Hi, I’m Bear.
In order to understand yourself, you have to know where you come from. So to understand me, I will tell you about one of the most influential people of my life, my maternal grandmother. My grandparents bought a house in the late 40’s on a hill in a nice neighborhood in Los Angeles. My grandfather was the youngest and only American-born child of German immigrants. My grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch practically back to the Mayflower. Both were hardworking, respectful, and inclusive people–to the point where my grandfather used to chase blockbusters out of the neighborhood with an axe handle; he was against those who used to poison the minds of white families against the black people coming to devalue their homes, only to sell those homes to the black folks at inflated prices. And when the first black family moved in, my grandmother greeted them with fresh baked treats and an invitation to church. It was in that church that I got my first true taste of the wider cultural world. By the time I came around in the late 70’s, Grandma’s church was a thriving pillar of her now predominantly black neighborhood. I attended Sunday School, sang in the choir, and helped out at every rummage sale, and never once did I see or care that there was a difference in skin color, because I had been taught from a very early age that a person’s actions and the kindness they show others is what’s important. My grandmother also instilled and encouraged in me a love for the natural world. I always enjoyed being outside as a kid, but Grandma taught me to really SEE what was going on. The birds building nests, the neat military march of ants, the butterflies, the ladybugs, the lizards sunning on the cinder block wall. She taught me to never throw trash in the ocean, because it “belonged” to her grandmother. And you, “Don’t throw trash in to Grandma’s ocean.” She taught me all the great lessons about the “lesser” world and how it fit so perfectly and intimately into the greater universe around me. I got to spend a lot of time with my grandma since my parents would often be away on trips.
Both of my parents worked for the airline industry since the late 60’s, and it provided my family incredible opportunities to escape the bubble of our Southern California home life. I became a world traveller at age 10 when we spent 6 weeks touring the island nation of New Zealand. One of the greatest things my mother instilled in me was a great respect for other people and cultures. My eyes had never been so open as on that first trip to New Zealand. From accidentally jumping into the driver’s seat of the taxi cab at the airport to my first bite of pavlova, I was elated at all the new sights and sounds, but most of all, the new people and diverse cultures they represented. The Maori dancers in Rotorua, the glacier climbers on Franz Joseph, the clubfooted jewelry maker with his kiosk at the Otorohanga Kiwi House, and a humble city dweller of Auckland, all happily shared their amazing perspectives and lessons with a wide-eyed white kid from the suburbs of Los Angeles.
At age 12, I began attending a Performing Arts Magnet school in Hollywood. My suburban life was not devoid of diversity with our heavy Filipino and Samoan groups–heck, I lived next door to an amazing man who had been interned at Manzanar, who shared with me the terror and the rarely seen joys of being a part of such a confusing time in our country’s history. But while most of these groups had their cultural diversity, it was at that junior high school that I began to experience my first brushes with religious diversity, Jews and Muslims, Greek Orthodox and Buddhists. And, inevitably, the question was asked, “Well, what are you?” Now, my dad went to a Lutheran high school, but never really practiced anything once he was out. After all, Sunday’s were for football. My mom went to that amazing Presbyterian church of my grandmother’s, but never really fought my dad on staying home on Sunday. So, for the longest time, my answer to that question was, “I was raised Presbyterian.” But that didn’t really sit well with me. Even as a small child, I questioned the lack of balance between men and women in the Bible. While women such as Ruth and Mary had impressive roles to play, strong and influential women were very under represented in Western religions, so I started hunting down and reading as many religious texts I could get a hold of to answer that question better, if only for myself.
I started with the Bible, because while there were things in there I didn’t like, there were also some I remember appreciating. I liked Jesus. He preached love, forgiveness, and service to others, and those sounded like really good things. Buddha? Another great guy with amazing messages of bettering one’s self. The Torah, the Quaran? Good, but not me. The Vedas? Well, now we’re getting somewhere. Here’s a lot of Gods and Goddesses; I like that. So, where else to look? Viking? Celtic? Native American Shamanism? Yes. Yes. And, YES! I like to claim that I became an Eclectic Pagan at 13, but it was probably closer to 15. I identified as Irish, and while I was focusing on learning about the Celtic pantheon, I met a Navajo Shaman who was the first to see the Bear in me. At that point, I tried to balance my learning in both fields. Eventually, I came to see myself as a Bear who practices Celtic magic.
