At the Heartland Pagan Festival in 2009, I took a place on the festival's Vision Quest trail. The quest's theme that year was animals, so, for lack of a better choice, I chose the panda. And had one of the strangest, most powerful experiences of my life, as people I had never met poured open their souls, their doubts, and their mysteries to the panda sitting in the Kansas woods.
I've still never had a meditative encounter with a "panda spirit," and when I finally met some actual pandas at the Memphis Zoo a few years ago, they continued to sleep when I tapped on the side of their cage. Still, the coincidences seem too strange for me to ignore, skeptical as I might be. When the whole world says there's something pandaish about you, and the panda connection keeps leading to important events in your life . . . well . . .
I'm not saying I believe that the giant panda is my spirit animal, necessarily. But I get the feeling that the panda doesn't particularly care whether I believe in it or not.