The tigers and the strawberry

tiger

I’m feeling weird these days. OK, but weird.

The whirlwind and pink glow of early sobriety is fading and the over excitement is settling. I’m looking around my life and realising how much of it is about escaping the present moment. TV, eating, working, podcasts, busy work, (blogging even) all designed to keep me from being quiet with myself. What the hell am I so afraid of? I’ve had weird moments of insane joy (don’t know if I’m losing my mind here people). Small flashes of intense joy, just being with my children looking at their faces really BEING THERE with them. I’m oscillating between these small flashes of joy and flatness. I also have these thoughts of how I had a narrow escape from death. I feel as though I’ve dodged a massive bullet by being able to get sober again and it’s making me really emotional.

I’ve been reading Pema Chödrön’s book ‘The wisdom of no escape’, I highly recommend her book, the teachings can very happily sit next to any religion you practice.

In the book she tells a Zen story about some tigers and a strawberry. I’m changing the monk to a woman because that’s the way the author told it and because I can…

There was once a woman who was being chased by a ferocious tiger across a field. At the edge of the field there was a cliff. In order to escape the tiger, the woman caught hold of a vine and swung herself over the edge of the cliff. Dangling down, she saw, to her dismay, there was another tiger on the ground below her! And, furthermore, two little mice one black one white were gnawing on the vine to which she clung. She knew that at any moment she would fall to certain death. That’s when she noticed a wild strawberry growing on the cliff wall. Clutching the vine with one hand, she plucked the strawberry with the other and put it in her mouth.

She never before realized how sweet a strawberry could taste.

One could simply interpret this as “when your life was in danger or you have a near death experience life becomes really clear and you appreciate the present moment so much more.”

Another interpretation is that the tiger below represent the anxiety of the future (and also our inevitable death) and tiger above represent the pain of the past.

The vine is the material world and the mice the passage of time. They are black and white because they symbolise day and night. This represents how each cycle of day and night brings us a little closer to death.

The strawberry symbolises the energy, beauty and vitality of the present moment. It is always there, available for those who are willing to bring awareness to it.

We are all born with one foot in the abyss, it’s the human condition. I once heard a talk where the speaker suggested you set an alarm on your phone each hour to remind yourself of the pure miracle of your existence! It’s a bloody miracle that you are alive and that you are breathing, each moment is a miracle. How quickly we forget this and take it all for granted.

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38 thoughts on “The tigers and the strawberry

  1. Wow, if only I can do this! I read a book by Jan Frazier (a woman who became “enlightened” and could actually appreciate the current moment), and she lives in almost constant bliss by living completely in the present. I am just the opposite at well — I am reading news or blogging or daydreaming, always to escape. I could observe it last night when watching Manchester By the Sea. When it came to the heart-wrenching part, I dissociated so I didn’t have to experience the anguish of the scene. I do think it’s a protection against pain and boredom.

    Maybe this needs to be my 2017 goal — to actually be here.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I think it helps to keep reminding ourselves the wicked work that alcohol does on our brains, typically over an extended period of time – and the many changes we go through as we ‘re-adapt.’ I like to think of it as ‘a second chance’ at discovering myself. We have the opportunity to contemplate…and to change. Isn’t that, in iself, the most incredible gift!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hurrah, what a thought invoking post. It’s so easy to get lost in the past and the future. It’s hard to concentrate on the here and now! A few years ago I started trying to be really appreciative of everything and to try to find a positive in everything. It drives my boyfriend nuts actually – he’s a very negative person and I think he thinks I’m a little dumb or ditzy for acting this way. He acts as though he feels that I’m unrealistic at the very least, although on the odd occasion he says that he likes my “childlike wonder about the world” lol. The thing is, the more I appreciate and feel grateful for, the better my little world moves along. If I get stuck in traffic on the way to a meeting I laugh, shrug, and think “late again of course! haha” and then I take a good look around and try to find beauty. The shimmer of the sun on building windows, some unique graffiti, fog drifting through trees, whatever…. I try to ground myself, calm myself and stay in the present moment. Beauty IS all around us, and sometimes we need to reach out to it and focus on that to stop us from letting our fear of the tiger below make us lose our grip. (Does that make any sense? I feel like I’m rambling here – I haven’t had my daily intake of 1 ton of chocolate yet lol)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh goody goody, another book recommendation. Watch out my blog readers, I will be preaching another message soon!! LOL
    I love that story. Oh the strawberries of life! how easy to miss those sweet delectable fruits when we are so caught up in past fears and future anxieties. I am still learning. Some present moments still feel awful ‘my knee hurts’ ‘I feel anxious’ But I am learning…..slowly.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love Pema. I have not read that book, but I’ll order it on my iPad now!
    I truly believe those moments are samadhi, enlightenment, nirvana…whatever.

