What is your definition of courage? What does courage symbolize to you? For this meditation, ponder this, as you close your eyes. Is courage a trait you possess or one you wish to find more of in your heart?
Artistic creation in any medium is a great act of courage. Even braver? Sharing your work with the world. If you're longing for more courage, if you crave the soul-deep bravery required to tackle a new project, you must first face your fears. Tame them, stare them down, wrestle them to a fall, and keep walking. Here is a meditation for facing a fear. Feel free to substitute your own demons, fears, and insecurities in place of the bear. Return to this place whenever you need to fill your belly with courage.
An avid hiker fears meeting a hungry bear on the trail. When they wake up from hibernation, they're awfully hungry grouchy, too. The following meditation shows how you can transform the object of your fear into a guide, wise teacher, or muse.
Close your eyes. Picture yourself in your most comfortable boots and a backpack that rides just right, dressed for a hike in the woods. Your feet roam along the mountain trail, finding the path with ease. It's a beautiful day.
Picture this bluebird skies above, with a few cotton-white clouds floating, slow-majestic, above a forest of aspen and pine. If you listen carefully, you will hear the rushing of aspen-leaves in the breeze. It tickles the back of your neck like a lover.
The wind carries the scent of pine and rich black earth, cooling your face as you stop for a drink. You are safe here, an integral part of the living, breathing forest. It would not be complete without you, and you are not complete without it for this is the Forest of Dreams, where inspiration dwells.
Breathe deeply, inhaling the sweet, heady fragrance of pine needles crushed underfoot. You continue down the trail, knowing nothing can harm you here. As you come to a fork in the trail, you consult your trusty map and compass. Taking the left-hand fork, you move deeper into the woods. Wildflowers and ferns dot the sides of the path. Up ahead, you see a thicket of blackberry brambles. The berries are ripe and juicy, drippingly delicious. You can't resist picking a handful. They burst, tart and sweet, on your tongue.
You pluck a few more and a few more each time, wandering deeper into the blackberry thicket. You're not the only one who's attracted to these beautiful berries. As you reach out a hand to pluck an especially juicy blackberry, you hear a surprised snuffle behind you. Warm breath puffs against the back of your neck. You're not alone. Turning around slowly, you come face to face with a huge grizzly bear. Grizzlies are known for their fierce strength, and their winter-long hibernation dreams. This one looks hungry and yet, you are not afraid. He seems more interested in the berries. Eyeing you with surprise, the bear backs up a few steps, rising above you on his massive hind legs. Bellowing at the top of his lungs, the bear waves his massive paws above your head.
You bow low, never breaking eye contact with the bear. Feel your fear, but do not show it. Master it, and it will serve you well. After an endless moment, the bear snorts derisively and drops to all fours next to you. His massive weight shakes the earth. Deciding he'd rather eat berries for breakfast than a scared hiker, he turns back to the blackberry brambles. You realize he isn't going to hurt you. He just wants you to know he's there.
Enthralled by his presence, you watch the Bear-King at his breakfast, taking a few handfuls for yourself. Strange to say, the berries taste sweeter than ever. You follow the bear on his rounds. He knows where all the best berries are hiding, and he doesn't mind sharing with a hungry artist. After all, he is the King of the Forest of Dreams. All of the berries are his, but he is wise enough to know he cannot eat them all. He will always share his wealth.
At last, your wanderings lead to a clearing in the woods. In a meadow exploding with wildflowers, there is an old dead tree, struck by lightning long ago but still standing. Bees hum and buzz, content on their slow journeys from blossom to bloom. As you watch, the bear ambles among the bees and flowers, heading straight for that old tree. You follow him, curious. It is a bee-tree, dripping honey a hive full of wild honey-bees, glorying in the sunshine. Unafraid, the bear puts one massive paw into a hole in the trunk, drawing out a hunk of honeycomb still buzzing with bees. The bear waits for them to fly away, one by one. You creep closer. The grizzly turns to you, extending the honey-comb. This golden offering is the greatest gift a bear- or a fear- can offer: something sweet at the end of the journey.
Taste the pure sunny sweetness. Smell the flowers, the rich honeycomb. Listen to the secret messages hummed by the bees. Feel your fears slip away from you, one by one. You can return here anytime to face your demons, The bear is your guardian, your guide and Muse. None will dare harm you here, for the bear is King of the Forest of Dreams. He will always share his secrets like ripe berries, and reward you with something heavenly-sweet when you have been brave and true. The Forest-King's honey is the nectar of inspiration, and there is plenty to spare. Feast with him in the meadow.
©2011 Molly Anderson-Childers and Chris Dunmire. All rights reserved.
Create an art project, poem, song, or performance piece to accompany this meditation. Write about courage, or make an art project that symbolizes courage to you. Represent your fears, or something that brings you courage.
Molly made a charcoal sketch of the Bear-King to remind her of this journey to the far side of her fears. She says, "It gives me courage, knowing I can face what frightens me most and live to tell the tale."