Bear Medicine

While I don’t subscribe to any one system of beliefs, I do find that Native American wisdom strikes a chord with me and seems to be in line with my own internal belief system.  One of the major pieces of wisdom within Native American cultures is that each animal has a lesson to teach us.  They do this simply by ‘being.’  Each animal has its own ‘way.’  Studying an animal’s behavior is one way of working with that animal’s ‘medicine.’

Medicine is traditionally defined as a compound or preparation used in the treatment or prevention of a disease.  However, there are many things that can be considered medicine.  The most well-known would be ‘laughter is the best medicine.’  Medicine is that which brings us comfort, relief, and most of all back into balance with our own nature.

For me, the Bear has always played a part in my spirituality, though at first I thought it was just sort of a coincidence.  I can remember being sort of a solitary creature all the way back to childhood.  I never questioned it until other people began to tell me that wanting to be in solitude was something that was abnormal.  Before that, I would bask in my solitude and was my most creative and connected during that time.  Once I was told otherwise it became a source of anxiety to some extent.  I would hide away at times when there were too many people around, and this drew attention to my ‘abnormal’ ways.  I quickly learned that I needed to be able to tolerate loud, boisterous gatherings in order to be accepted. So I tried it.  And, of course, it only served to make those types of gatherings miserable.  Being from an Italian family, you have to expect that there are a lot of loud people around-  loud but loving.  Problem is, when you’re sensitive everything is magnified, making it even more difficult to tolerate intense environments.  To be completely honest, life continued to be a confusing series of events for me to wade through up until the time I went off to college.  I found myself always having to conform and compromise my feelings in favor of what was popular.  It was around this time that I began to realize that I had a lot of dreams about Bears.  “Bears?” I thought, a bit puzzled but on the alert that something deeper was afoot.

(Note: When I use ‘Bear’ with a capital, I am referring to the great spirit of the Bear.  A lowercase ‘b’ indicates bear as an earthly animal.)

There was a little game we used to play in high school where you would close your eyes and someone would walk you through a scenario.  The answers you gave were supposed to be revealing about how you felt toward certain things, represented by symbols in the scenario.  It would start out with, “You’re walking along a path and you come to a forest.  What does it look like?”  From there you would describe how you saw the forest in your mind.  You might see it as scary, dark, full of oak trees, etc.  Then you’d come along and find a key on the ground.  Here you’d be asked, “What does the key look like and what do you do with it?”  I always saw it as an old-fashioned style key and it was golden in color.  I would pick it up and put it in my pocket.  The next thing you’d come to along your path would be a bear.  The question here was “What does the bear do?”  In my mind, the bear would stand up on its hind legs, tall and majestic, looking me in the eyes, quietly.  The punchline to this game was that the forest represented your view of life.  The key represented knowledge.  The bear represented authority.  So when I would see Bear in my dreams, I would assume it must have meant authority because that was the ony symbology I had up until that point.  Since books have always been my best friends, I, of course, went to the bookstore to investigate the symbology of the Bear.  It was then that I stumbled upon my first glimpses of the Native American belief that animals are connected to us, and that when they show up in our lives they have a message for us.

The first thing I read was that Bear is the magic of Dreamtime. In essence, Bear’s medicine for us is the comfort of going within and finding that our own wisdom resides there, not in our outside environment.  When you are a ‘Bear person,’ you tend to require a lot of sleep, the comfort of being warm and cozy, and the safety of ‘home.’   Bears are fiercely protective of their young, and although they usually walk about in a slow manner, are able to pick up lightening speed when the situation calls for it.   I began to realize that the energy of Bear was working closely and patiently with me, waiting for me to awaken to the medicine of the inner dream.   I started to become more comfortable with myself.  This information was helping me to better understand myself rather than coming from a place of judgement or competition.  I began the journey of self-acceptance.  After all, in the end we are all only competing with ourselves.

Growing up I had a love for Winnie the Pooh, and as I was discovering all of these new concepts in the realm of the metaphysical, I came upon a book called, “The Tao of Pooh.”  This very intriguing book is one author’s way of explaining the basic principles of Taoism through the characters best known by way of Disney.   I adored this book, and have since passed it along to someone who passed it along to someone, and so on.  One of the main concepts of Taoism is that of simply ‘being.’  Taoism says that a fish doesn’t get angry with itself for  not being able to fly, and a bird doesn’t get upset for not being able to swim in the ocean.  Each does what it does, and is what it is, without any shame or regret.  The appeal of the Tao for me was that it wasn’t a strict religion, but more of a philosophy. In my eyes, philosophy has great value, and is more appealing than the rigid belief systems religion offers because it allows you to question rather than requiring you accept something as dogma. Looking at life this way has made all the difference in my outlook and in how I react to the outside environment.  Once again, a bear showed me the way… literally!  ‘Tao’ means ‘the way.’

So now, when I retire to my cave, I no longer feel that this makes me abnormal or anti-social.  I’m simply being ‘me,’ without judgement, and without fear of what I’m NOT doing.  This is my medicine- what makes me well.  To fight my own nature, would be to war within myself unnecessarily.  I gratefully accept myself as a Bear person, whose need to be solitary is not a flaw, but what helps me to thrive.

Recommended reading: “The Tao of Pooh,”  by  Benjamin Hoff.  (http://www.just-pooh.com/tao.html)

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~ by healingstarspirit on May 25, 2010.

2 Responses to “Bear Medicine”

  1. That was awesome Nicole—I love dogs—-does that mean I crave affection and want to be petted? 🙂 I knew there was a reason we were friends, we both love books, animals, and believe that faith has to do with self and being content with self. We pick and choose the parts of the religions and philosophies that speak to us and incorporate them into our lives. You rock.

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  2. Hey Stacy- If you feel a special connection to dogs, then you should take some time to look up the symbolism, and maybe pick up a crystal that is carved in the shape of a dog for your altar. 🙂 Pick the one that resonates with you. No, YOU rock! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my little corner of the web.

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