What do you think about when the end of November rolls around? Do you think of food, football, a couple days off from work, preparing to shop ‘till you drop?
Do you give any thought to what it means to actually be, you know, thankful? Not just when it comes to your pre-meal ‘round the table recounting of what rolled your socks up and down this year. And, if you do (good for you by the way), do you give thought to the abundance in your life on any other days of the year, or just before you dive into your turkey and stuffing?
What do you suppose it means to cultivate a grateful spirit?
Personally, I’m not a “holiday” type. I believe every day of life is a blessed event and ripe with reasons to be filled to overflowing with appreciation, peace and love. I don’t need a calendar to tell me when to give thanks, to foster peacefulness or to show the people I surround myself with that I love them.
A lot of you probably clicked off this site when you read that statement, which is of course your right. I’m not a traditional viewpoint, status quo maintaining type either. Then again, the title and tagline of this blog should have been an indicator of that ; )
For those who stayed, I submit to you a story I heard the other night for the first time, and it got my little blonde brain thinking. It is a Zen sutra, and it goes something like this:
“A Zen Master, who is out walking one day, is confronted by a ferocious, tiger. He slowly backs away from the animal, only to find that he is trapped at the edge of a high cliff; the tiger snarls with hunger, and pursues the Master. His only hope of escape is to suspend himself over the abyss by holding onto a vine that grows at its edge. Trembling, the man looks down to to see that, far below, another tiger is circling, waiting to eat him. As the Master dangles from the cliff, two mice – one white and one black – begin to gnaw on the vine he is clutching. If he climbs back up, the tiger at the edge of the cliff will surely devour him, if he stays then there is the certain death of a long fall to the waiting tiger below. The slender vine begins to give way, and death is imminent. Just then, the precariously suspended Zen Master notices a lovely ripe wild strawberry growing along the cliff’s edge. He plucks the succulent berry and pops it into his mouth.
He never before realized how sweet a strawberry could taste”.
You can delve as deep as you’d like into the metaphors of this story, and many far more wise than I, already have.
Is the tiger at the top that chased the Master to the cliff the Past? The cliff itself the Journey of Life? The circling tiger below the eventuality of Death? And are the white and black mice gnawing at the vine the relentless passing of Time? Is the strawberry the Present Moment?
I don’t know, for I am no Zen Master; I am but a mere loud-mouthed, feisty blonde, compelled to share with you lessons learned along the journey of my own path.
I’m a simple girl. Here’s what I come away with…life is full of tigers and life is full of strawberries. The one you choose to focus on is up to you. You can feed the tigers or you can let the strawberries feed you.
I’ve been chased by my share of tigers. I’m sure you have too. Even though those times may vex you and test your mettle, don’t you always feel like you come to the other side of them a stronger, more refined and empowered version of yourself?
It has been the most trying moments of my life that have molded me into the woman I am today. The woman who finally believes what she has to say is worth putting out into the world. Whether or not anyone else does. Whether or not another living soul ever reads a single word I write.
That realization is my strawberry. But I never would have had the courage to pluck it if it weren’t for the hungry tigers.
Though it’s not the point of the parable, I would like to put out there for your consideration, since we’re talking about gratitude here, that both the tigers and the strawberries are worth giving thanks for.
Each and every day is chock full of things to be grateful for. Each and every moment is.
They need not be big things…some of the most precious things in life are small. So tiny that, unless you are paying attention, they may slip by you un-noticed.
We need only be open to them, and magical things are all around us. Things worthy of our humble gratitude. But you’ve got to do more than look. You must be willing to see them. There are probably more strawberries around you than you’ve realized.
Don’t believe me? Just stop for a moment, take a breath and be still.
Be present. See them?
And hey, if for whatever reason, all you choose to see are tigers right now? Remember…they are gifts too. They will give up their power to you, if you only turn and face them.
Be grateful. For all of it. Appreciate each day. Imagine how fantastic every day…not just the 4th Thursday in November…would feel if you decided to be grateful for whatever life brought you.
You can be pissy about the tigers chasing you, or you can set your jaw, know you can face them with courage & dignity and get psyched that you’ll be coming out the other side a stronger person.
You can assert that you’re too busy to bother luxuriating in the succulence of strawberries; what difference will they make in the big picture after all?
Imma let you in on a little secret: there is no big picture. There is only this moment. So get to savoring it.
Right here, right now, you have the power to change the way you think; you can decide how you navigate this world.
Be deliberate about focusing on the blessings. Find them everywhere around you. If you can’t, then determine to be one who creates them.
Choose to maintain a spirit of gratitude…every single day…and you may soon realize like never before, how sweet life can be.