Yo, the Yoga Bear

Since starting the practice of yoga, I’d realized that there’s a yoga world out there: with blogs, and vlogs, and podcasts, and movies, and Tv shows, radio shows, tedEx talks, commercials, magazines, workshops, schools, courses, diplomas, yoga retreats, all kind of yoga events; an entire world with people doing yoga on a daily basis, talking about the meaning of yoga, about its origin, its principles, about centering and breathing, about chakras and subtle energies, about the perfect moment or place for doing yoga, with people aspiring to accomplish the perfect posture, the perfect alignment for the best benefits or for an awesome photo that will make an impression on social media; a world with people doing yoga on mats, of rubber or jute, personalized, non-slippery, ecological, organic, with people using top yoga brands for their outfits, props, towels, attending the best yoga studios, equipped with with best mats, best yoga bells and Tibetan bowls, having the best yoga teacher that uses the best yoga music, and the perfect yoga sequence followed by the best shavasana in town, talking about yoga benefits and living a yogic lifestyle, with yogic tea, yogic food, using yoga incense sticks, and, now and then, practicing yoga with goats, yoga with beers, and what not, as nowadays people need new and diverse things before anything else.

Being caught in this swirling yoga world, I had once tried to attain a close to perfect posture during a yoga class and I managed to tear apart my right hamstring. And that was the moment when I had realized that a change of perspective was in order. Even if I like yoga, or the idea of it, very much, I felt that something was not right with the way “the city” was practicing it. Not for me, at least. So I went out, into the wild, to find a different kind of yoga mentor then the ones I’d met till then.

And I did. After wandering to and fro for months, I had finally found Yo, the yoga bear, in a forest near my home town. Life is like that! We wander in searching for something all over the world, only to find it, after years and years, when that something had already lost its meaning, in our backyard. There are actually many things in our backyard – or in our front yard – but because they are so close and present, we oversee them and we search for them in the wide world, sometimes for a lifetime. Well… in my case it didn’t take so long, as I was lucky to find Yo after only several months. He had no definitions, no labels for anything, let alone for yoga. And he had no perfect rubber mat that he had to pay for in order to throw it away as soon as it would had become slippery. The earth was his mat. I lived more than an year with Yo and I’ve learned a lot from this experience. I’ve learned to live simple, with the thick moss carpet as my bed and the trees’ canopy as my roof, to eat only as much as I needed and mostly vegan. He thought me to be kind and understanding, especially with the bad ones; not to hurt anyone, not even an ant, neither physically, nor emotionally (and, yes, ants can be emotionally hurt); not to tell lies, except when dealing with foxes, as foxes use the truth for mean purposes and, therefore, in such situations, an alteration or reinterpretation of the truth would be best for the general good. He thought me how to connect myself to the trees’ souls, to the flickering stars, to the upside down sleeping bats or to the sightless earthworms, to everything; he taught me how to travel the world by riding a pale of wind or a crocodile-shaped cloud (not all clouds are suitable for traveling the world), or how to dissolve myself into the mists of dawn, becoming invisible so I can spy the shy fawns drinking water from the lake. He thought me how to find my inner light. One day, after one of his inspiring lessons, I started to glow. Literally. Like a firefly. Well, at least my right side did. I must work some more on the left one. I guess I still have some issues to resolve before glowing completely. And he thought me to love everyone and everything, to be content and grateful for simple things, for what I have: even for my unglowing left side, even for the birthmarks that I have and I used to hate. He told me that my skin is the sky and the birthmarks on it are the stars. Wow! I have my own galaxy on my body and it took me so many years and a bear to see it! I named it YoGalaxy.

As for the yoga postures, he didn’t teach me many, as he only knew several. He was a different kind of yogi. But there was one pose that we did daily: the Bear Balancing Pose, as we, humans, call it. He didn’t know the posture’s name. He was just doing it. And I with him. Together, happy and content and, of course, balanced. And this is the story of this painting that started with a torn hamstring.

Thank you for stopping by! Have a wonderful, happy day!

The Bear Brothers and the Firefly Show

A blade of grass: such an ordinary thing and, yet, a marvel, the work of a genius. The entire Universe pulsates in that blade of grass that we daily step on without acknowledging its existence. We walk on marvels every day without realizing it. Isn’t this a thing to meditate on? For many it isn’t. For too many. But not for bears. They live their life being aware and grateful for the grass that makes such a fresh fragrant mattress for when they are tired, for the shadow of a tree in the hot summer days, for the light of the moon in the dark nights, for the delicious blueberries of the forest, for the huge claws they have so they can climb trees, for the rain that gives them water (humans have pipes, that have altered their perception of water, so they often see the rain like nothing more than the nasty thing that had ruined their vacation), for the fireflies that offer them light shows more wonderful than any fireworks.

One day, I saw these two little bear brothers that were so amazed by the spectacle that the fireflies had to offer that they had forgotten to move. They sat in awe and enjoyed the show. In total silence. Without analyzing it, without comparing it to the last year performance or with any other performance they had ever seen. They just sat there and enjoyed the symphony of lights that the fireflies exhibited.

