The Spiritual Path of Following Bear


Until I was about 47 my spirituality was guided by the God of Christianity. But somehow this was never quite enough. I thought religion was supposed to have all the answers to the mysteries of life and fully satisfy my every yearning, yet I was haunted by a spiritual hunger I could not satisfy. When the emptiness was particularly painful I would wonder guiltily, Can this truly be all there is to life? Just behaving well, keeping God’s rules, serving him through organized religion, and embracing “correct” beliefs about him? If so, why isn’t it enough for me? Is there something terribly wrong with me?

Finally I reached a point when I could no longer ignore the fact that my religion’s symbols and rituals were as cold and dead to me as fossils frozen in stone. Then I discovered Jungian psychology and sparks began to fly. To keep the fire stoked I began a program of study and dreamwork. To my delight, the personal insights I gained were extraordinarily revitalizing. And not just in a psychological sense. The process of self-discovery was also satisfying my spiritual hunger in a way organized religion had ceased to do!

That was when I knew spirituality is a process of inner growth and the Mystery of God is Love. Whatever our cultures and religions might call it — Jehovah or Allah, Shiva or Shakti, Father or Mother, Holy Spirit, Kundalini, Beloved or Life — this Love is a very real entity which pervades everything in the universe, including human beings.

Love lives in the deep well of every soul where it stirs beneath layers of beliefs and assumptions that blanket our authentic selves.  It paints masterpieces in our dreams, croons lullabies  in comforting memories, sends gifts in synchronistic events.  It swells our hearts in a lover’s kiss, a baby’s smile, the ocean’s roar, a scattering of wildflowers beside the road, the cool sanctuary of a forest cathedral.  No matter how much we may have been hurt, no matter how much we may have hurt others, it rejoices with every breath we take and every beat of our heart singing, “You are known. You are loved. You are alive. You are life.”

Jung had a name for the individual piece of universal Love that flows through every soul;  he called it the archetype of the Self.  The Self has called out to seekers throughout history saying, “Live, Baby, live! Grow, Baby, grow!”  The ego’s desire to answer this call forms the basis of every religion. The fact that my religion no longer served my growth did not mean there was something wrong with me. Nor did it negate the holy Mystery at the heart of every religion. It was just a signal that I had stopped honoring the sacred new life bubbling up within me.

For me, the golden bear symbolizes the Self in its feminine aspect:  the infinitely powerful and empowering kind of all-embracing maternal love that leads to universal Love and spiritual renewal.  Love’s tracks are everywhere:  in our soul’s truths, in our heart’s desires, in messages from our bodies, in the changes that wake us up and shake us up, in everything that lights our passion and keeps it burning. By opening to growth and change and pursuing the things we love we learn to love ourselves. By learning to love ourselves we learn to love others. With every step we take we move closer to embodying Love in every aspect of our lives.  How could this not be a spiritual path?

I wish you Godspeed as you follow Bear to the Love within you.

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.


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0 Responses

  1. I had a similar experience when I was sixteen, although not nearly as intellectually defined at the time as yours, Jeanie.
    I was sixteen and attended a weekly Confraternity class at my Catholic Church. One night I asked the teacher, a layperson, if I accept that the power of Chris is within me, and I use that as a guide, why is it a mortal sin if I don’t go to church every Sunday? Who decided I had to keep this weekly covenant on Sunday mornings with Christ in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
    I was told it was “Divine Law.” I asked what was Divine Law? I wondered if that was an interpretation of Christ’s teachings. Where did it all come from? The conversation continued back and forth for a while, then ended. I actually found the subject interesting. It didn’t matter, the next day my mother received a call saying it wasn’t necessary for me to continue attending Confraternity if I didn’t want to. I didn’t.
    Perhaps that evening’s events were fortuitous. Organized religion has never felt like a good alternative for me. I agree with you completely when you say, “”…this Love is a very real entity which pervades everything in the universe including human beings.” Yes, the love within us, the power within us, “leads to universal love.” I believe that, I accept that, I try to live that.

