening, using our voice and focusing on our strengths.

As always, we were bowled over by the experiences people had and the guidance they received.

In the shamanic journey to Bat, folk uncovered a spectrum of experiences, and each journey carried unique messages. Bat, as a guide, led people into caves filled with echoes, reinforcing the significance of words. The transformative act of becoming Bat unfolded lessons on tuning out noise, focusing on strengths, and navigating obstacles. Participants explored the power of listening, self-reflection, and the potential for personal transformation. These diverse encounters created a tapestry of insights, emphasising the richness and depth of the self-mastery journey through the lens of Bat's guidance.

Self-mastery is the spiritual work. People are generally drawn to walking a spiritual path because they want to better themselves and improve their lives in some way. The challenge in this modern world is learning to tune out of the distractions of this pursuit and tune in to our spiritual guidance. Only by doing this can we hear our soul’s desires and inch closer towards achieving them. Self-mastery is the key to this.


If you are a Mystery School member and didn’t come along on the night but would like to take part in the replay, click here to access the circle recording.

If you aren’t a Mystery School member but would like to journey to Bat and seek guidance on self-mastery, then we have a free resource for you. We have a short course on shamanic journeying here. Included in this course is a guided shamanic journey to meet an animal spirit guide. If you aren’t familiar with shamanic journeying, you will need to watch the course. Then, here are the steps to follow to seek advice from Bat on self-mastery:

Think of something that you are struggling to achieve. A goal you keep on setting that you don’t manage to achieve, or achieve for a while and then slip back.

Decide on your journey intention. Choose which stands out that you most need help with. If you aren’t sure, then re-read the ‘Bat Wisdom’ section of this blog.

I am going to the Lowerworld to ask Bat’s advice on dropping into the inner work

I am going to the Lowerworld to ask Bat’s advice on listening

I am going to the Lowerworld to ask Bat’s advice on using my voice

I am going to the Lowerworld to ask Bat’s advice on focusing on my strengths

Remember this intention. You will need to repeat it in the guided journey at the point just before we play the drum beat. It will be different to the one that we speak, and so it is important that you remember it.

If you would like to find out about our Mystery School, click here. The doors are closed to new members at the moment but we will be opening for a short period in the new year. If you aren’t on our email list, join via our home page here (scroll down to the bottom) and we will be in touch.

About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in Anglezarke on the edge of the West Pennine Moors in Lancashire, England.
Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Wow, this spoke to me on so many levels. Thank you Nicola for by our beautifully crafted word and personal sharing.
    I've been to a few of your in-person events but never a remote one. The power of this sharing and that from a friend who recently joined u on an online day retreat has shown me that I could also benefit greatly from this type of interaction. Thank you

    1. This is so good to hear you enjoyed my blog Julie, thank you. It is amazing how these online events work so well – Jason and I surprised ourselves with this when we first started to run them. They offer a great way to continue with a spiritual practice in community as the physical meet-ups can be few and far between. It will be lovely to share them with you 🙂 We have a Winter Solstice one coming up open for anyone to come along to if you are interested at all. You will find the link on our homepage if you haven’t already heard about it.

      1. I haven't actually been to a face to face meeting and can highly recommend the remote events ! I am really interested in your ancestral healing work Nicola !

  2. Thank you for this insightful and energising post. The Universe sent your post at a much needed time. Blessings.
    I look forward to further postings falling into my world. 🙏🏼

  3. Hi Nicola i loved reading this and think and feel that focusing on my strengths is a message i need to explore further
    I am rely enjoying your blogs! Hope your on the mend from
    Being poorly best wishes Lisa

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Would you like us to keep in touch with you?

If you enter your details in the box we'll be able to update you with our event news, courses and more.