Celebration of the spirit of BEAR

   Bear is a symbol of a personality balanced between the active and the nurturing personalities.  We all know that bears are strong, can be ferocious, and are to be feared. The grizzlies and polar bears are the most famous for these characteristics. Bears are generally composed, calm, but at a ready to react swiftly. They’re not aggressive unless they’re given a reason. They are unpredictable because they stand strongly within themselves.  The Bear’s characteristics of strength and courage are respected everywhere.
   We also all know the image of the mother and cub – the tender and long nurturing of the young from winter’s hibernation through two years of childhood where the mother teaches the young all it needs to know and ferociously defends it against all threats to its life.  When male bears meet they go through careful gestures like boxing to establish who is the strongest, who has the rights to the best fishing areas, but even a large male will avoid a smaller mothering female because of the ferociousness of these mothers.
   In summer, Bear is outgoing:   adventurous, curious, playful, assertively searching out every edible resource as it relentlessly prepares for winter.  Bears climb trees;  they can walk on their hind feet;   they run amazingly swiftly (up to 35 miles an hour!)  Bears swim; they even have a swim style called snorkeling where they pull along mostly underwater except for their ears, watching for fish.  . 
Living in synch with the seasons, autumn comes and Bear eventually looks for a place to rest with winter.  Bears do not completely hibernate; they go into what’s called a torpor, sleeping most of the time but wake- able if disturbed. Winter in most places is longer than summer; some bears sleep up to seven months of the year!   This requires an enormous amount of eating all through summer and fall.  Bears eat anything:  Meat, fish, berries, honey, nuts, fruits, and anything edible.  
Like all animals except humans, bears mate only when the female is in estrus, about two or three weeks out of the year.  Newborn cubs may have different fathers.  Mothers give birth in the winter torpor and the cubs are unusually small and unformed, but nursing through the winter sleep they grow big enough to handle spring with the energy and curiosity of all young.  The torpor of winter is shaken off slowly as the ground awakens and the bears slowly wake up.
   For most bears winter is the longest season and so cooperation with the spirit of winter is a prime symbol of bear for us humans.  Simply put, they stand for the value of sleep in wintertime!   Winter is a season of receptiveness and allowing.  They spend much of their lives in the activity of sleep – that is,  “dreaming”.  Not knowing the telepathic language of bears, we don’t know the contents of the dreams of bears, but we do know some about the function of dreams for us.  In human dreams we seem to digest the experiences of our active times; we seem to plan future activities;  some of us seem to travel out of our bodies while our bodies are  in our nightly torpor.  Even Bible stories record how humans can be visited in dreams by angels and messengers, warned of danger, given insights about upcoming plagues or interpersonal squabbles.  We don’t always remember what we’ve dreamed but we often awaken with insights and inspirations.  Sleep is a creative and problem-solving activity, where we seem connected to resources larger than our rational minds.  Some theories say we are all connected by a deep river in the unconscious, where we make plans together!
    For us, Bear is a symbol of being closely connected to earth.  Birds are of the air, fish are of the water, some animals live off the earth in trees, some stay awake all winter.  Bear is definitely connected deeply with Earth and does not fight against the seasons. Bear is usually connected with the heart chakra, the middle place uniting the lower and higher, the earth and the spiritual.  Also, Bear is the animal of the goddess Artemis, or Diana, goddess of childbirth. 
    Bears have also always been a symbol of death and rebirth, because of their deep sinking into the unconscious during winter and then arising again into our world active and renewed.
    Bear is a symbol of creativity growing out of the quiet receptiveness of winter.  Newness comes to us not from our rational planning, which hashes over things we already know, but out of the deep receptiveness of sleep.  By shutting down our rational effort and the chattering monkey of our minds, we can allow inspirations to emerge through us.  Whatever purpose we were born with may rise again more clearly by relaxing in sleep.
    As humans, we won’t slip down into the long deep sleep of Bear, but we feel a similar pull in winter to rest more, to be quieter, to contemplate and meditate, to read and reflect.  Seeds of inspiration come to us in winter and we may slowly find new projects emerging within us.   
Spirit of Bear, be with us here as we consider your example.
We appreciate your presence with us on this earth.
We appreciate your great and beautiful spirit.
We ask your forgiveness for any humans who treat you without respect. 
As we now deal with this winter of the year,
 guide us as we try to learn from you.   Especially,  how to flow with the gifts of this season.
 Help us settle into good habits.     May we receive inspiration and renewal,
 and emerge creative and refreshed with the spring.
Being guided by Bear we would not fight the natural gifts of winter.  In our own human ways, we can continue active,  while allowing ourselves more rest, sleep, and work of the spirit.  Let us now take a look at our life situations and how we can incorporate obeying the call of the season, as bear does.  I invite you to close your eyes          and think about your attitude to sleep and rest in this winter time.  Do you push against this impulse too much, resenting the need for more sleep, apologizing for it?  Do you overplan activities for the wintertime?
Scientists tell us that we ALL dream several times a night; that we MUST dream to stay mentally healthy.  Remembering our dreams or benefitting from their inspiration takes practice.  Consider altering your habits   to wake up slowly and gently,  allowing images from the night   to linger in your consciousness.
  Arising slowly,  we might write down glimpses from the night   or inspirations coming to us as regarding our day.  Journalingis a helpful spiritual practice for catching intuitions and inspirations.
   Might we add more inspiring reading into our winter schedule?    Perhaps some regular time for meditation, to practice quieting our monkey mind so that  intuitions,  inspiration,  higher guidance can come to us?
Quiet sharings with friends are another human activity in winter that helps us get in touch with our truer selves and to get insights into the challenges of our lives.  Can we make time for open-ended relaxed chatting with good friends?
Can we treat our bodies more gently in winter, keeping them going with appropriate carefulness, not over-pushing but attending to what our bodies need?   Good nutrition, gentle exercise?
Think now of what practices or changes you might put into your winter days to learn from the healthy example of Bear.


           –  Make dream bundles, requesting special dreams
           – Pass plate of Bear food (berries, nuts, honey, jerky, etc), then leave food for Bear
           Release the elements