*** what do you think — does this story need a “warning: do not try this at home” disclaimer? ***
A few years ago I was hiking in Grand Teton National Park, heading to Phelps Lake for an afternoon of swimming, meditation, and reconnecting with my soul. As always, I hiked right past the posted sign that said “BEAR COUNTRY: DO NOT HIKE ALONE.” and “ALWAYS CARRY BEAR SPRAY.”
A couple of miles down the trail, a group of hikers was stopped, pointing up the hill at a golden-brown grizzly bear ambling through the brush about 500 yards away. The bear clambered up and over the hill and out of sight, heading away from the trail, while I continued down toward the lake.
After a couple of hours of napping, meditating, journaling, swimming, and lounging in the sun, I gathered my things and ventured back up the hill for the hike back. By this time it was late in the day, and the other groups of hikers had long since departed down the trail, leaving me to the peaceful solitude of my walk.
Keenly aware that I was now hiking alone through bear country, I whistled and hummed as I walked, making noise as all “hiking in bear country” guidelines suggest. When I got to the place where we’d spotted the bear earlier, I expectantly looked for any sign of movement in the brush on the hillside, but all was quiet. No bear. Clearly, the grizzly had hiked up and over the hill and was surely now exploring another slope far from here.
I relaxed and carried on down the trail in silence, lost in my reverie.
About half a mile later, hiking through tall brush (and huckleberry bushes), I rounded a curve and stopped in my tracks: an adult grizzly bear stood directly in the trail about 15 feet in front of me.
Hiking silently, I’d done the one thing they say you never want to do: sneak up on a bear and startle it.
I froze. The bear stared at me.
Without thinking, I opened my mouth and began to sing (to the tune of the Beatles “Hey Jude”):
“Hey bear, I love you so…”
The bear stared.
“Hey bear, I love you so, I’m so happy to share this space with you…” The words didn’t rhyme, but the bear didn’t care.
I kept singing, beaming out love from my heart, putting my awareness into feeling the Oneness of the two of us communing in nature in this way.
The bear ambled into the bushes about 12 feet off the trail, turned around in a circle, and laid down.
I kept singing.
Then the voice of my intuition said “now get moving.”
I walked slowly past the bear, casually as I could, singing my love song while the bear lay there watching me.
I went about 50 yards down the trail and broke into a sprint, ready to put some serious distance between me and the bear. I ran until the adrenalin drained from my bloodstream then stopped to catch my breath.
I sat in awe, processing the sacredness of what I’d just experienced.
I’d been practicing this for years – encountering wildlife in nature and intentionally putting out the vibe of love and Oneness and interconnectedness with all things, practicing what it FEELS like to be in harmony with All That Is, instead of running the usual fear-based habits of feeling separate from the Whole.
I’d practiced in bee hives with hundreds of bees swarming around me, dozens landing on my face and head while I experimented with adjusting my vibrational frequency to be as Zen as I could. (I’d heard that bees are the most sensitive to energy, so I wanted to experience the “bee barometer” for myself and discover how they responded if I engaged with them with intention.) We got along beautifully until I was on my way out and one last bee buzzed right up my shirt, got stuck between the fabric and my skin, and stung me in its frenzied attempt to escape. Other than that I spent long periods of time simply being in the midst of the hives, surrounded by the humming of thousands of bees, bringing awareness to my breath, opening my heart, and growing my capacity to master my energetic and physiological state under pressure.
I’d practiced with an adult female moose, inching closer and closer until ultimately I sat about 12 feet from her in a grove of juneberry bushes while she contentedly munched on twigs and leaves – the two of us co-habiting the space peacefully for at least half an hour while I watched her with awe and gratitude.
And now I’d spontaneously gotten an opportunity to practice with a grizzly bear.
When I’d first come around the corner and discovered the bear, of course my body froze and flooded with adrenalin and intense alertness. But amazingly, all of the time I’d spent practicing FEELING ONENESS with All That Is, made it familiar enough that I could access the state in THIS moment.
I’d made eye contact with a grizzly at close range.
And while my body responded appropriately with a healthy stress response, my heart beamed brightly in a flood of awe, gratitude, and love for my brother bear.
Years ago I’d been obsessed with the question of wanting to know what “Namaste” FEELS like. Everyone would say the word “Namaste” at the end of yoga class, meaning “the divine in me sees the divine in you,” while carrying on in our own human illusion of NOT AT ALL seeing or feeling the divinity in the moment, being more concerned with our personal concerns and narratives about our bodies or getting to the next appointment on time or whatever.
Same thing with all the “co-exist” bumper stickers I’d see, everyone professing the gospel of co-existence while safely ensconced within the shell of a separate egoic identity that most definitely did NOT co-exist harmoniously with our earth, other species, or even within our own species.
As I’m sure you do too, I’ve long had a sense that the most important work we can do is to take what we KNOW and become living breathing examples of directly experiencing it from the inside out, so it’s not just words and quotes and concepts that we preach, but a way of being that we LIVE.
And so, I keep on living my various experiments, noticing yet another pattern of separation and experimenting with what it takes in the neurophysiology, psychology, and energetics of this body-mind vessel, to bring it into Oneness, connection, alignment, and love.
Yesterday I was having a conversation around my own current leading edge, which has been some deep healing work around a pattern of existential aloneness, and opening to relating with others in an even more rich and profoundly fulfilling way, and the bear story came up in our conversation — partly, I suppose, because for most of my life I found it easier to feel connected with animals than humans. 🙂
The part of me that was wanting attention and awareness was the WILDNESS inside – the wild and free spirit that has always been there, but not fully expressed in the way that she would like. And as I recounted my “Love Song to a Bear” story in the conversation, I heard myself say:
I can trust my Wildness.
This part of me that pays attention to signs like “Never Hike Alone” ONLY when the sign resonates as TRUE FOR ME and ignores it otherwise.
The part of me that takes action ONLY on what feels right for me, and dismisses everyone else’s suggestions, no matter how well-meaning or sensible they may be.
The part of me that does WHATEVER I WANT TO WHENEVER I WANT TO and lives in the flow of MY STREAM OF EXISTENCE which nobody else can perceive but me.
My Wildness guides me to my most meaningful, joyful, fulfilling, abundant life – and she always has.
My Wildness knows what to do in the moment – and she always has.
My Wildness gifted me with the experience of singing a love song to a grizzly bear – so I could really, deeply, profoundly GET IT that I will always, always know what to do in the moment, and my job is simply to relax and do what feels right for me.
I can trust my Wildness.
And so can you.
For the last several years my experiment has been around what it takes to do business and create money from this way of being – to do ONLY what feels right for me, follow my heart, and trust myself – which is now what I support my clients with, too.
Trust your WILDNESS.
Go do the thing you’ve been wanting to do.
Dare to go all the way to your fullest expression of your joy.
And for goodness sake, sing. Sing like your life depends on it. Because you never know when you’ll encounter the proverbial Grizzly in Your Path, and you’ll want to be ready with your Love Song. 🙂
Here’s to feeling the divinity of this moment.