On the eve of my 40th birthday, I had a dream in which I wandered just beyond the edges of my neighbourhood. Passing the last house, I stood at the end of my street, facing the woods. As I stood, I sensed a presence and there, to my left, apparently having wandered just beyond the edges of his neighbourhood, was a very large brown bear. He stood on the lawn of the last house, facing the direction from which I had just come. In the slow-motion manner of certain portentous dreams, we turned to face each other. Standing still, frozen in the moment, we regarded each other with fluctuating measures of fear and fascination. And then, as the possibilities of what might happen raced through my mind—would he give chase? Would I run? Would we both turn back the way we had come?—I awoke.
I have to report that I was a bit disappointed. Being pulled from the flurry of possible outcomes was like being forced to leave a good mystery film just as the secret is about to be revealed. Beyond the initial disappointment, however, there was something else, something vaguely unsettling.
The more I pondered the puzzle of the dream, the more I began to have the disconcerting feeling that the answer to what would happen—what could happen in any situation—was more in my hands than I cared to imagine. After all, the dream was my creation and in that sense, the bear was a part of me. Bear and I are of one essence, yet in the inner theatre of the mind, we appear as two in order to enact a play.
So, what does it mean to wake up from a dream-play before it’s finished? What are we called to awaken to? In the dream of meeting the bear, it’s interesting to note that the totemic aspect of bears has to do with awakening the power of the Unconscious mind. As author Ted Andrews notes in Animal Speak, “Bear medicine can teach you to go deep within so that you can make your choices and decisions from a position of power.”
As we move from the 1900s to the 2000s, I wonder if Bear might be an appropriate symbol for our collective awakening. Are we ready to take on the responsibility to wake from the dream, to bring the dormant knowledge held in the Unconscious out into the open, into consciousness, into our everyday lives?
Consider our position: here we stand, just a bit beyond the edges of all that is known in our neighbourhood, face to face with the forest, the 21st century, the unknown. And there to meet us stands the ancient, awesome power of Bear.
No wonder the mixture of fear and fascination accompanies so many human transitions. The outcome of our future is in our hands, our minds, our hearts, our souls. Just as it’s always been. Whatever will we do?
image: Nate Shivar (Creative Commons – BY)