When I was 15 my dad had a pretty massive stroke. I watched my mother step up her game again and take care of him while working two jobs. Her demonstrations of strength, both of character and emotionally, inspired me to pursue one of my childhood passions, the study of Medieval history and combat. My best friend in high school mentioned to me that his dad was a “knight” and, if I liked that sort of thing, I should come along when they went to their next event. It didn’t take long for me to become a squire to the Anachronistic knight. A man, raised Jewish, but now a pastor, became the loving, accepting, generous, father-figure with the strength of character that equalled my mother’s. He significantly helped to balance out the male/female energies in my life. The non-profit organization to which Pop belonged, focused on three key areas in our made-up medieval lives: honorable combat, arts, and service to others–all things I devoured, and learned as much as I could about all of them. I became a pretty decent fighter, I won several awards for service, and became a fair hand at pyrography. But, I found it was difficult to keep a firm hand in both my spiritual studies and my Medieval pursuits, and I found myself rapidly losing balance in my spiritual life.
I moved to Ventura for work leaving Pop’s nest for a bit of wing-spreading. Soon, I was introduced to some folks who were also heavily involved in the Medieval group. A couple of them also happened to be the High Priest and Priestess of a daughter coven of the Los Angeles-based Keltic Pagans. By finding a new spiritual path, I felt that the scales were slowly shifting to be back in balance and Bear’s presence in both my physical and spiritual life grew rapidly. I was eventually running the local chapter’s fighter practices and drawing in new recruits and new students of my own. I was also studying and working hard towards becoming an ordained minister within the church. Things were balanced, but they were precarious. And I was in for a fall.
I had gotten married far too quickly to someone who shared my spiritual path, and was able to make herself a place in the rest of my life, but we never gelled on those deep and important levels required to sustain a marriage through the hard times. Everything was always my fault, and eventually, it really was. We all do things in our lives that we are not proud of. I’m no exception. I’ve hurt people I loved. I’ve had friends lose faith in me. I didn’t merely lose my balance. I lost just about everything. I was in a very low place spiritually, and because of my actions that ended my marriage, I purposely set aside Bear, because I felt like I didn’t deserve him. I was so out of balance. I had no faith, and only one direction to go. However, when you fall against the web of life we create, you find out which threads break, and which turn out to be braided steel cables.
They say that rock bottom is the firmest foundation upon which to rebuild your life. So, one day, in my shabby little cell of the Glendale YMCA, and with the help of my then girlfriend, now wife, I began the process of rebuilding. I rebuilt my personal life and I rebuilt my spiritual life. Eventually, I was able to move in with my amazing girlfriend, and soon I got a job at a VERY well known theme park in Anaheim. As a Ranch Hand, I was able to combine two of my loves: kids and animals. I was very successful at my job, and I achieved positions of respect as a trainer and a supervisor. I have even been lauded and awarded. I was very happy with myself and with the path I was on. One day, an old friend visited me at the park, and she said something to me I’ll never forget, she said, “Bear, this is good. I’m happy to see you doing better.” Now, I corrected her, “Just call me Brian. Bear needs to be earned again.” And she said, “You’re there. Now use his strength to go even further.”
I began exploring intriguing and totally unfamiliar places in spirituality. I headed a paranormal research team for a while, and while exploring the point where spirit meets science, I had a fairly strong awakening of sorts. The analytical scientific approach to things that we can’t explain fascinated me. I had experiences that I could not explain and that only went further to reinforce my spiritual path. I threw myself into my art for a while, all while learning from an amazing spiritual teacher. She has such an inspiring grasp on her path and a heart full of service to the world around her. But, she is only human. After many conversations, it became clear to me that she’s only got enough bandwidth to hold sacred space for those she’s already taken in. And there aren’t many guys in that group. Again, I feel that pestering imbalance.
So, I feel the call. I created the Guardians of Sacred Balance to found a brotherhood of those like minded, and enlightened men who also feel our current state of imbalance in the Universe. Men who understand that women are our equals, and their strength is not a threat to ours. Men who see the truth in science and realize that we are one people upon this planet and that there is no such things as race, unless you are referring to the one human race. Men who see the necessity of the spiritual balance of male and female energies that we all possess. I am humble about my background, but confident in the path ahead of me.
And now, I find myself here.
Hopefully you’re still with me, and if you are an enlightened dude who’d like to join me on this adventure, please do.