1. Truth: There’s lots to worry about, if we choose to worry. 80 million people’s personal information was recently compromised during a hack of health provider Anthem’s system, putting people at risk for identity theft, with the potential for loss of privacy, security, and money. Just about everything we eat or touch has been reportedly linked to cancer. Ebola and terrorism are real. Everyone we love will eventually get sick and die. If we want to worry, we don’t have to look for reasons. Being alive is risky, and we are vulnerable. There is no moment in our life that isn’t ripe with the potential for something bad to happen, for something to go horribly wrong. We aren’t in control, and we are never really safe. This is the human experience. “To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest,” (Pema Chödrön).
2. Truth: We don’t have to freak out when difficult situations occur. When the shit hits the fan, when strong feelings arise, we can make a choice about how to react. We don’t have to crumble in the face of adversity. We don’t need to resist every opportunity that involves obstacles. We don’t need to become trapped by our fear, imprisoned by our struggles. We can work to prepare for the worst, but it doesn’t mean we must live in dread, or panic when the worst does come. When we know a snow storm is on its way, we can get milk and bread, make sure we are dressed warmly and have a snow shovel, help who we can help, and then relax while we wait, meet whatever comes with wisdom and equanimity. Do what you can and then let go.
3. Truth: Life is beautiful and brutal, tender and terrible — keep your heart open. There’s a story Pema Chödrön shares in her book The Wisdom of No Escape: How to Love Yourself and Your World that explains this dilemma so well. She says,
There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. 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.
One Wish: (okay, it’s more than one). May we meet difficulty with wisdom and equanimity. May we help when and where we can. May we taste the strawberry, savor it. May we “appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.”