by Freddy Freeman
As first published in the December 2013 issue of Bear World Magazine
Bear Runs are a fun. As the organizer of Bearapalooza, I have been to quite a few of them, and they are always a blast. I love socializing, dancing, having a few cocktails, and maybe getting laid, but my experience in the bear community has also been about learning new ways to look at my body, my masculinity and my identity. My music and Bearapalooza have always been a reflection of that. It has been my way of helping myself and others feel more confident and more connected. I have been on a journey of self-discovery, and I found myself wanting to share those things with other men in the community, so I wondered how I could offer guys a different experience. I got my chance when Kendall Kelly got us a gig at Easton Mountain in upstate NY. Easton is a community, retreat center, and sanctuary created by gay men as a gift to the world. My experiences there lined right up with everything I wanted to create in the world, so now I am a resident at Easton, and I have expanded that initial bear weekend into an annual event.
Bear Your Soul has all of the stuff you would want from a bear run. Food, music, clothing optional sauna and hot tub, time to connect and play, but more! Bear Your Soul is a chance to connect with men of all shapes and sizes in a fun; comfortable and welcoming environment. We hope to help guys of all body types feel comfortable in their own skin. It’s a small intimate event, creating a community for three days, and offering the men a chance to open up about body issues, explore masculinity and connect with other men about their passions. Like most guys, I love sex, but I also believe sex is better when we let go of shame, and are truly open, authentic and vulnerable. When we connect as whole, multilayered men, we were are truly intimate and sex can be explosive.
Last year was my first time facilitating a workshop I called “Loving Our Bear Bodies”. I wanted to do something that would help men appreciate one another regardless of type. I was amazed as I gently led the guys in giving each other touch and affirmation, removing our clothes and our defenses. It was truly inspiring and touched many of the men on a deep level, so I will be doing it again and expanding on it!
Kendall Kelly is known for his Bears video & crazy costumes, but for the past year he’s been touring the country, living in his car, doing intimate nude concerts. When he asked me to do one with him, I thought it would be shallow and juvenile, but it actually gave us a chance to connect with the audience on a deeper level. His show "Clothes Get In The Way" explores body image, nudity, masculinity, identity, and more with music, spoken word, video and a jump rope. I asked if he could make it even more interactive and turn it into a workshop, so his work will be a part of this year’s program.
A couple of years ago I met Xavier Shadowancer, who is a Bear Belly Dancer. At first I thought he was kidding, but I invited him to an event and I was blown away. He is serious about belly dance! I was amazed at how graceful and beautiful, yet masculine it was, and to see a big man own his body and sensuality with no shame was an inspiration. He is returning to Bear Your Soul this year with a simplified class that will teach the guys to love the way their bodies move! It’s really sexy!
Being naughty can be healing, so this year I am adding a couple workshops to let the guys explore their kinky sides. We will also have a cuddle party, a healthy bear workshop with Justin Birdsong, body image photography, music workshops with Martin Swinger, a talent show, the Big Bear Dance, and lots more that we are still working on!
Rates include all the workshops, activities, concerts, accommodations, and food. Staying at Easton is not like staying at a hotel. We are in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains of upstate NY, on beautiful private land that is gorgeous in winter. We are just a 40 minute drive from Albany NY, so it’s easy to get a plane, train, or bus, or drive. (We can make arrangements for a volunteer to pick you up in Albany). Coming to Easton for a program is a shared communal experience filled with warmth and fellowship. This is the kind of weekend that will make lasting a lasting impact on your life, so don’t be afraid to Bear Your Soul!
To register and for additional information go to:
On the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe I am moved by the plight of immigrants, refugees and those who are held in poverty by the global structures which favor a rich minority over a poor majority.
The struggle of immigrants is a story I know well from the tales and legends of my grandparents. And has been made more real by my friends who cannot be with their spouses or who live in fear of being deported by the agents of a nation which promotes war and corporate interests far more than the dignity of human beings. So today with Mary my soul rejoices in God our Savior. I am confident that the almighty, will do great things for us; holy is his name. His mercy is from generation unto generation. He will scatter the proud in their conceit. He will put down the mighty from their thrones, and will exalt the humble. He will fill the hungry with good things; and the rich he will send empty away. And he will always, always show mercy.
On this Thanksgiving Day and all days, may you be surrounded by friends and loved ones, to brighten each and every day. Let them be a reminder that life's beauty is everywhere and bring the happy reassurance that there are those who care. May this day bring a Thankful heart, a special faith that never will grow old, and the warmest, dearest memories that any heart could hold. Happy Thanksgiving!
Adapted from "A Thanksgiving Prayer" by Rev. Ron (Liomsa) Latevola
Bearapalooza Founder Freddy Freeman returns to host the Second Annual "Bear Your Soul" at Easton Mountain
Who is Martin Foster Swinger? Freeing your essence—your body, your masculinity, your connection to other men—starts with freeing your voice. The Godfather of Bear Music (so dubbed ten years ago by Bearapalooza founder and Bear Your Soul host Freddy Freeman), Martin Swinger brings his cockeyed optimism and boundless energy as a singer/songwriter, educator, and facilitator back to Easton Mountain. His music spans autism, oysters, dyslexic theology, Betty Boop, and Buddha with performance panache and ingenious songs which are surprising, intimate, outrageous, and true. At Bear Your Soul, Martin returns to lead us in his edgy and exhilarating improvisational singing games and forms, designed to stimulate the spirit and uplift the voice. Martin builds skills in scat singing, duets, riffs, harmonics, soloing, finally leading to full group improvisation. Martin is a founding member of the a cappella improv ensemble, ImproVox, and can be heard on numerous albums, including Bear Naked, available at CDBaby.com. Easton is proud to welcome Martin back to Bear Your Soul
Early registration rates available until Dec 8th!