More fun. Fun with bears!

Here’s another personal post before I get into more research-oriented topics.

This morning I woke up from a dream involving a common topic for me, the bear.  Because I grew up spending summers in the woods, I encountered grizzly and black bears fairly regularly, and these experiences imprinted emotional associations with bears that pop into my thoughts and dreams at meaningful times.

My dream involved seeing two grizzlies along a forest path, peacefully grazing/foraging and aware of human presence nearby.  I warned some people to turn around and walk in the opposite direction.  Then I entered a large wooden room made of raw pine, with one outhouse-style toilet in a corner, which had open windows in both adjacent walls in that corner.  My boyfriend was sitting there when I ran in to warn him of the bears nearby- just as one of the bears with a multi-colored coat stuck its arm in one window and grabbed my boyfriend’s chest with its giant paw.  My guy jumped up and held the arm somehow, while I ran over and twisted the bear’s nose and poked it in the eye.  I didn’t like or want to injure the bear, but I realized it could even playfully injure him, and so we attacked it to get it to leave.  Then I woke up, relieved but disturbed.

Maximus: the second-largest grizzly known to exist south of Canada. Photo by Mike Madel.

In thinking about this dream, several themes come up- immediately, springtime excitement and renewal associated with forests and the emergence of bears to gather food after hibernation.  The peaceful accord between the two bears showing the harmony of nature yet representing a threat to humans if disturbed. Then when I began to think about the whole scene involving my boyfriend in the room, and the bear, many great insights about acupuncture presented themselves!

I entered a room, knowing that I was supposed to warn/aid a loved one.  The room was empty except for a waste-elimination facility.  It was simple and airy, with a beneficial environment.  The only windows in it were in the walls to which the person had their back pointed (the windows opened onto the person’s back).  A force of nature intruded into the room, into and onto the person who I cared about.  I couldn’t tell if it was playful, exploratory, or malicious/defensive.  But I identified it as dangerous.  A KEY part is what happened next: the person himself grabbed hold of the dangerous entity, that force of nature represented by the bear.  While it was stabilized, I poked it in its most sensitive, receptive areas- the nose and eyes, which in the bear are the most important orifices with which they gather knowledge of the world surrounding them.  This allowed the danger to pass.  Wow!  Talk about acupuncture metaphor!

What a great present.  It helps me keep in mind many important aspects of caring for others  as they go through a dangerous process of healing or elimination of things they no longer need.  The illness or force of nature itself can be a tool of healing (bears represent a mother figure and the healer in many cultures); the patient is already open to it (windows on either side, behind them); they are already attempting to accomplish change (sitting on the john); the patient has the power to grasp this illness/force of nature, which is the only thing that allows me to be effective (holding the bear’s arm); I must use quick thinking and quick action to accomplish my goal (necessity due to life being in danger); the use of needle or hand manipulation (poking eye, twisting nose) involves the most sensitive areas, physically emotionally and mentally (one of bear’s only weaknesses due to the extreme reliance on sense of smell; the eye and nose only areas of body not covered in protective skin/fur).

Dusk at Pine Butte Grizzly Preserve

Finally, it defines the idea that as a healer, I’m going into the treatment room knowing that I’m there to help someone I care for, as another human beset by the wide world of nature’s possibilities.   The setting was in the middle of a forest, a freshly-hewn wooden room.  This represents the humans’ (patients’) relation to nature; they have created a safe place within the broader expanse of wilderness, yet at the same time they remain vulnerable when they least expect it (daily activity of going to the bathroom, oblivious to windows behind them), while the power to master or learn from the nature within themselves is theirs, all the time.

Well, I hope you didn’t get too bored with all that interpretation.  As a reward, HERE’s a fantastic post about bears, written by David Cronenwett, the naturalist for a guest ranch which is directly adjacent to the area that I spent those summers growing up.

And a gratuitous youtube link, polar bears playing with huskies!

Thanks for listening!  Feedback is welcome.


2 responses to “More fun. Fun with bears!

  1. Beth! Thanks for the heads up 🙂 It’s especially interesting for me because I had a bear dream for the first time ever a couple weeks ago and I’ve been really interested in them since.

    If you’re doing library/powell’s time, this book Thresholds of Initiation ( has a whole appendix on bears and initiatory symbolism. I’d type some up for you but my copy’s out on loan :/

    Genius!!! Reading this I thought about the role of masculine/feminine in the two part action. And if the bear represents what’s being healed, it strikes me as a symbol beyond pathology, rather an image of what’s-being-healed as a natural force in its own right that is straying beyond its propriety or interacting dangerously, a force that has its own realm and is an important part of the ecosystem and to be respected in its own right.

    Your interpretation’s beautiful and totally interesting, thanks so much for sharing it.

    • I agree that it’s a symbol of nature and not of pathology. It was especially interesting since at first it seemed playful, and only later recognized as a danger to a human body in its physical form. I always see the bear as an animal that fully understands its environment- it ranges over so many miles, and it relies on food sources that can appear and leave in one day (moth hatches, short-lived lily bulbs, ladybug swarms for gods sake). It’s an indicator of the health of the entire ecosystem and as such can serve as a warning that a person’s own ecosystem is out of balance; it can also just represent a whole, reminding the person that we are all part of something larger.

      Thanks for your feedback! I will check out that book. It will be fun to hear your story as well!

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