(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is Steve’s control-addicted inner monkey. That’s Bert at left, taking a break.
While writing that last post about monkey mind (“Bert is nuts,” which Steve retitled from “Bert’s nuts” after his wife said it sounded like testicles) I was reminded of Steve’s favorite Zen story:
A monk is fleeing through the jungle from a tiger. He reaches a cliff, has no choice but to leap over the edge, and finds himself hanging in midair by a root. Above him the tiger froths and rages. Then he looks down and sees another tiger below him, jaws open, waiting for him to fall. At that moment he notices a wild strawberry plant growing out of the cliff. He picks a strawberry and pops it into his mouth. “How delicious!” he says.
End of story.
Stupid story, I always thought.
Who eats fruit on the verge of death?
Steve has tried explaining the symbolism. The first tiger, he says, represents the past, while the tiger under the cliff is the future. Because of monkey mind we’re almost always running away from one or towards the other. But this monk was unusually sane: able to realize that the only real thing was the present moment (the root he was dangling from). In that moment he was safe from both tigers. He saw this so clearly that he was able to pause in his running, forget past and future, and taste the strawberry.
Me, I’m not that sane.
The tigers occupy most of my attention.
There’s always something I have to do, or forgot to do, or am afraid I’ll forget to do, or won’t do well enough. Or screwed up ten or twenty years ago and still feel guilty over.
Always something to run from or run after.
Yesterday, in the middle of the day, right in the middle of running-after and running-from, I suddenly felt tired.
I was home in my bedroom
So I sat down on the edge of my bed.
It felt good to sit down, I noticed.
This surprised me, actually. I’d been so busy running (with my feet and in my mind) that I’d stopped feeling anything.
It felt nice to feel something…nice.
So I experimented.
I leaned sideways and lay down on the bed. I lay there on my side with my eyes open, watching a square of sunlight through the bedroom window.
The room was quiet. The sunlight was pretty.
I felt my heart and my breathing slow down.
I stayed there for five minutes. Then went back to work, feeling different. Stronger, somehow. More hopeful.
Remarkably so, in fact.
Steve wants to add something.
Most of us treat our bodies like their main purpose is to move our heads around from place to place. But our bodies are where feelings live, and our feelings are a direct line to what we’re needing. This has been called “the wisdom of the organism,” and when we listen to it we make different choices, often better ones. Often I’m able to help clients in my office feel better, physically and emotionally, just by suggesting they put their feet up on my hassock, or rest their head on the back of my sofa. We all need that sort of relief. We all deserve it.
Go pick a strawberry.
Check out “Listening to Your Body” on the Natural Health Perspective web site.