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The Value of “Sloth” – Expanding Our Perceptions for Greater Wisdom


Tania Marie

I don’t usually participate in any of the tests, surveys, or games that circulate on Facebook, but last week I took part in a quick one that my friend Jenny had posted, being drawn in by the animal nature of it at a time when I also was needing a fun little break. It used a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to represent a general overlook of your tendencies when it comes to social behavior, decision-making, and lifestyle and then provides an animal personality type that most closely reflects that.

I feel that if you take this kind of test at different points in your life, AND are totally honest in the process, you will discover how you change over time in most direct alignment to the flow of current energy in your life.

I know this to be true, as my current answers are different than the answers the past me would have given. I was very pleasantly surprised and happy with what it reflected – feeling it to be very accurate.

And I realized after taking the test, why it was that I did feel drawn to do so, as there was something in the process to learn and share.

As I looked deeper into my animal personality that showed up, I started to see even more depth and meaning to it and have been reflecting on it the past few days since.

I feel many of us have judgments about what we’d like to be associated with, based on our ideas of what the animals in general represent to us. As well, I believe that we may have conditioned beliefs about each animal and don’t fully understand the wisdom and depth that they all hold in ways that we are unfamiliar with or haven’t taken time to feel into at any great depth.

This also holds true for many things in life, not just the symbolism I am currently sharing about.

It was this realization that nudged me to share about the animal that came up for me, which is the Sloth.

I made some of my own connections and insights immediately, but then found it interesting when doing a quick search online, that there were a lot of generalizations about the Sloth that weren’t the whole story and feeling superficially perceived by the “obvious,” or associated with belief systems to make certain points.

I always recommend, and current energies support this, to dig deeper. There is always much more than meets the eye and it truly is a perfect time to widen your perceptions, don’t you think?

Of course we know how “Sloth” is considered one of the seven deadly sins under Catholicism and Christian moral traditions. Under this religious context it is defined as wasting and neglecting yourself spiritually and emotionally, out of lack of interest or use – to put it nicely. :)

And other generalizations of Sloth’s symbolism share the widely thought of “laziness, avoidance, and lack of ambition.”

Hmmm… Well, being that I know I don’t possess any of these qualities, nor am religious or believe in deadly sins, I knew Sloth had a beautiful meaning that not only the test’s brief summary shared and my own insights reflected, but also that I further unveiled by digging.

The test’s description of my “Sloth-ness” said:

Peaceful and easygoing, Sloths take things at their own pace and live moment to moment. They are considerate, pleasant, caring, and mellow. Their values are important to them, but they are not ones who particularly care about defending or debating their views publicly. Don’t call them lazy — maybe they are just more relaxed than the rest of us.

This made perfect, accurate sense to me and went along with the quiet, calm, softening qualities I have been sharing about deepening into, as well as the very solitary, introspective times I’ve been in, as I observe and sense everything. While I’ve been moving in slower motion these days, this reflects a relaxing-into the natural energy that is, without trying to force anything and taking only very deliberate, efficient steps – which sometimes seems/looks as if I’m not doing much at all. All of this while realizing that so much IS percolating energetically. So I really don’t need to do a lot, as all is revealed in divine timing and comes together quickly when I do finally set things in motion because I listen to the energy rather than think my way through it.

I’ve come to understand the wastefulness of speeding around to appease contrived time-frames and unnecessary parameters, as well as the impact on not only my well-being, but the product of that “force,” and the example it provides to others.

One of my favorite animal spirit guide websites shares that Sloth’s Wisdom also includes:

  • Wisdom associated with moving slowly
  • The value of perceived laziness
  • Understanding the Tree Spirits
  • Ability to access the libraries within the Trees where all Earth knowledge is held
  • Understanding when to use tenacious behavior
  • Seeing the world upside down

That last one has a really cool symbolism that hit me immediately after receiving Sloth as a reflection, but I’ll get back to that shortly.


I remembered right away that I had opportunity to be in the presence of wild Sloths when I was in Costa Rica exploring the rain forests. I also remember the excitement I felt and was fascinated by the two that we were blessed to come across. One must be very observant to eye these well-camouflaged, quiet, still, non-moving, sweet creatures of the forest.(Photo to the right is of one of them in the trees – very hard to make her out, but you can see her body of hair hanging from the tree home she embraces)

Sloth’s represent many cool qualities and, as you can already tell, have a deep wisdom to impart. All animals do. Everything in nature and yes, pretty much every experience does.

If you identify with “Sloth” or have Sloth as your animal spirit guide totem, then this post is for you. But it is also for everyone who is moving through “Sloth” experiences in their own life (like me) and can see the value that she brings in her teachings.

The Sloth is a creature of psychic vision and aloneness (in the sense of security and comfortability being with yourself). Like owls, they are capable of turning their heads almost 270 degrees, which you can imagine provides them a mysteriously insightful ability to see many perspectives – above, below, and every which way. I’d say that reflects their expanded inner vision, as being able to take in so much externally, can only mirror having the capability of processing that amount of depth and breadth of experience.