    1. I’m always amazed at people like you and Beth who had the self-esteem to risk the censure of religious authorities at such early ages. I asked similar questions around the same time, but always stopped when I sensed the disapproval of the adults I questioned. I guess in those days I needed approval more than truth.
      The intellectual clarity took many years of study, the courage to risk censure many more of living. I’m still refining both, but it’s easier now and a whole lot more fun, thanks to people like you who share your tales of power with me and try, as I do, to live the love!
      Thank you, Charlie,

  2. Jean, recently I realized I had read your book, “Bridge to Wholeness”, when it came out in 92. The owner of Lura Media had been to MorningStar, a retreat center I founded in 1983, so I first became familiar with her publishing and your work which I didn’t realize until recently in reading your blog and you mentioning “Dream Theaters of the Soul”. I so appreciated reading your work then and again now. I’m sure my first read, especially of the former work, was influential in the focus of my work at MorningStar which is focused on the journey of women, and the feminine face of God in men also, toward self-love, authenticity and wholeness. Thank you for your perseverance in bringing your journey and work to us. It has and still blesses me.

    1. This is marvelous, Julie! I must say that when you first wrote and told me about MorningStar I looked up your site and felt a powerful surge of resonance! I thought, “This is a soul sister: someone who experiences life’s journey as I do.” I would encourage anyone who’s interested in my work to look you up at And have I told you that I’m originally from Michigan? I was born in Lansing and still have many relatives in Grand Rapids and Holland. God’s country!
      How lovely that you knew Lura Geiger. She was a wonderful mentor and I’ll always be grateful that she took a chance on me. Thank you for making the time to let me know that we are not only connected at the level of soul, but in space in time as well. Such is the stuff dreams (and synchronicities) are made of!!!
      Blessings on you and your wonderful work,

      1. Jeanie,
        Can you believe it, I grew up in Lansing from one 2 on and taught in Holland, 1966-78
        Yes, as I read your blog, I recognize the soul sister you are for me.
        Your blogs and books are fresh air to my soul; a treasure trove of rich meanings and synchronicity needed to feed and water my soul and sprit. It’s been a long, sometimes dry and hungry journey into this “wilderness” of north central Michigan, yet it seems the very place I am to Be.
        Thanks for Being there.
        And thank you for sharing the work of MorningStar with others.
        Continued blessings on you and your wonderful work also,

  3. Jeanie,
    A succinct, beautiful understanding of the Self archetype. I hadn’t been able to articulate it, but now I get it! And I love it! bett fitz

    1. Dear Bett,
      If nothing else good happens to me today, your comment will have been enough! To know that I have helped someone understand the Self archetype is an enormous thrill for me. It is, indeed, a very difficult concept to get and I, too, have struggled with it for years. May we both continue to dispel the fog surrounding this shining truth!
      With love and gratitude,

  4. I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy your writing. Our paths are so similar – the Christianity – the Jungian psychology – the realization of Love. If you have any interest there is a wonderful man by the name of Don Bisson who speaks and gives retreats along these lines that I think you would enjoy.
    I wish you the best.

    1. Dear Teresa,
      Thank you so much for writing. Your words, and the kindness behind them, make me feel good. I appreciate the reference to a fellow Jungian; I’ll check him out.
      My very best to you,

  5. This is a wonderful explanation of a lot of the things I think about…and yet because of loving to play Hand Bells, I’m still committed to my church. Also, I’m on an ECO team that’s working on changing things, and that’s important to me.

  6. Hi Donna,
    I know what you mean. Even though your church is not necessarily meeting all your spiritual needs, it sounds like it plays an important role in other aspects of your life: opportunities for service, fulfilling some creative needs and some social/friendship/community needs. My belief is that if people feel compelled to grow spiritually they can do it with or without a formal church, but they will probably need to connect with some kind of community that understands and shares their chosen practice. It’s pretty tough, totally unnecessary, and probably not good for most people to do it completely alone.

  7. Intersting post! When I was in my forties I had a dream in which I was looking at a very large Yucca plant. It suddenly began to shake and three big bears climbed down and lumbered off. I was not afraid of the bears just fascinated! It struck me that a Yucca plant is a desert plant and yes I was high and dry in my religious life at the time. Oh what our dreams tell us about our waking life. Thanks again!

    1. What a great dream! Thanks so much for sharing it with me.
      I just had another bear dream the other night in which I was traveling across a bridge to our mountain property. On the other side a mound of earth to my left began to stir and a huge male and female bear accompanied by two babies rose up and began to move around. They were coming out of hibernation. To my surprise, some people there started playing with them! Since this was in the mountains, your “high” if not dry, spirituality really resonates. I hadn’t noticed that aspect of the dream until I read your interpretation. I’m thinking though, that the earthiness of my bears’ place of hibernation suggests there’s a bit of soulful balance in their rising!

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