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When I Dance With Bear in Journeys

In my shamanic journey world, there is a large cave. The entrance looks like a crack in a cliff wall until I walk close. It is at the edge of the meadow where I find an old, twisting, and wise tree.

The interior of the cave is wide and round. The ceiling domes but I can easily stand tall, even near the walls. The rough rock walls of the cave provide shelves of a sort, and alcoves, where I find books and trinkets, some left by me during earlier journeys, some appearing as if gifted by an unknown benefactor. There are bundles of drying herbs hanging from the lower parts of the ceiling, and torches burn at regular intervals to provide light.

In the center of the cave floor, there is a fire. I never have to tend it; the fire is always burning brightly when I arrive. Soft rugs, furs, and cushions ring the fire, inviting me to sit and feel the warmth of the flames. The fire has a sweet or spicy smell, depending on the herbs that have been added.

I encourage everyone whose journeys I guide to find their cave, because I have found that within my cave I receive the most potent messages from my helping spirits. The cave is a place of comfort, of knowledge, and of healing, and around the fire is where I find my council.

brown bear

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

My council is the collective of helping spirits with whom I have been cultivating a relationship during my years of shamanic practice. The members present during a journey change depending on the questions I have or the advice I am seeking, but two are almost always waiting for me at the fire. One is an old woman dressed in the remains of a dress of blues and greys that brings the ocean to mind. The other is a dancing bear.

While other guides meet me elsewhere, I have never seen the large brown bear outside of the cave. I have also never seen him sit. When I arrive at the fire he is standing on his back legs, and usually already lost in a rhythmic dance with the beat of the journey drum. He wears a red belt with long fringe that makes me think of a Native American powwow belt but isn’t quite that.

Often, Bear will continue to dance as I sit in council with other guides that are present, being a somewhat silly distraction from the messages I am trying to make sense of. Every so often, however, Bear will stop and open his front legs wide, inviting me into a hug, then holding me so I have to join the dance.

Bear has never said a word during our times at the fire in the cave. Instead of giving me direction, he is my emotional support helping spirit. The offering of a hug comes when I brought my emotions into the journey space, and I might bury my face in his fur and cry. The embrace is gentle, warm, and soothing.

Dancing with Bear is a different kind of emotional release. Bear holds my back with one paw and my hand with the other, and shakes his hips side to side as we circle the fire together. The wiggling hips always make me giggle. I’ve noticed Bear asks me to dance when I am being overly serious, or impatient with my guides.

When I dance with Bear, I feel I have been reset. When I leave the cave and make my way back to the mundane world, I remember the feeling of being held, hugged, and danced around the fire, and I smile.

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Spin and twist in my “Maypole Vinyasa” yoga flow

Ribbons wrapping around a Maypole

Ribbons wrapping around a Maypole

Happy May Day!

May Day, or Beltane, has a long history. It started as a Celtic fire festival celebrated on or around May 1, and included bonfires, Maypoles, dancing, and plenty of sexual energy. May Day marked the end of winter’s precarious, barren months and the passage into the summer growing season, when flowers bloom and the trees are green. Because the crops were still very young and tender, and susceptible to frost and blight, people did everything in their power to encourage their growth. The celebration and rituals were meant to insure that the warmth of the sun’s masculine energy would promote the fertility of the feminine earth.

My favorite May Day tradition is the Maypole dance. A tall wooden pole was erected with a number of long ribbons attached to the top. Dancers, often young men and women, would each hold the end of a ribbon. Circling the Maypole, men going in one direction and women in the other, the dancers would weave in and out and, as a result, weave the ribbons around the Maypole.

This afternoon I laid my yoga mat out in the space between our fire pit, vegetable beds and the “field” (the empty piece of property that borders ours). To emulate the circular Maypole dance, I created this fun vinyasa flow sequence which blends the masculine energy of Surya Namaskar with the feminine fluidity of Chandra Namaskar. I mixed in an oblique twist in Chatarunga Dandasana and Vasisthasana (side plank) to flow like those ribbons wrapping around the Maypole.

 

Sorry for the shaky video. It turns out ten-year-old boys do not make good tripods.

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Free your inner chaos and flow through Dancing Star

“One must still have chaos in oneself to
be able to give birth to a dancing star.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Dancing star in my art journal.

Dancing star in my art journal.

Do you pay attention to the folks who pay attention to the stars? If you do, you know that we’re in the thick of it right now. There’s a planetary alignment called a Grand Cross going on and it’s stirring up all kinds of stuff. (There’s a great post here about what to expect this week.)

I created this vinyasa yoga flow sequence, which I call Dancing Star, in 2011, but it seems appropriate to share this week.

The circular pattern of the flow fills the whole mat, and the ever-changing focal points give you a nice sense of the cosmic chaos. The movements flow through five-pointed star and dance in and out of triangle pose on the way around the mat.

Roll out your mat, free your inner chaos and be a dancing star.

stand in tadasana
reach overhead and fill your lungs with a big inhale
as you exhale, fold into uttanasana
lift halfway up, hands to shins, and extend your spine
jump (or step) back and lower yourself to chaturanga dandasana
lift to urdhva mukha shavanasana
reach back into adha mukha svanasana
lift your right leg behind you into a down dog standing split
step your right foot forward between your hands into
runners stretch
spin your left heel down, reach your left arm forward
then up, lifting you into
virabhadrasana II
straighten your right leg and bend to the right
into trikonasana
lift your torso upright
turn your right toes toward the side of your mat and feel
five-pointed star
drop your arms down
sweep your hands together in front of your heart, then
press your hands overhead
open your arms back to shoulder height
turn your left toes toward the back of your mat
and bend left into trikonasana
lift out of triangle, bend your left knee and take
virabhadrasana II
windmill your arms to the floor framing your left foot
in high lunge
step back to plank and take the vinyasa to down dog
lift your right leg behind you
step your right foot forward between your hands
and flow from lunge to virabhadrasana II to
trikonasana to five-pointed star
(you should be facing the other side of your mat this time)
bring your hands together at your heart then press them overhead
turn your left toes to the front of the mat
and flow to triangle then warrior II and back to lunge
step back to plank and vinyasa back to down dog
now you’ve circled all the way around your mat
you’re facing front again
repeat the flow, beginning with your left leg this time
you’ll circle around in the other direction
when you flow back to down dog facing the front of your mat
hop (or step) forward
lift halfway up
fold deep and let go
come up to standing, reaching your arms overhead
return to tadasana
smile
you’ll make it through
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