Q: I’m at the coast in Oregon. I’m looking at the stunning ocean from a large hill a few hundred yards from the shore. There’s not a single person in sight, as if I’m the only human for hundreds of miles. I look behind me and see a huge, regal grizzly bear running in full sprint out of the woods towards me. I immediately begin sprinting down the hill towards the ocean. When I reach the sand, I begin running south. I know there’s nowhere to hide. Then all of a sudden I see a glass structure that is blended in with the environment. I run towards the large glass doors and walk in. The inside is clean and immaculately beautiful, you can everything outside from inside. There is a tall man with his back to me and his hands clasped behind him. It’s as if he’s been waiting for me. I can’t see his face. He’s wearing dark colors and may have a cloak over him, though he’s non-threatening. I walk towards him. When I get close, he turns towards me and takes a few steps in my direction. He opens his hands and reveals little rocks and pills on his palm. “This is your Bear Medicine,” he tells me.
Whoa. What a dream! This is the kind of dream from which movies are made. In fact… despite the very different setting, the similarities in the final scene of your dream and Neo’s first encounter with Morpheus in The Matrix cannot go unmentioned. Neo is directed towards a room in which Morpheus is waiting for him; Morpheus opens his hands to reveal Neo’s choices. Which pill will you take? And what happens next?
But I’m getting ahead of the story. Let’s start at the beginning, with a little insight from Dr. Jung on dreams with a theme like your own: “When you dream of a savage bull, or a lion, or a wolf pursuing you, this means: it wants to come to you. You would like to split it off, you experience it as something alien, but it just becomes all the more dangerous. . . .The best stance would be: ‘Please, come and devour me!’ . . . The Other within us becomes a bear, a lion, because we made it into that. Once we accept this, it becomes something else” (Children’s Dreams, p. 19).
The bear is a part of you that has been split off from your conscious identity. And the bear, I would argue, transformed into that incredible, mysterious man at the end of your dream. He was seeking contact with you and got it. In one form, he sent you towards the glass home and in another, he greeted you there. I’ll share with our readers that you are a man in your early thirties. If you were a woman, this Morpheus figure at the end of your dream might be more like the Oracle, a wise old woman with esoteric wisdom. It is the inner aspect which guides you, whether you are aware of it or not. It is an aspect to which you are advised to listen.
In the beginning of the dream, you are admiring the beautiful ocean, staring into the vast unconscious. No one else is around, suggesting that what happens next is for you and you alone. This is not about relationships or the collective, but your own primal wholeness. Some part of you that has been cut off is trying to regain contact.
You might look back at a recent dream interpretation I wrote involving a bear for some insight into the bear in your dream. I think there are helpful parallels there. Concisely, the bear might be seen as a representation of the feminine instinctual sphere. The realm of being versus doing, of embodiment versus spirit. The bear is the Great Mother; while a figure similar to Poseidon would represent the god of the oceans, a powerful bear can be seen as a god of the earth. In this case, the bear is also representing shadow material as it explicitly appears from behind you, where your shadow follows you around. Similarly the bear comes out of the woods, a setting which can be thought of as the physical unconscious. It is a place of earthly darkness, of mystery and potential danger. As the bear is coming from the woods, it is suggested that the physical, embodied, earthly realm is where your shadow resides.
The bear runs towards you. It chases you down the hill and you are forced into lower levels of consciousness until you nearly reach the ocean itself. Then a glass structure appears, which you find beautiful. You enter it. Glass walls or containers in dreams can indicate our separation from emotion: you can see whatever is behind it clearly but you can’t feel it. Connecting with what is inside is important.
Your life and work pull you towards both the intellect and spirit, so I wonder if the physical and emotional realms are not seeking more attention from you. As we move through life and gain intellectual and spiritual consciousness, we can also begin to devalue our embodiment. It’s worth asking yourself: Are you remembering to play? To dance and be silly? To save space in your life for love and romance and embodied life? Think of what the gods would do on the first day they found physical form. What do they think about when they long for embodiment and mortality?
As a nod to the collective unconscious, your dream parallels many myths in which there is a glass house, often where an old man is waiting inside. This wise man in your dream offers you medicine, something to ingest. He hands you pills and rocks which he refers to as Bear Medicine. In the language of dreams, I would argue that this is about you incorporating the bear into yourself, an act which will then protect you from being devoured by the bear. A common theme in fairy tales is the ingestion of bear meat, the incorporation of the bear’s power; your dream imagery parallels this theme. The rocks, like the glass vessel in which you and this wise old man stand, might be viewed as an alchemical symbol: the Philosopher’s Stone. “This is your opus,” your wise old man seems to be telling you. This is very important work in your life, to integrate your bear, your primal shadow, your earthly self. You are asked to descend, not run higher, and you are asked to eat the earthly stones and the bear. This is your healing. Reconnect with your grounded, emotional, vulnerable, earth bound self, those aspects of you for which the gods are envious.
Have you had a dream like this? Leave a comment and share!
Satya is a Jungian psychotherapist in private practice in Portland, Oregon specializing in dream work, the quarter-life crisis, and work with individuals in their late teens, 20s, and 30s. www.QuarterLifeCounselor.com
This piece originally published on Mac’s List
The pursuit of a college education may be a long-term blessing and a short-term affliction. A bachelor’s degree provides some economic freedom, but it does not always offer clarity on who you are or who you want to be. If you’re like most people who pursued higher education, you grew up with every stage of life laid out in front of you: kindergarten led to first grade and so on. It was not until the precipice of college graduation that you were expected to figure it all out on your own.
The desperate search for one’s own passion may be derided as a crisis of privilege, a “First World problem,” but the existential call to be the writer of one’s own destiny is deeply human. The urge towards the creative life is innate in all of us. When we are no longer chased by wolves or the threat of starvation, we are chased by ourselves.
The cries “be who you are!” and “know who you are!” are not easily silenced, and attempts to do so will only transform into addictions, foul moods, and physical complications.
So how do you figure out what you want and who you are? In the early 20th century, the poet Rainier Marie Rilke wrote to a despondent 19-year-old young man in “Letters to a Young Poet” with timeless counsel for job seekers everywhere: “There is only one thing you should do,” Rilke wrote. “Go into yourself.”
Esoteric? Sure. You cannot easily place this advice among a list of things to do. But if the advice is understood and heeded, the ultimate rewards are unparalleled.
Through self-inquiry and good counsel, answers to the tangible questions of life begin to make themselves heard. Your anxiety and confusion, your headaches and stomachaches, all have information for what may be off track, they’re not simply symptoms to be silenced in the pursuit of the more conscious goals.
If you can learn when you’re off track by how your moods and body respond, you can learn too where your path lies. This takes some degree of faith, to be sure, but it only takes a few synchronistic successes for you to discover that you have a personal GPS sitting inside your chest.
Mythologist Joseph Campbell’s famous adage echoes Rilke’s: “When you follow your bliss, doors will open where you wouldn’t have thought there were doors.” Campbell uses the word “bliss” as a substitute for instinct, a path not lacking in terror and uncertainty but ultimately providing the greatest payoff. Our wants often only become clear after listening to all the other stuff of life.
In fairy tales, it is the awkward third brother who wanders off in the least anticipated direction, listening to the animals and following the path of a windswept feather, who ultimately finds the gold and marries the princess. Going into yourself and following your bliss means learning to listen to who you are innately. Learning what you’re passionate about begins with discovering and acknowledging who you are, not simply what you are expected to be.
This piece originally published on Mac’s List – April 19, 2013