Today I read a tiny story from this tiny book I bought many years ago in Berkeley, the same tiny book I let my friend who will be visiting me tomorrow in Austin read while she was in the hospital in Oakland, birthing a tiny baby. The name of this tiny book? The Pocket Pema Chodron.
The tiny story I happened to flip to resonated so much that I feel compelled to share. It’s the story of a woman being chased by tigers. She runs away but reaches the edge of a cliff on a mountain. With nowhere to go, she glances down and finds a sturdy vine to climb down. But as she hangs onto this vine, she becomes aware that there are tigers below her. And what do you know? A hungry mouse is nibbling that vine. That’s when she sees a patch of wild strawberries. She looks up and sees the tigers up above, she looks down and sees the tigers below. She sees the mouse, still nibbling away at that vine. What does she do? She snatches a strawberry and savors each bite.
The title of the story is this: “Tigers above, tigers below.”
“This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of birth and death,” Pema Chodron writes near the end of the page.
“Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”
The next time I feel stressed, overwhelmed or worried that time is running out, I’d like to remember this story. You can be chased by beasts with sharp teeth from above and below, everything seeming like doom and gloom, yet at the same time still enjoy what is right in front of you: this life, this moment, what is.