My 1st run-in with a black bear this season has helped me increase my self-awareness.
It all started last night after my SkiFit Yoga class, I packed up my things, said good-bye and headed out the door to my car. As I was unlocking my car door this man in a large truck stops and begins talking to me. At first I could not figure out what he was saying because my body went into instant “fight or flight”. It was dark, the street was quiet, and we were alone. Though I was in a panicked state I recall hearing something about a bear out back. I said thank you and proceeded to get into the safety of my car. But then, his words came a little clearer to me, “bear”, “back of gym”, “people in gym”. I tossed my things in my car and walked back into the gym to let the girl at the front desk know there is a bear out back and to be careful.
Self-Awareness lesson #1:
Years of training growing up in a big city has taught me to be distrustful of men in large vehicles stopping to talk to me at night, in a quiet, remote area. However, this situation occurred in a small town where people look out for each other. Feeling slightly foolish that my initial reaction was to “fight or flight” when the man was clearly trying to help. However, the adrenaline “wooshed” through my body at an unprecedented rate before my mind could stop it and say “its ok, he’s only trying to help”. Mind-body trickery clearly at work here. It makes me wonder if it is better to trust blindly or to respect instincts, even if they are sometimes wrong?
Back to my story. I enter the gym and as I go to talk to the girl I notice this massive black bear strolling up the hallway about 5 meters in front of us. The girl looks up to me and I am in shock, staring at the bear and I barely whisper “bear”. The girl looks up, sees the bear and has a much more appropriate reaction. She screams, loudly, then ducks behind the desk. Which actually triggers something in me to start laughing. So here we are, me laughing nervously and the girl screaming, ducked behind the desk. The bear looks up and looks like he clearly wants to have nothing to do with 2 crazy girls and a bunch of gym equipment. The girl starts to clap, yell and tell the bear to go away. Boy, is she ever quick. I am still frozen at the same spot, staring, mesmerized by this large, beautiful animal. Funny that I never felt in danger, only curiosity as I have never seen a bear inside a building before. He reminded me of my Black Lab, Yukon, only bigger. The girls reaction quickly triggered my reverie back into action as I joined in the clapping and yelling.
Self-Awareness lesson #2:
Strange, but ultimately helpful man stopping me in a dark, quiet street sets off my adrenaline in “fight or flight” with my mind racing of escape routes, however, a real danger from a Black Bear sends me into some kind of calm, shocked state. How is it that 2 very different events can trigger things in my body without any thought control. My body simply reacts to emergency (or perceived emergency) situations and my conscious mind has no input on the situation whatsoever. To me the bear seemed calm, curious, and actually really cute. I could see the fluffy fur on his ears and he had these big, smart eyes. I’ve actually felt more fear from stray dogs than this bear who seemed really out of his element. I almost felt sorry for the guy, especially watching him try to turn his massive body around a narrow hallway.
So to complete my story, the girl and I move towards the bear, but stop as we notice he is struggling abit with his lack of turning radius. He makes us laugh even more as he makes a 5-point turn almost getting his butt stuck against the wall and then goes to jog out of the gym. However, there is a blind corner in the hallway that leads to the exit door. I get the first wave of fear, the familiar “whoosh” of cold streaming through my body as I visualize the bear hiding behind the corner, ready to pounce on us (clearly seen too many movies). So the girl and I grab large, rolling recycling bins for protection and roll up to the corner, extend our necks to glimpse around the corner, and laugh with relief as we notice the bear is officially gone. We close and lock the door and proceed to let out all of our fear and amazement with a gush of laughter, hugs and a whole lot of OMG’s!
Self-Awareness lesson #3
I was struck by this young girls ability to react quickly to the situation, process the situation and realize this situation will forever mark the beginning of our friendship! I was still in shock mode, nervously laughing when this girl hugs me and says “now we are connected, now we have this amazing story to share and we shared it together!” Of course she is correct, it is usually these kind of big events in one’s life that stays in our minds, connects us with others and springboards new relationships. But I was still in “OMG I just saw a bear in the gym” mode, and she was already in “What an amazing event we shared together” mode. She is about 16 years old which also happens to be the gap in our ages, yet she was the one who handled everything with grace, courage and an amazing ability to react quickly to the situation. I learned so much from this young girl and it brought to me a new awareness that everyone reacts to emergency situations differently.
This seemingly automatic reaction to emergency situations makes me think of some readings from Eckhart Tolle about our minds being separate from ourselves or dualism. This becomes very clear in emergencies as you don’t think, thoughts become obsolete and basic at their very nature. In this way, our bodies move and act without conscious thought getting in the way. So does that mean our thoughts are controlling our actions in every day life- such as guilt, 2nd guessing, fear? Or can it be the other way? Are we a slave to our thoughts, what about anxiety, depression, negative thoughts? Is it possible to step away from our thoughts, view them objectively and then let them go? This is the challenge in quiet Yoga poses like Savasana or meditation. Being an observer to our thoughts, increasing self-awareness and therefore bringing greater freedom into our lives!
Until next time, watch out for bears, observe their beauty from afar and take care!