Chen left his village and wandered for many years, free as a bird.
One day he passed a monk sitting on a bridge. As he passed the monk said, “Hello prisoner!”
Startled and angered, Chen replied “What do you mean old man—I have been traveling wherever I want to for years—no-one is as free as I am!”
The monk replied simply—“Try sitting for an hour instead of moving and you’ll see how free you are.” Chen took up the challenge with bravado, stripped off his pack and sat down at the feet of the monk, closed his eyes and began to prove the monk wrong.
“This monk is an idiot” Chen thought. “All his years and he can’t see what freedom is when it is right in front of his eyes!” Chen’s anger at the monk began to build. “Who does he think he is, talking to me that way!—I won’t stand for it!” Chen felt a burning in his throat, and he could hear the gurgle of the water under the bridge—so cool and soothing. “I must quench this thirst now—I won’t have a ridiculous old man tell me what to do!” Chen sprang up and ran down to the stream and drank his fill of the cool water.
“You have failed, young man” called down the monk from above. “I challenged you to sit for an hour and you were up before I could take five long breaths!”
Chen stopped in his tracks. What had happened sunk in. The monk was right. Chen could not sit still for even 5 breaths. “You have been running for a long time young man—eventually your legs will tire and you will need a different strategy. Think on this on your way to whatever you were in such a rush to get to.”
Chen picked up his pack, slung it slowly on his back and began to, with some hesitation, walk away from the monk. Chen was deeply troubled, but not unintelligent or lacking compassion deep in his heart. When dusk came, Chen rolled out his blanket and fell into a deep sleep. He slept for a night and a day.
When Chen awoke he had a plan. Chen walked with confidence now to the city. He found the money-changers and saw the riches coming into their building—silver, gold, and jewels. Chen devised a plan to steal the loot. He tunneled under the building for days. Eventually he broke into the vault and over the course of a night, stole a kingdom’s worth of riches, hiding it in the forest nearby.
Chen walked through the city the next day, bought himself new clothes with the gold he’d stolen. The authorities soon were alerted to this suspicious wanderer with all this gold. Chen was arrested and tried for burglary. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison, 10 years if he gave back the loot.
Chen refused to give back the stolen loot, and had only one request after admitting his guilt. “I request that I be kept in solitary confinement for the duration of my incarceration” asked Chen. The judge readily agreed and Chen was taken to prison, locked up and forgotten except for his two daily meals of simple food.
The first day Chen paced for 12 hours. After five years Chen could sit for an hour. After 10 years he could sit comfortably and dwell in his own nature for eight hours. On the 29th year of his incarceration Chen woke up and no longer needed to sit to reach the depths of his being.
Chen was released after 30 years had passed. He began to wander again through the kingdom, this time giving away gold coins to those he knew needed them.
Dan Clement is the director of Open Source yoga 200/500 hr. teacher training in British Columbia, Canada and author of “Teaching Hatha Yoga”. In addition to training teachers in this inclusive and evolving method, Dan writes and records songs, plays the banjo and enjoys a good session of Frisbee with his dog. Dan has been teaching yoga since “times of yore”. For more information visit here.
Editor: Mel Squarey
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