Thursday, November 30, 2017

The case of the headless bear

I was leading a workshop at Maitrea in Prague, on a cobbled street just off Old Town Square, in February. Snow was falling outside. A thoughtful man named David told us he wanted to understand the illness of a family member. This was on his mind as he left our first evening session. I had suggested to everyone in our lively group that they should experiment with “putting a question to the world.” This meant formulating a theme on which they wanted guidance and carrying it with them, in the mind, as they went out into the external environment. The game would then be to receive the first unusual, unexpected thing that turned up in their field of perception in the world around them as a possible response from the oracle of the world.
David walked down the snowy street and turned left into Old Town Square. He saw an amazing scene unfolding in front of him. A headless bear was being pursued across the square by a pack of animals of various kinds. The headless bear was a man in a bear outfit, missing the head. As David tried to grasp the nature of this astonishing theater, he saw a fox being chased by a second pack of animals.
When he shared the episode with us in our morning session, we all felt that the world had staged a special production, a dream theater, just for him. There was a fine run of coincidence at work. On my first evening in Prague, I had taken a table at a restaurant in front of the astrological clock in the Old Town Hall, waiting for six o’clock to chime and the procession of sainted figures to emerge from behind their shutters. I heard these words in English wafting from a nearby table: “It was the time when the fox drank water with the bears.” Though tempted to get up and ask the speaker for the context, I was content to let the mystery words hover in the air. They had the quality of an enchanted children’s story, full of wonder, and also gave me a sense of confirmation the animal powers would be very active with my workshop group in Prague, in harmonious ways, as indeed proved to be the case.
During my first drumming on the first evening of the Prague workshop, I saw Bear and Fox standing on either side of a great tree, urging me to invite the group to enter the tree without delay, through a door among the roots, to seek consultation with the animal doctors in the way that had proved wonderfully successful in my workshop in Utrecht the previous weekend.
Now I proceeded to discuss what the theater of the headless bear and the running fox would mean to me if I were seeking guidance on someone’s illness and the way to healing. I suggested that our dreamer might want to help his sick relative find ways to connect with Bear and Fox, perhaps by growing a story for him that would carry the energy. We talked about the Bear as a great medicine animal and about the cleverness of Fox as an animal that must be able both to hunt and to hide and that has been — for me — an impeccable guide to ancestral matters, which can carry the code for contemporary complaints and also their cure. I have noticed that people who are attacking bears in their dreams, or running away from them, are often avoiding their personal medicine.
At night, in dreams, we sometimes feel that a company of players and scriptwriters are staging productions to dramatize certain themes in our lives. The case of the headless bear confirmed what Shakespeare taught us: that all the world’s a stage, as well.

Text adapted from The Boy Who Died and CameBack by Robert Moss. Published by New World Library.

Photo of Old Town Prague by RM. February 2013.


Unknown said...

Many years ago I had a dream where I opened the back door at night and found a big black bear rearing up at me. There were cries of alarm. Next, I was on the back porch with a rifle in my hands, taking calm and careful aim. A single shot dropped him, swelling the cries of unseen people. I carefully moved into a better position for a killing shot and, at this point, the bear, belly down, prone and still, transformed into my father. This had no affect on the "me" in my dream, who found his position, raised the rifle, and delivered the coup-de-grace. End.

This puzzled me for years. My father was not a threatening or dangerous person. Nor am I. Issues between us have become apparent only in the years since his death. The idea that by attacking a bear I am running away from my personal medicine is intriguing. That this bear was my father--and that it was necessary for me to kill him--must be rich with meaning. But what meaning? I've always paid attention to, and learned from, my dreams. They have sometimes demanded that I do! But this one has always been a puzzle. You encourage me that someday I'll understand.

Robert Moss said...

Did you remain calm after you left the dream scene? Our first feelings on waking are always essential guidance on what is going on a dream and where to go with it. Your brief but vivid narrative arouses very strong emotions in me. As you know, it is almost unknown for black bears to attack humans, and bears stand up on their hind legs not to attack but to see (and perhaps in this case to be seen) better. There is a strong connection in my life between my visions of the bear and my relations with my father. So if this were my dream I would be deeply disturbed and wonder what in myself - and perhaps what of my father and my father's line - my dream self was trying to kill. I would want to reenter the dream consciously and see what unfolds if I make the choice NOT to pick up the rifle but to face the bear and seek to discover, through direct contact, why it has come to my door.

Unknown said...

I was calm after leaving the dream scene. I awoke from the dream puzzled. Intrigued. But not upset at all, although I suspect I may become so as I delve into this. During the dream there were cries from people. I never looked to see these people, but their cries of fright made it imperative that I kill this "bear." Or so I believed in the moment.

I do know black bears seldom attack humans. I did not know that standing is typical of curious -- as opposed to threatening -- behavior. (Which immediately brings to me the question: Would a personal guidance dream reflect actual bear behavior, or would it show behavior the dreamer could not misinterpret? Fascinating).

I can imagine what of my father my dream self would want to kill. Perhaps more correctly, what of my father in me I would want to kill.

As for reentering the dream consciously to see what unfolds, I've tried this only a few times over the years, but I confess that as I do so there is "the
dubious mind" at my shoulder, wondering/whispering, "Is this real? Or are you making this up?..." The effect is dampening to my openness to the experience.
Perhaps the ego is fearful of releasing control -- or its illusion of control! I know that fear is the barrier to so much we might experience. And just now comes something a friend quoted long ago: "To know, and not to do, is not to know."

Thank you for your input, Robert.