Sunday, April 1, 2012

To Be a Bear, To Be a Woman

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Before an earthquake, bears get anxious and start acting strangely. People may point to the bear, and say, "There is something wrong with this bear," because they do not feel the earthquake coming. But maybe an old woman takes notice. She knows the bears, and the land, and she watches with understanding. Everything is in its place. She knows what it is like to be a bear; women, too, are built to receive.

My body portends thresholds, the future sending out shock waves, each with an undertow that carries me into an unknown ocean. I am enjoying the imminence, out past preferences. No stories are needed where the strong, subtle heart connection fastens me to my family. The blood in their veins magnetizes mine, as two rivers merge underground. The connection cannot be seen, but we are the same life-giving stream.

Every day, I examine the faces of those around me, studying how geography still shows itself in the shape of an eye, the curve of a jaw, an aquiline nose. When I look into my dad's face, I see myself. This means a lot to me, clannish as I am. 

Once when I was a kid, I made a sign for my dad to hang on his office door. It read, "Don't Mess with Mike," beneath a picture of a bear, mid-roar. My dad can be a bear--powerful, greatly respected, slightly unpredictable, very fond of fish, and king of the forest. His roar can incite terror in the bravest of creatures, but he is also gentle and known for hibernation.

In a lucid dream, I find myself walking down the path of an Eastern European forest. The deep roar of a large creature cuts through the fir-needled hush. I do not see the animal, but I know instinctively it's a brown bear. Even though I understand I'm dreaming, millennia of human experience supersedes cognition, and demands that I move away.

I travel to a nearby cottage, empty except for old family pictures hanging on the staircase wall. Even the eerie photographs frighten me.

At this point in the dream, I recall a question I answered recently, "Where is my focus in lucid dreaming now?" I remember my response: egolessness and fearlessness. So much for that, I think, laughing at my (non)self.

Funny that a "weakened" self should lead to frightened fatigue, rather than liberation from a false notion of who we are(n't). Our interrelatedness also seems to cyclically elicit a host of emotions, simply because we are sharing in the range of human experience through time. We do not need to take it personally. So, I am running from the bear, I am afraid of the creepy photographs, and it is okay.

I decide, with an awareness of irony, that since fearlessness is not happening, I'll shoot for egolessness. Still in the lucid dream, I find a place to assume a sitting posture and begin non-conceptual meditation. The forest and cottage have disappeared, and now I am in darkness. The dream remains stable until I am ready to return to my body.

Right now I feel like a bear before an earthquake. In waking life, I am as down and out as the dream reveals. I keep forgetting and then remembering and then forgetting to be a bear, to be a woman: present, open to receive, and ready to respond. I am scared of how I will find my dad when I visit him this month. I am scared to face the bear, and I am scared of "earthquakes."

But fear takes a lot of effort to maintain.

Post Script (9/18/12): My dad is cancer-free. Healthy, vibrant, full of life.


  1. Remind me to tell you sometime about my dream of bears - and maybe I can show you my tattoo.... ;) Sending a big bear hug your way as you travel to see your father.

    April (aka Ariel)

    1. Ok, I will remind you to tell me this winter. A good time to share bear dreams, while they're dreaming, too.

  2. I'm glad you've revived this blog, Erin - I found it by way of Paolo. This is good, and I feel important, stuff.

    Terri in Joburg

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Terri! I am enjoying your work as well.