The Bear and the Cage

I read a story once about a bear in Germany who was part of a roadside zoo. He was in a cage that was ten feet long and all day he paced inside 10 feet forward and 10 feet back. He was getting old so the zoo sold him to an animal sanctuary. The sanctuary put the bear into a natural habitat and opened the door of the cage. The bear didn’t leave the cage, but still paced back and forth – 10 feet forward and 10 feet back. Finally, to get him out, they lit a fire at the closed end of the cage. The bear came out and they took the cage away. But all he did was pace…10 feet forward and 10 feet back. The story had a sad ending: they had to put the bear down finally. But in our lives, we have a choice to break our old patterns.

Freedom is something we dream about inside cubicle cages or in binding marriages, especially when we consider the frightful prospect of realizing too late that we wasted our life. But coming out appears even more frightening as I realized when I quit a full-time corporate job last year.

Today, when I meet former colleagues and friends, they often tell me that they wish they could do what I did. They believe it’s financial insecurity which is stopping them. I wish I could tell them that it is the fear of facing all those parts of themselves which they are using work to avoid, it is the fear of stepping outside the cage of their comfort zone. And most of all, I wish I could tell them that once you take the first step, it is not scary. On one side of the decision, there appears to be a gigantic wall of panic and logic and practicality, but it is a fake wall – because on the other side there is a sunny expansiveness. It feels like a weight has dropped from your shoulders.

“And the most interesting part,” my mentor GD wanted me to add, “is that it is only the mind’s madness which has dropped – the fear, the fantasies, the projections. The luggage which has been put down was never real in the first place! There is nothing actual to be given up, except the mind’s never-ending game-plan for fulfillment. The mind does not realize that even after forty-fifty years of cleverness and struggle, it has got nowhere. And the only thing it can offer you is a new dream, a new fantasy, a new ride.

Being free is like being a bird in an open sky. There are no paths, no road maps and no rigid agendas. At our Core, we are pure freedom… we are pure exploration and creativity and adventure. Nothing else will satisfy.”

Image Using Creative Commons License from steve loya

7 thoughts on “The Bear and the Cage

  1. Brilliance- ‘There are no paths, no road maps and no rigid agendas. At our Core, we are pure freedom… we are pure exploration and creativity and adventure. Nothing else will satisfy.” And terribly scary too ! Started reading the article and thought,oh man,another ‘story’ which i will read and forget but lovvved the last paragraph , though i feel we purposely create these paths, road maps and agendas coz they are, well , fun.So the last line u wrote makes it a lil bit scary to give it all up.

    • Yes, actually re-reading the post I feel it has come across as a bit too scary, too all-or-nothing. I don’t think quitting a job or a marriage is right for everyone. We don’t all need to go off the deep end. But for some who feel trapped on a path, it takes a lot of courage to let go.

  2. Pingback: Get Loose! A How To « Kiki Harshman

  3. This is a poignant and powerful metaphor and your summation is spot on. The realization that who we think “we are” is just that: thoughts. And thoughts can, will and do change, therefore who we think we are is a transient thing even if we hold some illusion to the contrary. But underneath this fabric we weave of self identity every morning when we open our eyes there is something much more. Not everyone can reach this realization, but if and when you do, the peace is immense and you feel you’ve taken the very first breath of your life. Life becomes a game, a dance, whatever you want it to be. You flow, you groove, and when you do stumble you just dust yourself off and dance on. I agree with you. That first step is utterly terrifying. In that self-identified state change is something to be feared. But the only thing to be shaken is simply wispy thoughts; just smoke in the wind. I’m glad you recommended this to me. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.

    • Beautifully and perfectly said… Thank you so much for taking the time to read it. And even more gratitude for your insightful comment which adds depth to the blog post like a finishing touch… 🙂

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