It was several days later. Bear and the old man sat outside atop the mountain. He contemplated the old man’s words. He was working on his anger and his pride. He had learned from the tribe and his elders, and now the old man wanted him to rise above them. How does he do that? This is hard, Bear thought as he breathed in and out, taking the air down deep into his belly like he had been instructed, holding it for a few seconds, then exhaling.
“When your mind is still fewer things float to the top to distract you,” the old man said. Bear glanced at the old man, who was smiling broadly. “Your meditation sit is much better. I don’t see your energy bouncing off the trees and rocks. You are learning to contain yourself.”
Bear felt a swell of pride, but then remembered pride was one of the poisons of the soul. He bowed his head in humility. “I am trying.”
The old man grinned. “I see you are learning. I am proud of you. We will discuss the last poison, but before we do can you remember what we’ve discussed so far?”
“Well, Bear began slowly. “We discussed ignorance, which doesn’t mean stupid like I thought.” He remembered being called stupid by some of his friends at school.
“Good. What does it mean?”
“It means not knowing your true nature. Ignorance paves the way for delusion and believing something that is false.”
“Do you remember how to become not ignorant?”
“Yes,” Bear said, feeling empowered for the first time in his life because he was successful with learning. “Through the practice of loving kindness and compassion to myself and others I can turn ignorance into nectar that feeds my potential for true happiness.”
“Very good,” the old man said. “What was the next poison?”
“Anger, and I struggled with anger because I was very angry at the human who killed my father.”
“That is to be expected,” the old man said. “But you need to forgive because when you practice forgiveness you actually forgive yourself. Just because you forgive someone doesn’t make what that person did correct. Forgiveness frees you from carrying around all that dead energy.”
Bear noticed he felt lighted. “I did let it float away like you suggested, but I still miss my father.”
“And you will every day of your life, but you will meet again. I promise. I remember your father struggling with anger as a young bear.” He laughed. “It got him in a great deal of trouble. What was next?”
Bear sighed. “Pride, which means I thought I was better than others. And jealousy.” He paused. “That’s when I was jealous of something someone else had or did.”
“Very good,” the old man said. “The last poison is desire or attachment.”
“Isn’t it good to want things?”
“Yes, it is. But not to become attached to things. All life is in a constant state of change and flux. Everything will change. Learn to let things go and don’t hold on to anything too tightly. Holding on too tightly will make it slip through your fingers.”
Bear thought about all the things he had tried to hold on to–his father for one–and how he had slipped through his fingers. “When you want things and you get them it never seems to really satisfy you. There’s always something else that you want,” he mused.
“That is the condition of the physical world,” the old man said gently. “When you learn to weave inner stillness into your daily life you will break the feeling between feeling tones and cravings. Be mindful of doing things to get attention and praise. Instead do them because they are needed or right. Keep your desires few and you will live a fulfilled life.”