Playing With Your Fearsby Robert Meagher on 12/05/22
I was recently out for one of my day-long cycling adventures in the Gatineau Hills / Park, a favorite summertime playground for me. I was well into the ascent of one of the longer and steeper hills in the park. It was the third time I had made this ascent on this day and I was tired. As I neared the summit, I told myself, “Just keep your head down and keep peddling!...breathe…breathe…breathe!!! I was rounding a sharp corner and something out of the corner of my eye distracted me, however. I lifted my head and…
Only 20-30 feet in front of me, on the other side of the road, was a mother black bear and four cubs. What had distracted me was that the mother had been standing on her hind legs and when she dropped back down on all fours, her movement had caught my peripheral vision.
The mother bear let out a soft, yet deep, growl. I thought to myself… “That can’t be good!” My next thought was… “I can’t turn around at this point because the grade is too steep. If I try and turn around, I will simply topple over (based on my experience!) and turning around means turning in the direction of the bears (as they were on the other side of the road)…and I don’t want to be moving closer to the bears!” Then I thought… “Uh oh…I’m trapped! I can’t turn around. I can’t go to my right, because I’ll fall off a cliff! I can’t go to my left, because I’ll be moving closer to the bears!”
When the mother bear let out her soft, yet, deep growl, the cubs bolted for the forest on the other side of the road. But there was a steep embankment where the cubs bolted towards and two of the cubs clung to some rocks and tree stumps half way up the embankment. The other two cubs tumbled back down the embankment, to come to rest at momma bear’s feet.
Momma bear looked at me again. She let out another soft, yet deep, growl…as if to say to her cubs “Follow me!” Momma bear turned around (away from me) and started to run up the hill I had been making my way up. The cubs scrambled after momma. After running up the hill about 15-20 feet, momma bear stopped, turned around to look at me again, then turned back around and continued running up the hill, with baby bears hot on her heels. A few seconds later, momma bear and baby cubs had turned into the forest and were able to make their get-a-way.
Just before the bears dove into the forest, another cyclist came screaming around the corner, coming down the hill at high speed. I yelled “Bears!!!”…pointing directly across the road from me. The cyclist hit their brakes and careened toward me. Fortunately, the cyclist was able to gain sufficient control of their bicycle to avoid colliding with me. As I watched the bears disappear into the forest, I resumed my climb. For the next kilometre, I warned cyclists that were making their way down the hill (I was continuing to climb) of my bear siting.
The further I moved / cycled away from the scene / encounter with the bears, the more I felt the tension ease in my body, until I was in my relaxed state again. I became aware of just how afraid I was. I hadn’t panicked, in the sense of screaming or running for my life…but I was afraid just the same. I can remember having the thought “So…this is how it’s going to end!” I had never been that close to bears in the wild. I remembered the feeling of having momma bear staring at me so intently that I almost felt an out of body experience. I remembered thinking “Talk to the bear…tell her it’s okay…tell her I’m not going to hurt her or her cubs.” I remembered seeing the drool/foam around the momma bear’s muzzle. I remembered thinking the bears were so close I could smell them.
I made it through the experience alive, obviously; here I am recounting the experience to you. But in truth, I was never in danger for an instant. Only my fear thoughts had me in danger. That I didn’t panic was, perhaps, a good thing. But even if I had panicked, it would only have been my panicky and fearful thoughts that would have expressed themselves, not actually what was happening.
Whenever we’re in a situation that scares us, remember, it’s not the situation itself that is fearful, it’s our thoughts about the situation that are fearful and, consequently, make us feel scared. Everything is neutral. It’s our thoughts that determine how and what we experience.
Robert Meagher has been ordained as an Interfaith Minister and certified as a Sacred Attention Therapy (SAT) Therapist. Robert is the Founder and Spiritual Director for Spiritual Guidance and Co-Founder of the Center for Human Awakening.