In the morning, a sloth chewed on the leaves of a longipes tree. She clung to the longest branch as she fed. Her position let her spy on the animals below. She had a view of the lizards on the forest floor, the ferns, the white flowers, the ant hills, the brown snake near the ants that probably thought it was hidden, and the birds on branches above her and below her.
A tribe of capuchin monkeys passed under the forest canopy, headed for the watering hole. Most of them ran across the ground and the piles of rotted twigs. A few leapt and swung from low branches as they made their way. They screeched to one another when they saw the snake. Only one failed to vocalize, a white-bellied fellow. He dashed ahead of the others. Then he stopped to sit. He sprinted ahead past two trees. Again, he stopped to sit. As the sloth watched, she became intrigued by the strange monkey. He moved faster than the others but stopped more often. He pulled himself up and sat on branches, always in the same position.
The sloth suspected there was something wrong with him. She couldn't see a wound but perhaps he was sick.
In the evening, the same troop of monkeys passed through, headed the other way. The strange, white-bellied fellow dashed ahead again. He ran too close to an anthill and had to pick an ant off his leg. Then he ran to the longipes tree. He clambered up to a low branch and sat. Since the sloth had moved downwards in the tree, the newcomer was only a few feet below her.
"I am curious, little fellow," the sloth called to him. "Why do you stop and start?"
The monkey smacked his lips. He glanced up at the sloth, apparently irritated. His chest heaved. With a sigh, he controlled his emotions.
"It is my philosophy," he replied. He lowered his gaze. "I think much."
"You pause to think?"
"No, the opposite." He closed his eyes and resumed his ritual position. "I pause free myself from thought. I focus my mind on the immediate moment."
"And this is important to you? This is the way of the capuchins?"
"This is my way." He nodded. "It is wisdom passed on to me by an elder. Enlightenment is found through sitting."
"I know something about holding still and being aware."
"Yes, I expect you do." The monkey gazed up at her with awakened interest in his eyes.
"It is a good habit, a good way of life. But it is not everything."
"It is everything important."
“Really, it's not. Living in the present moment is good. It is useful. But it is not sufficient. Also, that is not what you are doing.”
“What do you mean? I am being aware.”
“You must give thoughts to the future in order to live a good life. That is why you look for the fruit in the trees, the water in the brook, the snake who may strike, and the ants who may bite."
"My teacher said to give no thought to the future."
"Perhaps she meant to avoid obsessing over it. And surely you see that you must give consideration to the past so that you may learn.”
“I strive to disregard the past.”
“Except to remember the words of your teacher, it seems. Wise monkey, despite what some other wise monkey told you, thoughts are important. Awareness is important, too, but that is not what you have been achieving by sitting."
"To one such as you, my sitting and being aware may not seem like much but it is a start."
"It is. There is a difference, however, between being occupied by your immediate circumstances and being preoccupied by the idea of living in the present. You are preoccupied with that idea and I can see by the way you live that you are less aware than you should be.”