It is also this ability that lends to Sloths’ connection to the realm of spirit and their having very strong and clear visionary gifts. Being that they spend their time up in the trees, they can mirror someone who may have, or currently feels, out of place on Earth because of having different ways about them from the society they live in. This is why self nurturing of these gifts in ways that bring them into grounded, useful application for manifestation, becomes important. And with their strong connection to the Tree Spirits, there is that available ancient knowledge that can assist in that process, as well as bring the gifts of vision into partnership and harmony with Earth.

Tree-dwelling and keenly adaptive to branch-living (even mating while hanging from the trees), Sloths teach us balance and a broadened sense of personal space that is freeing and can be created in the most unlikely of places, as long as you are secure within yourself.

As you saw from my photo of the Sloth in Costa Rica, they are very good at camouflaging themselves, which teaches us the ability to merge and shape-shift with our environments in unification, rather than separation.

And of course you may gather that they would symbolize someone who is comfortable being a “loner” and values their freedom of independence and personal space, since Sloths generally live alone.

From this you can easily see their connection to the Tarot’s “Hermit.” This Hermit-like nature, thus whispers to us the “power of silence.” They know its value and also the power of mindfulness, being observant, present, aware, and focused all by going within your inner silence. They understand good use of purposeful retreat in order to prepare for the new. From this place, you are alert and ready to embrace opportunity when it presents itself, having the advantage of the wisdom gained. They also know how to conserve energy and to use it discerningly and efficiently.

From their being judged as lazy, unambitious, and undisciplined, yet actually being quite versed in the moment-to-moment flow, while enjoying this relaxed vantage point of deliberation, you can see their connection to the Tarot’s “Fool.”  To others, you, like the Sloth, may look foolish to superficial judgments, but in fact it is you who is laughing the whole way to your dreams. In this way the Fool/Sloth may be encouraging of your devout belief in yourself despite anything or what anyone else says – to follow your heart no matter how crazy or foolish your impulses may seem and trusting that the Universe always takes care of you.

And, to get back to my point from before, I see them also very prominently as perfect and powerful symbols of the Tarot’s “Hanged Man.” Yes indeed, new and expanded perspectives come when we are in a state of suspension and literally turn our world upside down in order to see from all angles of the experience, which provides greater insight and wisdom.

I love this excerpt from an article by Carolyn R. Guss that explores the “Hanged Man” card and its connections to yoga.


“Headstand, Hanged Man, and Tree by Carolyn R. Guss shares:

The Hanged Man is trump #12 in the Tarot’s Major Arcana, a cluster of 22 cards (within a deck of 78) that serves as the archetypal or “soul” energies of the deck. The card depicts a man hanging by one ankle from a tree or wooden frame, with his arms bent at the elbows and his free leg crossed behind the other thigh. It signifies, briefly, release of ego, voluntary surrender, willingness to suspend control, and a non-attachment to outcome. In short, it is a very Zen-like card: one of the tenets of Zen Buddhism being to live in the moment, the present, which is all that we really have. It also, in a reading, can suggest quietly magical alterations in the way we do things—again, though, for the sake of experiment and growth, without expecting a prescribed result.

The Hanged Man suspends himself willingly from a living tree, in order to surrender, as Rachel Pollack says in The Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, “to the rhythms of life.” His hands, in many versions of the card, are hidden behind him, signifying release of control. Although a human figure, the Hanged Man might as well be a sloth or a bat, an opossum or a kinkajou. He is, for a time, at home in his silly posture.


But why? Pollack says that the Hanged Man “hints of great truths in a simple design,” whereas Arthur Edward Waite, in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, deems it “a card of profound significance, but all the significance is veiled.” The medieval alchemists felt that standing on one’s head allowed gravity to pull energy from the genitals to the brain, thus transforming the energy of desire into spiritual energy, just as the ancient yogis felt that such a reversed position creates renewal and radiance within the individual. In modern terms it is thought that, as Pollack describes it, “reversal of physical posture serves as a direct symbol of the reversal of attitude and experience that comes through spiritual awakening.”

As you can see, there is so much more than meets the eye to anything and there is great value in exploring things to find deeper meaning. You will find so much wisdom, nudges, and teachings when you open yourself to embrace more.

I have found a deeper sense of appreciation and gratitude for “Sloth” and honor her presence in my life at this time, as an integration of who I am and what I am focused on currently with the major transmutation taking place.

I hope you will find some value in expanding your own concept of our dear friend the Sloth and find appreciation for the times she graces your life with her wisdom and seeks you out to support the changes you are wanting to make.


Tania Marie is a visionary artist, sacred tattoo designer, author & Reiki Master Teacher whose creations, workshops and retreats in the healing arts are inspiring people globally.

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