    They are the crystallization of time. The deep knowing that things are exactly as they should be.

    It’s hard at first to accept they are fleeting, but my be,off is that enlightenment isn’t a permenant state. We don’t become zen and never experience pain or joy. Unfortunately we still experience both!

    But the small jolts of perfection remind us we are on the right path.

    Stillness and peace,
    Anne

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow that’s cool Anne. It does feel like a moment in time when I have total acceptance / peace and joy all at once. Didn’t think it could be Samadhi, (still think deep down that is out of reach for me), thought I may just be losing my mind) Interesting to note that those moments are fleeting,
      xxx

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved your post! I had heard the story of the tigers and the strawberry although you explained the symbolism a lot better and it resonated.

    After about 5 years of AA and three years of sobriety as of next week (knock on wood) it struck me recently that this is the true meaning of One Day At A Time. I always thought it meant Just Dont Drink. And it does mean that for newcomers and all of us to some extent. But the more powerful meaning of #ODAAT is what you just wrote about and everyone wrote about in their comments. My sponsor and others around me with long term sobriety have this zen-like character. They no longer live with resentments and guilts from the past nor the fears for the future. They’re just present. The steps are what get us here but the trick to it and for me the greatest challenge is truely trusting God’s will. I still work at this everyday and the hardest part is handing it all over to God for me but it still is working. Thanks for reminding me!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pema’s the best. I love her work. I remember reading that story a while back, but forgot about it. I love it!

    Staying in the present is always a challenge. Always. I forget to stay mindful, if that makes any sense. I love the idea of it, and when I *do* do it, it’s liberating. One man once suggested to me that I spend 10 minutes of the day just being mindful. Sit on a bench and watch the breeze catch the tree limbs. Or when brushing teeth, thing : “I am brushing my teeth” – staying in the moment helps to dissolve the ego and the chaos attached to it.

    What is amazing is that when I do capture those moments, everything around me dissolves. I love it. I just have to keep at it. Meditation helps me in that department too.

    Great post – thanks for sharing this!

    Paul

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am an escape artist!
    I play computer games, watch tv, spend too much time on FB, or do anything except go for a walk, or call a friend, or clean, or anything that is life.
    It is REALLY hard for me to still my mind.
    Thank you for another wonderful post!
    xo
    Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wendy, you always seem like you have it ALLL together, so frankly I’m relieved to know that you, too, have to battle distraction (laziness?⏳ Inertia? Blahs? Whatever it can be called). I am the queen of all of those….but always hold the idea that I will get better, overcome and be……the 👑Queen of Order??lololol.
      (Mindfulness…I’m actually not too bad at because – oh goodie! – I get to SIT!!)

      Like

  9. I loved this post and it made me smile as I have a timer on my phone to remind me to stop and take 10 breaths every 3 hours. Everytime it goes off I think, “there’s that bloody breath timer again” and I ignore it and carry on holding my breath and being busy. Not at the zen, mindfulness stage yet obviously.
    I have read this story before but I loved the way you broke it down and I truly relate to the meanings you give the players in it. Really made sense.
    I am sure that the longer I am on this path the closer I will get to doing rather than just thinking its a good idea. I also realise I have just met some resistance in myself to doing these things even though I am sure they will help.
    Loving the insights Guru Hurrah!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are funny Ginger! I also have reminders that pop up on my phone telling me to meditate and do yoga. I just get irritated by the reminder itself and by the fact that I’m not going to do what the reminder says. xxx

      Like

  10. Thank you for sharing such a lovely story and a reminder to live in the present.

    I am having a love/hate relationship with technology right now. On one hand it makes me so miserable – the competitiveness of social media, the mundane/banal time wasting games that become so addictive, the incessant stream of bad news/scaremongering/fake news. On the other it allows me to connect with amazing people worldwide, blog out my feelings in a supportive and safe environment, quench my thirst for knowledge and hell… even set reminders to allow me to appreciate being alive!!

    I guess the key as ever is balance, following intuition and instincts and trying to appreciate all those little moments that pass so quickly. xx

    Liked by 1 person

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