Spirit Animal Bear
Gifts: Introspection. Hibernation. Strength. Balance of gentleness and ferocity.
Challenges: Coming out of hibernation (too soon or not at all). Applying results of introspection in the outer world. Quick temper and aggression. Lack of caution.
Bear is one of the most recognized of traditional shamanic spirit animals. Bear is a common theme and source of power through much of mythology and literature. You probably already have lots of associations with Bear—mental images, assumptions about behavior, presumptions about gifts.
Bear can bring the gift of “mama bear” energy. But this energy isn’t limited to mothers or women. It is a simplification of Bear’s gift for balancing gentleness and ferocity. For the most part, Bear is gentle. If physical bear is not being threatened, it has no need to be fierce or aggressive. With the exception of polar bears and pandas, physical bears are opportunistic omnivores and will eat pretty much whatever they find. Other than fish, they tend to have a more plant-based diet—flying in the face of people’s perception of bears as strict carnivores.
And yet grizzly bears will attack people for their food or to protect their own food or offspring. Yes, a mama bear protecting her cubs is fearsome and formidable. The lesson for you is to foster your gentle nature but be willing to defend what is yours. Some people liken this ferocity-in-waiting to a dormant inner Bear. In actuality, your inner Bear can be awake all the time. The best way to harness your inner Bear is by allowing its gentleness to guide you and switch to Bear’s ferocity only when truly needed.
Black bears’ first instinct when provoked is not to attack but to retreat, particularly up a tree. If Bear is your spirit animal, try to discern which one is your bear as this will inform which gifts and challenges you should focus on.
If your Bear is a grizzly, you will have more aggression to bring forth. If your Bear is a black bear, you will have more pacifism as your focus. Neither is right or wrong. They are simply two strategies.
Bear is a symbol of introspection and teaches you to look within for the answer. Bear trusts its inner knowingness and its instinct. The lesson for you is to follow Bear’s path of solitude and quiet in order to tune into your own inner wisdom. This does not mean that you have to be alone or abandon your relationships. It means that you need periods of solitude and quiet. Without them, you will not be able to tune into your Self. Create a physical space, a time, and even a ritual for going into your bear cave.
A challenge of working with Bear is the tendency to be inertly passive or overtly aggressive. The trick is realizing that both qualities exist within you. They both serve positive purposes. One draws people in and nourishes you. The other pushes people away and drives you forward.
Another challenge is staying in hibernation mode longer than necessary. Hibernation isn’t a way of life. Hibernation is a strategyand a tool to support action. The point is not to stay in the cave forever. The point is to enter the cave to gather new wisdom—and then leave the cave to use this wisdom in the world. Your inner Bear energy can become comfortably numb if introspection isn’t somehow translated into action.
I encountered a black bear walking along the side of the road on Vancouver Island. I was startled and awed—and deeply thrilled—by this gorgeous creature moseying along, just doing its thing as several drivers honked at those of us who had stopped on the road to get a better look. Clearly, some of us weren’t used to seeing a bear every day!
This bear just didn’t care about being honked at. It didn’t care about being looked at. It didn’t care about being hurried along. It did its own thing and didn’t pay us a lick of attention.
That was its greatest message: Be chill. Do your thing. Let them look, or not. Let them honk, or not. Let them worry, or not. You do you.
Be chill like Bear. Be chill like Bear. Be chill like Bear.