Many of us think of animals in dreams as suggestive of human qualities. For example, a fox might symbolize being clever, while a mouse might suggest being unnoticed and unobtrusive. Yet, I know of lucid dreamers (myself included), who have lucid dreams in which their pet dog or cat appear, and often pass on valid information. But a polar bear? How did that connect with you?
It was surprising to me at first — why polar bears? Why not a dog or other animal? But the invitation was very specific — and who am I to question the wisdom of the dream world?! When I finally accepted this invitation and began dreaming of (and later with) polar bears, it began to make sense.
I spent some time reviewing my dream journals and found that I had dreamed of bears many times in the past. It was fascinating to find this trail of bear dreams. I now live in Alaska, where polar bears also reside, so on that level the connection to polar bears made a kind of sense. So too, there is something symbolic about the Arctic — the extreme environment; the absence of human diversions; the basic elements of land, ice, snow, water, sky — that seemed perfect for dreams like these.
In your book, you suggest that all of this came in a larger framework (across time in your dream journal). Yet you began to have ‘seed dreams’ which contained some hint or glimpse of what was to come, right? Tell us about that.
Once I consciously accepted the invitation to dream with polar bears, it happened. These are the ‘seed dreams‘ that I refer to. They were short and had a unique quality. I called them seed dreams because they were compact and self-contained. In retrospect, I saw they were also very much about germination, about underground (or undercover) growth that needed some time to develop.
In these dreams the landscape and sky vary, but the key event is always the same: I am in the Arctic walking shoulder to shoulder beside a polar bear. That was the total dream! I had these dreams sporadically for about a year. Near the end, I had two other dreams in which polar bears appeared, and I felt a quickening from within those, as if they were activating my awakening in the seed dreams.
I think that year of dream-walking beside the polar bear was necessary preparation. It helped me to slow down and deepen, and to open to a different type of dreaming. In the final dream, I am walking beside the polar bear as usual, but I become hyperaware of our movement — one foot, one paw in front of the other. I realize I have dreamed this dream many times before and that I am, in fact, dreaming now. I put my hand on the bear‘s shoulder and turn to look at him, into his eyes. And in that moment I see from his eyes — I see myself, a dreaming human, walking beside him. I realize he is awake within this dream, that both he and I are lucid and aware within the same dream. That was quite a surprise!
As you went deeper into this series of dreams and lucid dreams with the polar bear, what did you learn about the importance of keeping an open mind and asking questions? Did you have to ignore the cultural idea that animals in dreams serve only as a symbol?
I realized early on that ‘dreaming with polar bears‘ would involve exploring some uncharted territory. There‘s not much written about that subject! So, an open mind was essential. I often found that I could ground myself in the dream by asking questions and making mental notes. I sometimes used that role of ‘curious journalist‘ to stay focused.
As far as animals as symbols — sometimes that is true. Animals are often an easy shorthand in our dreams for a particular kind of help we may need. In these dreams, however, it was clear to me that the polar bears were not symbols, but something much larger, something much more real.
If you would, help us lucid dreamers understand the main messages that you received in these dream and lucid dream encounters? Were any of these messages completely surprising or unexpected?
The messages were of different varieties. For example, there was some experiential sharing of what it‘s like to be a polar bear. In a really wonderful dream, I ‘became‘ a polar bear and was able to perceive the world from the eyes, paws, skin, body and consciousness of a bear. It gave me a physical understanding of what it‘s like to be a bear.
I think we humans are often unaware of how much we are influenced by our beliefs and preconceptions about animals. It‘s easy to get stuck in a superficial, one-dimensional idea about an animal. Whereas the real animal is very often quite different. So, the message here is about letting go of limiting beliefs and opening our awareness so that we may enter a deeper, more genuine relationship with the animal world.
The bears also shared some of their history with humans, how at one time in our past we were much aligned with the animal world. But we moved away from that, for many reasons. We gained some things but we forgot others — among them the ability to communicate with animals and share knowledge, insights, wisdom. Much of the polar bears‘ message is about bringing that back, welcoming humans back to a deeper connection — not only with polar bears, but with all animals, nature, and the Earth herself.
Another key message from the polar bears is about conscious dreaming. All animal species have a ‘medicine‘ or teaching they carry for the world. Bears are often connected with dreaming, and polar bears are particularly connected with conscious dreaming. I think of that both as a form of lucid dreaming, and also as a connection between ‘dreaming‘ and ‘waking‘. It‘s the ability to walk in both worlds — to have a paw in both — to be conscious while dreaming, and to dream consciously.
At one point, the polar bear encourages you to follow their path and explore “the deep self”. What does that mean? And more importantly, how do polar bears and people do that?
The polar bears offered me a variety of challenges in the dreamworld, all of which were about expanding awareness and becoming more conscious of the interface between what we think of as dreaming and being awake. Much of my experience and much of the polar bears’ agenda is about conscious dreaming, about awakening to a larger awareness of who we really are.
So, how to do that? Great question! I think we begin with who we are, with seeing ourselves clearly — our strengths and our abilities, as well as our blind spots, our judgements and limitations. When I give animal communication classes, I emphasize the need to see ourselves clearly — to let go of our personal and societal ideas of who we ‘should‘ be and make an effort to reacquaint ourselves with our authentic self.
That often means we become vulnerable and take a good look at our own shadow material, but it also means we begin to find some of the wisdom and tremendous insights that our inner selves have held and protected for so long. By opening ourselves in this way, we become much stronger. We begin to see the importance of shining our own unique light to others and the world.
I think the polar bears are master teachers at this. They are very wise, yet very curious with an open mind. They also have a great sense of humor. They encourage us to find our deeper connection not only within ourselves, but also with others — all species — and with our home, the Earth.
Let’s say that tonight, after reading this article, one of our readers becomes consciously aware in a dream, when he or she sees an animal looking at them. It may be a fox, a bear, a jaguar or a hummingbird. Lucidly aware, how should they respond? How could they open up their awareness to another species?
I think it depends on the individual dreamer. How do you feel when you see this fox, bear, jaguar or hummingbird? What do your dreaming senses tell you? What are you inspired to say or do? Or perhaps you are simply there to notice this animal, to be aware that it is coming to you for a reason. Look deep, listen, feel — what do you sense? I don‘t know that there‘s any one answer here because each dream and each dreamer is unique. My advice is to follow your curiosity, befriend your intuition, and trust yourself.
To my knowledge, this is the first book about lucid dreaming and animal species communication. Why you? Why now?
Part of me wants to laugh and say, Just lucky, I guess! Though this is something I have thought about and something the polar bears have alluded to. I have a background both in animal communication and in writing books about that subject. I feel comfortable as a translator, sharing the thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of animals so that humans can better understand them. I also have a long history with dreaming and very much enjoy dream exploration.
What the polar bears told me is that our connection was based on mutual needs and desires. I wanted to learn more about dreaming, and the polar bears wanted someone who could help translate their story to humans. It was a perfect win-win situation!
If people want to find out more about you and your book, Dreaming with Polar Bears, where should they go?
My website — www.animalvoices.net — has information about me and all my books. If you click on the Dreaming with Polar Bear tab, you‘ll find chapter summaries and excerpts, as well as information about where you can buy the book.
Thanks, Dawn Brunke, for opening a new window into the world of lucid dreaming!
Thank you, Robert, for asking all these excellent questions and allowing me to share this message.