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Finding Joy in the Midst of Pain.

I am a big fan of storytelling–today I am sharing one of my favorites. The Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron tells the story of a woman running away from tigers. As she runs, the tigers keep gaining on her. When she comes to the edge of a cliff she sees some vines, so she climbs down and holds onto one of the vines for dear life. Looking down, she sees tigers below. Looking to the side, she sees a mouse gnawing at the vine to which she’s clinging. She also sees a beautiful bunch of strawberries, growing out of the mountain just within her reach. She looks up. She looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she takes a strawberry. She puts it in her mouth and enjoys it thoroughly.

Tigers above. Tigers below. Mice gnawing at our support system. How often have you felt like that? The truth is, this is the predicament we all face when we take the time to look deeply. Each moment could be our last. We could become depressed or lackadaisical when we ponder this fact. Or, we could choose to eat the strawberries within reach and delight in the joy of every single moment that we have.

For me, this story is the crux for living happier. Because you know what? Life IS full of challenges, pain, sorrow, and exhaustion. We are fighting off tigers and staring down mice all the time! But at the same time, life is full of little joys–watching the tricker treaters all dressed up, having a spectacular fall season this year, enjoying a glass of wine with a friend, laughing with my mom on the phone, watching a good movie–I could go on and on. In reality, I believe there is as much joy in the world as there is pain–sometimes it is just easier to see the pain. A few years ago, my dad was in the hospital; it was a very scary, stressful time, fortunately, he came out just fine. The experience was full of pain, fear, anger, worry and exhaustion AND it was full of laughter, joy, sharing and love. It was one of the most traumatizing events in my family’s history, and there were tigers and mice AND berries.

It takes a lot of focus and awareness to say to yourself “here I hang facing an imminent painful death and rather than fret and stew and panic I am going to reach over and enjoy my last few moments by tasting and enjoying these wonderful berries”. That is the trick, my friend, in the midst of your hectic day, your fear and rage and exhaustion–look around you for the berries and just thoroughly enjoy them!!!

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