Stop feeding the bears (metaphysically speaking)

Stop putting energy into things that can harm your spirit

Some things seem like a good idea until we have more time, distance and understanding behind us. As in nature, we must stop feeding the things that unknowingly harm us so that we can grow and develop.

The photo above is one of my favorites from my dad. In the late 50s and early 60s, this was a common occurrence in Yellowstone National Park. Visitors would often stop along the road to gawk at the local brown bears and be amused at the way they begged for food. Not wanting to disappoint them, visitors would feed the bears anything handy: sandwiches, potato chips, cookies—you name it.

While this practice seems innocuous, it’s actually rather harmful to both the bears and to humans. The bears became dependent on the handouts from park visitors. They developed a hankering for human food and would flock to the roadways to wait for their next meal. They would go into campgrounds, searching for food left in coolers and on tables. In time, bears were getting killed on the roadways. Cars were broken into and destroyed. Some campers were even injured because of overzealous bears looking for food.

So what does all this have to do with spirituality and self-development?

We all have symbolic bears that we feed. Sometimes the bears are entertaining; sometimes they’re a little more ferocious. In either case, it’s important to recognize when we’re feeding something that doesn’t serve our higher purpose. It’s critical to withdraw the food source to help set us (and the bears) free.

I became sensitive to this topic recently by watching activity on Facebook. Since this is an election year, Facebook is often full of comments, links and commentary from both sides of the political fence. I’m happy to have friends who are passionate about politics; I feel we need activists to help advance certain causes and people. Make no mistake, it’s not my thing, but I’m glad they’re around nonetheless.

A number of friends and acquaintances, however, are feeding the political bears. Rather than promoting a favorite candidate or cause, they spend all of their time bashing the other side. They’re feeding the negativity around the other person or the other side of the issue and they’re causing it to come back again and again.

It’s not just my friends who do this; our media are to blame as well. All too often the media spend a disproportionate amount of time covering the negative characteristics of a candidate or issue rather than all of the glorious supporting evidence. The media—and my friends—are handing over their sandwiches to the bears and the bears are getting bigger and hungrier.

Some of these energy bears hide under the guise of entertainment. For example, a friend of mine likes to point out every news article highlighting the foibles of a particular political candidate. His comments to each story seem innocent enough: “Can you believe this guy?” “Wow, and I thought he couldn’t get any more stupid!” or “This has now become entertaining!” My friend thinks he’s sharing information that makes his chosen candidate look better by disparaging the opposition. But in reality, he’s giving energy to exactly what he does not want. His attention is locked on the opposing candidate and he’ll quickly find that there will be more irritating stories to post and laugh at.

When we feed anything with our thoughts, attention and energy, we’re giving life to it. The more we think about an issue, the bigger it becomes. The more we obsess about a person, the closer we draw them to us. The more we focus on the negative aspects of something, the more we create of those same annoying aspects.

Too many times, we’re purposely stopping the car on the roadway to gawk at the bears and give them something to eat. It’s time for a different approach.

Don’t stop the car

As amusing as those little energy bears can be, it’s best to keep on driving. The bears (opposing issues, candidates, causes) will continue to exist whether you stop the car or not. When you detach your attention to these things, they lessen their impact on you. By purposely deciding to keep moving forward, you acknowledge that the issues or people exist but you don’t need to give them your undivided attention. You are consciously withdrawing energy from them.

No sending postcards, either

Just because you don’t see the bear in person doesn’t mean you can’t feed it. Every time you see a story that you find amusing and want to send to your friends, think about what kind of energy you’re sending out into the world (and back to yourself). If your motivation is to pick out the stupidity of the story or attack the subject, you’re feeding the bears. Every time you find yourself relaying a story at the water cooler about these issues or people, you’re feeding the bears.

Becoming vigilant about your attention will help you realize when you’re venturing into bear feeding country. If you can catch yourself in time, don’t forward the story or continue to tell it. Or, look for something that glorifies the person or issue you support. Tell that story instead. Keep your focus on what you want rather than on what you don’t want.

Find something else to amuse you

If you’ve ever driven through Yellowstone, you know there is an abundance of beauty to hold your attention. The bears aren’t the only interesting things on the side of the road. Buffalo, Elk, wildflowers, majestic mountains, open meadows all vie for your attention. The same is true in life. When you open your eyes to the magic of the world, you’ll find plenty to smile about. You’ll find new things to ponder.

As you turn your attention toward these beautiful new things, those pesky energy bears will fade away into the background. You might catch a glimpse of them in the rearview mirror. Smile at them, release them from your attention and turn your head back to the road ahead. It’s glorious from the driver’s seat.

 

 

 

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4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dan
    Aug 01, 2012 @ 20:30:21

    Amen, Chris. Maybe as an addendum, stop feeding the elephants and the donkeys . . .

    Reply

  2. Kerri Richardson
    Aug 01, 2012 @ 20:47:05

    Love this post. Love the analogy of the bears, love the great reminders, love the writing. Just love.

    Reply

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