Bears embrace myths, legends, movies, cartoons, ageless stories. Even Smokey Bear, has brought awareness to the public to protect forests from careless fires. By the way, Wikipedia says Smokey Bear is the longest running public service campaign in the United States. But, what can we learn spiritually from bear? I’ve known people with spirit names that included “bear” as part of their “name” like Quiet Bear, Gentle Bear, Big Bear, and Sleeping Bear. The names say certain bear-like qualities are attributed these people. I’d like to focus on those bear qualities and see how they can improve our lives.
A basic quality of Bear Medicine teaches us to go within and examine our inner being. This is drawn from the bear’s instinct to hibernate in the winter. It typically eats more than in the fall, storing up fat reserves to endure the cold months of winter. Bear lives through the winter off the stored reserves from within.
The spiritual lesson says we should store up enough spiritual energy and well-being within to prepare for life’s lessons, that often feel cold and cruel. Instead of evading the lesson, stop, go within and tap into the much needed spiritual reserves. The normal way of life is to externalize. When a lesson enters one’s life efforts are made to cover it through expressing through anger, frustration, stress, fear, or over indulgence instead of going within to identify the reason and lesson to be learned. Be like bear and try going within
Evaluation is another quality Bear Medicine. Consider this. A mother bear gives birth during the winter and brings her cub(s) out when she feels and knows they are ready to face the outside world. She does not allow them out until they are ready. She has evaluated them closely in the den, watching their subtle actions, reactions, emerging personalities, and frailties. If she senses crucial short comings the cubs remain in the den. She remains there as well, only venturing out long enough to feed herself and close enough to keep a watchful eye on the den.
We can learn a great deal from mother bear. Evaluate our lives and pay close attention to the fruits of our lives, including our children. Are there parts that are weak needing strengths? Are there ways we can evaluate our children, instead of criticize them? Do we need to add more to the project before it’s presented for all to see? Do we throw something together in a haphazard manner just to get it out or do we take our time, doing the best we can before its presentation. If there is a good side of pride, this would qualify. Be like bear and evaluate our life and our offspring.
Finally, consider nurturing as a quality of bear medicine. Return to the analogy of mother bear and her cubs. She not only evaluates she nurtures her offspring. She accepts the responsibility of having offspring. She cares for the cub’s growth. She encourages its development. Nurture includes seeing to the cub’s physical needs or nourishment which is the origin of the word “nurture” which means to feed. The origin also means to cherish. Just as the mother bear cherishes her cub or cubs enough to defend them with her life if necessary.
The bear medicine of nurturing in application to us as human beings would include not only how we care about all our projects and efforts, but, just like evaluation, our children as well. Care over the growth and well-being of children whether as parents or teachers. Encourage the growth, encouraging them to do their best and help them when they fall short of our or their expectations. See to the physical needs of the children in proper nutrition for the body and soul. Above all else, cherish the children.
When bear is seen either in real life, through stories, myths, legends, or a Smokey Bear poster think of the medicine of bear and how we can venture within to become better brothers and sisters to bear.