What's in a Name
I think it is relevant to share how I came to the work that I do, and how I can be of benefit to you. My connections to the name Buddha Bear began when I was a teenager. There are many experiences that led me on this path to where I am today, this article highlights some of those events.
At age 16, I taught myself to canoe by going into the wilderness of Algonquin Park for an extended trip solo. It was an adventurous excursion that included meeting bears more than once!
I attended several civil and environmental protests and at 18 was beaten until coding by police who thought I was a dangerous hippy-dope-culture leader. Beyond the physical trauma, this experience caused me to dig deep into life and its meaning, and I read insatiably on religion and philosophy. Whole reading about indigenous beliefs, the bear resonated strongly with me.
In my early 20s, I helped to write a book, Voices from Wounded Knee, about events that occurred in South Dakota during the 1973 occupation. I did this while at the Akwesasne reserve in New York, helping with the nations gardens.
After many years of university, landscaping work and farming, I found myself traveling to Arizona at 31 for school. Many years ago I had run away from residential school to travel across Canada and The US, but didn’t make it the Grand Canyon — so it seemed fitting to go there now for school!
After many years and adventures, I was privileged to hanybletcha (vision quest) on Bear Butte with “Uncle” Ted Phelps. This is the sacred center of the Lakota nation, and notables such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull have been on this hill. This is where I received teachings in native spirituality, as well as my name “mato nape.” This translates to bear paws or healing hands; a premonition of the next stage in my life. I studied and trained to become a massage therapist, and the specific mode I learned focused on body insight. I also studied handwriting and became a certified Graphologist to gain further insight into people.
This part of my spiritual journey led me to walking the red road (a right path in life of indigenous custom and spirituality), a path of being in the world that demands accepting your higher purpose. In this walk I became a pipe carrier and opened a lodge from 1995 to 2009. During this period I was also a water pourer for my tiosaypaye (spiritual community). On my hanybletchas, the bear would always come to let me know things were good. The “Bear” in Buddha Bear is borne of its guidance and comfort to me.
The bear teaches me to go within and is in the west direction with the buffalo who teaches about abundance. In indigenous beliefs, the bear is associated with healing, and rather than hibernate, they go into a deep meditative state during winter. In my own deep meditation practice, I realized that my trauma results of hypervigilence where actually early attempts at understanding intuitive states.
In my professional work I was a drug and alcohol/mental health counselor/program manager/clinical supervisor (yes, even more education for the kid who ran away from school!). My ethos was that of eco-psychology, focusing on our state in relation to our environment as opposed to a nature vs nurture approach. It became evident to me that the spirit of the client is often lost during addiction and needs to be reconnected. It therefore became very relevant to involve spirituality to those in recovery and design systems with this in mind. In broad strokes, I worked in Fort Collins, Greeley, Boulder and Cheyenne providing juvenile intensive outpatient settings, outpatient clinics for those who also had legal issues, inpatient intensive programs at a halfway house, and outpatient MAT (Medically Assisted Treatment) for opioid recovery.
I had become dismayed with the state of the mental health system, finding that I often did not promote much of a positive and healthy outlook for those in its care, or those providing the services. Using a more holistic approach and alternate therapies, such as yoga and graphology, I developed modalities, workbooks and programs to produce more positive results for my clients. The realization that I was not going to change the system ultimately shifted my attention to life coaching.
As a younger man I trained in karate for years before evolving to the softer arts such as aikido, then tai chi and finding the “more” — the spiritual aspects of martial arts. Working in corrections I found that teaching tai chi, and especially yoga, was instrumental to some clients’ progress.
The study of eastern spirituality and longtime practice of meditation is the connection to “Buddha” in Buddha Bear. It also reflects how people see me as being wise, the wisdom borne of many and diverse life experiences.
The eye within the hand speaks to insight.Spiritual guide is the reason for the feather over the eye, as I see it as a gift from that realm.