Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Braving up to Bear

Last evening, on my way to dinner at the Zamek ("Castle") restaurant in the lovely northern Bohemian town of Nove Mesto nad Metuji, I met an old friend on guard duty at the gate. I was carried back in memory to a time when a bear frightened me in my dreams, and I discovered that I was required to go back to the place of fear and brave up in order to claim the healing and protective power of a wonderful shamanic ally.
    I grew up in Australia, which has no native bears. Koalas are cute but they are not bears. My boyhood dreams and imaginings transported me back to the Europe of my ancestors, and warriors who went into battle wearing bearskins to claim the fighting fury of this magnificent ally. And I remember wanting, as a small boy, a giant teddy bear glimpsed in a Melbourne department store around Christmas that my parents declined to buy for me. But I had no sense of being especially close to bears. Other animals took me flying or prowling through the jungles of the night.
    After I moved to North America, however, the bear came to me in a very direct way. I dreamed, night after night, that a bear was inside my house. It usually appeared standing on two legs. It did not menace me directly, but it was so much bigger than me that I was scared. I could see the great claws hanging down.
    One night, the giant bear appeared in my bedroom. It was impossible to understand how its tremendous bulk could fit in the space. As I surfaced from the dream, I felt the continued presence of the bear in the room. I shook with fear and excitement.
    I decided then that I must do what I would now suggest to anyone else: that I must go back inside the dream and face the bear on its own ground and discover what needed to be done/ When we practice dream reentry in my workshops, we use shamanic drumming to fuel and focus the journey, and sometimes I drum for myself at home. On this occasion, I did not have far to go. The bear had been in my own house. And I had the energy of my fear and excitement to fuel my desire to meet it face to face.
    I sat back in an easy chair after closing the curtains and turning off the phone. I willed myself back into the reality where the bear was waiting for me. Quick as thought, I was there.
   The bear was more vividly alive than anything in the ordinary setting. It was rank and feral; I could smell it. It was mountainous. It took a real act of will to make myself rise, in my second body, and walk up to it. The bear raised its great arms and wrapped them around me. It seized me so fiercely I thought it was going to crush my rib cage. Then the bear's embrace softened into a hug.
    We now seemed to be the same size. That felt a lot better. The bear willed me, with its mind, to look down at my chest. I was amazed to see something like a thick umbilical cord. It joined my heart center to that of the bear. Vital energy was pumping back and forth between us. In a way I could not explain, the bear and I were joined at the heart.
    The bear wanted me to dance. Even I can manage a bear dance.
    The bear told me, with its mind, Call on me and I will show you what you need to heal. Call on me and I will help others to heal.
     I have been doing this for decades, and Bear has proved to be an impeccable ally. When I open a circle, we often sing a song that I borrowed from the Kanienkehaka, or Mohawk people, to welcome the Bear:

Don't cry little one
Don't cry little one
The Bear is coming to dance for you
The Bear is coming to dance for you

In personal crises of illness, Bear has come to me with amazing medicine, sometimes cracking open my body to remove an organ, cleanse it and renew it, before replacing it in a bed of soft ferns and herbs. Bear appears to others in the gatherings I lead as animal doctor and soul healer. I have seen Great Mother Bear help people to reclaim child selves who went missing through pain or grief or loss, holding the adult and the child together until they are one.
    I did not know when I decided to brave up and meet the beast in my bedroom that Bear is the great medicine animal of North America, and that the Lakota - who have many ways of meeting the sacred - maintain that the greatest healers are members of the Bear Dreamers Society, who are chosen and called by the Bear in dreams and visions.
    I know that the gifts of Bear are beyond itemizing. And I know that these gifts would not have been accessible to me, or to those I seek to help, had I not gone back inside a scary dream and stepped through a fear to find the power that was seeking me. What we most fear is sometimes what we must do.

Photo of guardian bear at the castle in Nove Mesto nad Metuji by Robert Moss

1 comment:

greenbohemian said...

Great story. I'm sure bears roamed in Eastern Europe, though I don't know if there are any left in Bohemia.