When Bear awoke, he was startled to see the old man hovering over him. “Let’s go.”
Bear rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. “It’s still dark.”
The old man tugged at his arm. “Hurry. We’re going to miss daybreak.”
Bear stumbled to his feet and followed the old man out of the cave. The sun was just starting its ascent over the mountains in the east. The horizon was bathed in a warm, velvety glow. “Why are we up so early? You’ve let me sleep in over the last few days.”
The old man grinned. “Routines box you in. You need to stay fluid.” He laughed. “Many people forget the magic of life because they are tied to a routine.”
Bear scratched his head. He had been taught that routines were necessary. “So, you’re saying I shouldn’t have a routine?”
“I’m just saying my friend that routines are made to be broken.” The old man pointed to the flashes of light creeping across the mountains illuminating the darkness. “If you were still sleeping you would have missed the birth of this new day.” The old man’s face smiled with genuine happiness and radiant compassion as delicate sweet music that floated through the air swelled to a crescendo.
With the sun’s accession, thoughts and ideas flooded Bear’s mind. He had never felt this alive so early in the morning. He followed the old man down the mountain and to the stream, where the old man stripped out of his clothes and plunged into the water. “Follow me. This morning will never come again. It is ours for the seizing.”
Bear lumbered down to the stream and stuck his big toe into the water. He shivered. The water was cold. He preferred warm water, but he didn’t want the old man to think he was a sissy, so he dove in. Brr. But after a few seconds his body acclimated and he discovered it was quite pleasant.
The old man swam across the stream and motioned for Bear to follow. They climbed out and Bear followed him over to a large blackberry bush. The old man picked a handful of berries and popped them into his mouth. Bear followed his example and discovered the berries juicy and lush. He was hungry and reached for more. The old man grabbed his hand. “Eat only what your body needs. Don’t stuff your problems down with food. It doesn’t solve anything.” The old man picked several berries and ate them slowly, his face filled with delight and satisfaction. Bear tried to imitate his example, but his old behavior took over and he stuffed his face with more berries.
“Your over-consumption of food to the point of waste has contributed to your physical and mental problems. You stuff yourself with food instead of dealing with the problems life presents.”
Bear’s mouth was full of the ripe, delicious berries and the juice was running down his chin. He felt embarrassed. The old man was right. Food made him feel better and pushed his problems down into his gut. He wiped his mouth. “I have a few problems.”
The old man laughed. “We all do. It’s part of the journey, but the trick is to learn how to deal with them, not run from them or stuff them down into your being with food. The cause of suffering we talked about can be found in the thirst of the physical and mental body and its perceived illusions. You need to learn to become mindful.”
“How do I become mindful?” It was too early in the day for the old man to talk in riddles.
The old man inhaled and exhaled slowly and completely. “You must learn to become aware of your current state of mind. Notice the instant it becomes negative and do what you need to do to return it to a positive state as quickly as possible. Just because anger enters the mind doesn’t mean you have to become angry?”
“Where does anger come from?”
Do you think Bear’s a good student? Can he learn to become mindful? Tune in next time when the old man teaches him about wise speech.