And sitting there, I felt the need and the obligation, at the same time, to educate the little bears and share them some of my knowledge. So, there I was, telling them that the fireflies are actually beetles, not flies as one might think. That they belong to Lampyridae family that has more than 2000 known species. That the fireflies spend the most of their life (about 1-2 years) in larval stage eating snails, worms and slugs, which they inject with a paralyzing substance. That their adult life lasts only several weeks and they feed on nectar and pollen but most adults of many kinds of fireflies do not feed at all. Given the small amount of time they have on this Earth for finding a mate, they don’t want to waste it on eating. Their soul mate could pass by just when they are busy chewing or digesting and puff, their chance for finding their written-in-the-stars pair is gone. So … for the love sake, these romantic beetles choose not to eat anything and stay alert, eyes wide open, light flickering, or, at least, this is my romantic approach on the matter.

The little bears were so quiet while they had been listening to what I was saying, looking so interested in the subject, that I felt obliged to share some more. So, after a short pause, I started to talk again. And so, the little cubs had learned that the fireflies don’t flash their lights just to brag about what they can do. It is, actually, a love call (for most of the species, at least). The male emits light from up in the sky mainly to attract mates. And he has to be really engaged and creative with his light flash pattern as the female will respond back from the ground level, only if she is impressed. I also let them know that there are some regions on Earth where the exponents of a species, called synchronous firefly, “blink” in unison. That would be a nice light show to watch! And I kept on telling them many other interesting facts I knew on the subject.

But for the little bears enough was enough. Their mother thought them to be respectful so they tried to listen to me carefully for a while. But soon it became too much for them. Why is this lady keep on talking while the show is on? Does she have no respect for the performers, they wondered, probably. Does she not enjoy the show? At last, they managed to gather all their courage and, politely, asked me to shut up and just watch. In other words, of course, but this was the idea.

And they were right. Even if I was offended at first… I couldn’t blame them for wanting to just be and let the magic of the moment infuse all their senses. And I did the same…finally. So, in the end, the little cubs were the ones that thought me a valuable lesson, that has remained with me ever since.

* For this piece I was inspired by the Moon Bear’s sad stories that I’ve read lately and by the “Grave of the Fireflies” wonderful animated movie (a must see IMO).*

Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read the story behind my painting.

Please excuse my eventual mistakes, as English is not my first language.

The Moon Bear (and why is he called like that)

Moon Bear… What’s the story behind his name? I didn’t know it until, one night, I asked the Moon herself. And she had much more to say than Google.

A long long time ago, The Moon Bear was simply called “The Black Asian Bear”. He was entirely black, darker than ebony, darker than night. The white moon-shaped spot wasn’t on his chest at the time. But as dark as his fur was, as light and gentle was his spirit. But the spirit does not reveal itself to everyone. Only the exterior does. And this was the Black Asian Bear’s misfortune. His darker-than-night appearance frightened the China’s emperor of the time, who came to the belief that the bear was an evil spirit that came to their land to widespread doom and gloom. He got afraid for his kingdom and his people, for his crops, for himself and his family, for the Sun and the sky, for everything. And fear has the reputation to cloud one’s judgement. Which it did. The emperor decreed that any being that was entirely black was demon-sent and must be hunted down in order for their land to be saved from damnation. And so the hunting of the Asian Black Bears had started millenniums ago. Many were killed and some were imprisoned in cages to study them. One must know his enemy! The bears that had escaped had to live on the run. Not a good life, but the only one for them at that time. The Moon, who was very empathetic for as long as she knew herself, felt so sorry for the Black Bears that she took a vow to help them escape the dark fate that lay before them. She took them under her care and one night, while they were sleeping, she touched their chests with her magic beams. A white moon-shaped spot appeared on the bears’ chests, a symbol of light and wisdom and hope. The Moon thought that the hunting will stop now that the bears weren’t entirely black anymore. It didn’t. It actually made things worse as the emperor came to the belief that the Black Moon Bears, as he called them from that point on, were not only demon-sent but they also possessed magical powers. How else could those white moons appear on their chest over night? The Emperor summoned the alchemists of the time to find a way to extract that magic from the caged bears that would then be used by the doctors to heal the Chinese people. But the magic power was nowhere to be found. Instead, during their search, the alchemists had discovered the healing properties of the bears’ bile. And that was enough for the bears to be haunted and imprisoned from then on.

So, when the bears were black as night, they were hunted because they were considered evil spirits, after they were touched by the Moon and got their white spot on their chests, they were hunted and imprisoned for their “magic” and, after that, for their “magic” bile. They had no chance, no matter what. The Moon felt heartbroken and saw no light in the bears’ future. She didn’t know what else to do to save them, she felt stuck, she felt helpless. Then, one night, she had an epiphany: Not the bears had to be changed in order to turn their fate, but the men’s hearts and minds. Easier said than done. That wasn’t something that could be accomplished over night, nor over years, nor over centuries or millenniums. But she is an optimistic one and she has patience. Plenty. She had started her work thousands of full moons ago. Over time, she noticed some positive changes in people, not as many as one might wish, but the humans are on the right track, the Moon says. So … she keeps on working on her task. Until when? She can’t say. But she is a patient one. And she has time. The bears, unfortunately, don’t. But well… they always can choose to go to Ursidora, the invisible bear island and live happy and safe there until the Moon finishes her job.

From my talks with the Moon on the subject of bears, this painting was born. I’ve tried to capture the bear’s gentle, unbroken-by-his-fate spirit, the one that doesn’t reveal to everyone, the one that must be searched under his black as night appearance.

This piece is dedicated to all the Moon Bears and to all those who fight for them so they can have the beautiful, peaceful, happy life they deserve.

Thank you for stopping by!