23 December 2014

Hermitage Part 3: What do bears have to teach us?

When I awoke the next morning at 4:30, the clear sky had turned to snow-cloud-covered and I found my hermitage blanketed beneath clean, white, soft snow.

I couldn’t help but think of Bear whose spirit the hermitage is named for. This creature that God gave us, what might she have to teach me?

Native spirituality possesses what—but for the few like St. Francis of Assisi and Tielhard de Chardin—Christian spirituality has predominantly lacked—a deep appreciation for the created world and the interconnected of all beings.

Bear, like all animals for Native people, has a special meaning. Bear is symbolic of grounding, strength and confidence. She inspires courage against adversity, taking action and leading. Bear promotes physical and emotional healing and reminds us to take time for solitude, quiet time and rest. If you know me at all, you know that I had found myself in very good company.

According to traditional peoples, when Bear shows up in your life it is time to stand up for your beliefs, your truth. Bear can inspire us to reflect on the qualities of inner strength, fearlessness and confidence in our self and how to share those qualities with the world.

Here I was, in the womb of this hermitage being drawn to consider Bear as a teacher. And these thoughts stirred in me:

Bear’s presence is dominant yet gentle.

She fills the space she inhabits but treads softly.

She lives her life contentedly with fierce love.

Bear’s meaning speaks deeply to me. She, a creature like me, is endowed by her Creator with gifts for the world. Growing up with a white, western, modern world-view, it’s a stretch for me to connect personally with wild animals. Yet, over the years I’ve found myself growing more and more reverent of all life forms, receptive to their inherent wisdom endowed by our shared Creator.

Bear’s meaning speaks very personally to me. As I’ve attempted to yield my life in ever-deepening ways to God, I’ve been called to stand my ground in the face of adversity. My spirituality isn’t mainstream. It often challenges the status quo. I’ve been called to lead and take action in the face of historical, religious and cultural paradigms that disapprove of my truth and the expression it takes in my life and faith. The call has demanded incredible courage—as a dear friend of mine once noted, “Courage is speaking your mind with all your heart.” Courage isn’t necessarily the absence of fear, but facing your fear head on and not backing down.

During hermitage, a greater desire for fearlessness rose in me. I’ve faced off my fears time and again. And that has served its purpose—growing me up in quiet confidence and strength. I am resolved now to be free of fear; to be unafraid. To boldly and humbly live this one beautiful life I’ve been given, being true to the truest parts of the Divine presence & expression in me.

Life is short.

Our human family is destroying itself and the planet. God made us to be more than what we presently are. Our destruction of one another and the world we live in is a rejection of God and an attempt to destroy the Divine. God have mercy.

It’s time to live into the fullness of who we are, that we might all reflect the glory of God evidenced in Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness, Temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). The world is dying for us to be healers and liberators and peacemakers (Matthew 5:1-11).

The awakening and renewal of the human family, the Body of Christ, begins with each of us. To the degree I am healed, free and at peace, the world is healed, free and at peace.

As the days unfolded I found myself drawn to deep rest, retiring by 8:00pm and waking at 5:00 or 6:00am. After building the morning fire, I’d commence my morning prayer with a 50-min sit, followed by Lectio Divina, spending 3-4 hours in Centering Prayer throughout the day. The sun would make it over the crest of the mountain about 8:30am and then I’d find myself stretched out on the bed soaking in the warmth of Sun’s rays, in perfect presence, peace and gratitude to be alive, breathing, feeling…being.

In between prayer sits and preparing meals I finished a few good books: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, A Beautiful Prayer by Peter Traeben Haas, Wild by Cheryl Strayed and almost finished Bede Griffiths’ Return to the Center.

And I eventually ventured out for a couple dreamy, snowy walks.


During hermitage, I found the grace of being present to be so profound that I had very few reflective moments. The following words I’d come across in past readings reverberated in me.

God is my center when I hem Him in

My circumference when I melt in Him

It’s only now, after emerging from hermitage, that I can reflect on the experience, mining for the gold that was deposited during such sacred time. And yet, there were a few moments of in-breaking where desire, prayer and poetry from the depths of my being uttered forth. Here’s one such moment:

Let it be done to me according to your Word

Let me be a womb for you

Come Lord

Be conceived in me anew

Fill me up with Your presence

And then break me open in your process of redeeming* the world.

(*at-one-ment/return to unity)

Truly, this is God’s desire and God’s work. We are in the process of being redeemed, brought back into unity with God. Christ’s life, death and resurrection was an historical act, yes, but a cosmic one too. The work was finished and is being finished. We are caught up in a Divine dance of remembering who we are. Our personal and collective consciousness is evolving, we are slowly taking on the mind of Christ (Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5) and growing toward personal and collective wholeness. We are being made new. (Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 2 Peter 1:4)

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