I am walking mindfully on this trail in the woods. I notice the flow of my breath, the movement of my muscles, the gentle swinging of my arms. When I look around me, what do I see? Mountain bluebells. A cloud shaped like a canoe. An enormous grizzly bear.
I’m taking stock of my emotions. I’m sensing that I have some anxiety, which explains the warm trickle of urine running down my leg. But if I allow myself to be afraid of the grizzly, then I’m living in the future and not the present. All we have is this moment. I’m not going to let it slip away just because a man-eating beast is glaring at me.
What do I notice about the bear? I observe without judgment the humped shoulders, powerful jaws, and dead black eyes. As he growls, I listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to scream, frantically wave my arms, or call 911.
I take a moment to appreciate how mindfully the grizzly is stalking me. Such purpose! Such clarity of intention! Is hibernation a form of meditation, I wonder?
My mind’s wandering. Back here in the present, the bear is charging.
I give my feet permission to run. They aren’t moving. Huh, they seem to be bolted to the ground. I’m officially allowing you to run, I say to my feet. I visualize myself signing a permission slip.
Okay. I’m sprinting mindfully. I sense the feeling of my feet as they touch the ground. My right foot hurts because I just stepped on a pinecone. My left foot slips because I stepped in something gooey. I stop to check it out. Bear scat. I observe the large globs using my five senses. What is the color? Black. What is the smell? Surprisingly sweet. What is the taste? Hmm. Well, I suppose I could sample a small berry–
The grizzly! How did he sneak up on me so quietly? I knew listening to Gregorian chants on my AirPods to calm myself was a bad idea.
The beast rears up on his back legs, and I start to think about the consequences of an attack.
I’M GOING TO DIE.
I DON’T WANT TO DIE!
I HAVE TICKETS TO THE RED SOX GAME ON SATURDAY NIGHT… AND A COUPON FOR ICE CREAM IN A HELMET!
I LEFT MY LAWN SPRINKLERS ON AND I DON’T HAVE FLOOD INSURANCE!
I JUST BOUGHT A COOL PAIR OF COTTON TWILL NAVY CHINOS!
I stand in a mountain pose to recenter myself. I listen to soothing whale songs on my AirPods. Okay, the chinos do look awesome on me, but I stay in the moment. I draw strength by letting go, putting my trust in the universe, and quickly texting my will to my lawyer.
I acknowledge the grizzly’s massive paws. He swipes the side of my head, and I feel gratitude for the colorful burst of lights and pretty stars.
I topple over and play dead. But I’m fully present. I’m living in the now. So he’s not buying my act and is starting to maul me.
I focus my awareness on the bear devouring my flesh. He’s eating angrily, not pleasurably. Clearly, he’s not as Zen as I thought. I try to soothe the creature by talking to him. In a gentle voice, I tell him to slow down and savor each tender bite. I mention that I moisturize with Eucerin Replenishing Cream, so my skin is smooth and supple.
I visualize my breath entering my nostrils, traveling through my lungs, and whistling through a hole in my chest. I name all the sensations in my body: Stinging. Throbbing. Itching in my phantom limb.
I notice my detached ears laying in the dirt next to me. I remove the AirPods, letting the bear know that he has my full attention. Then I stare deeply into the creature’s eyes. Behind the rage, I sense loneliness, suffering, regret. The grizzly looks uncomfortable, trapped. He tries to avoid my gaze, and I just hug him. I feel his big body tense. Then he whimpers and takes off running. Sure, this kind of intimacy can be terrifying. But before the park ranger came along and shot him with a tranquilizer dart, I thought we made a real connection.