The Bear


My most vivid dream memory from childhood is a recurring dream. Because of my age, and what I would later learn, I had no idea this dream was something of great importance and a sacred blessing.

My dream would go like this: I would be in a dark forest with large trees that would be making noise. I was always on a path trying to reach a destination (much like Little Red Riding Hood) and then I would realize someone was following me. I would then see the bear — a very large bear — and I would be frightened. I would always try to get ahead of her by running as fast as I could, but I could never move. I was always in the paralyzed dream state.

Out of fear, I would wake up.

The oddest thing for me to grasp at such a young age was this: I grew up in a city in a large, old house, and my bedroom was on the second floor. I would try to fall asleep when I’d see this huge bear’s head looking at me through my screen window.

It was alive, and very real.

I knew in my mind that this could not possibly be a bear. In the city? Suspended in the air, staring at me intensely? I would see the bear’s head on top of my radiator. The bear would always appear in a different place in my room.

It was not until I grew up and was twenty-something that I came to understand the bear’s spirit and power. I learned this was my animal spirit guide that was given to me. My first totem. The bear. The Nahual.

In his book, Intimate Nature, Rigoberta Menchu tells us: “Every child is born with a nahual. The nahual is like a shadow, his protective spirit who will go through life with him. The nahual is the representative of the earth, the animal world, the sun and water, and in this way the child communicates with nature. The nahual is our double, something very important to us. Trees can be nahuals too, trees chosen by our ancestors many centuries ago.”

I used to struggle with rage and anger. I had an explosive temper and I would fight — especially when justice was deserved. I often think there is an angry, wild bear that lives and expresses itself deep from within me. My calm side is the bear in hibernation, and the awake bear is the part of me that most people regret to know. Including myself.

Now that I’m older, the bear befriended me in a new way. She rears and stands tall to support me and continues to guide me. I had a beautiful dream about her last summer. It took place at Hidden Beach, on the east side of Cedar Lake in Minneapolis. The dream went like this…

People were running in panic around in the woods behind the beach, saying, “Oh my, have you seen the bear?” They were frightened, because there are no bears in the city. I had to walk through the woods to see the bear. She was on her hind legs standing in the sand by the shoreline — and she was mine. She came back to me after all these years. She appeared very much as a pet to me in this dream. Others were in awe that I was not frightened of her. She was glowing in the sun and appeared as if she was being worshipped, by me anyway.

The message was clear. When I had awoken the next morning, I was so thankful and happy to have reconnected with my childhood guide. She surprises me when I least expect it. I’m humbled and grateful.

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