Finding My Focus

The last few years have been challenging in so many ways. The decline of Dennis’ mental health and his death last fall; my own health issues which were exacerbated by the stress of caring for Dennis. Financial crash-and-burns, self-induced and otherwise. There’s been a deeply embedded sense of being overwhelmed, of just hanging on by my fingernails.

I claimed the old Zen story as my own — the man is being chased by a hungry tiger, and falls off the edge of a cliff, catching himself on a branch. He is dangling hundreds of feet above a raging river, the tiger swiping at him from above. The branch he clings to is fragile and will  break any moment. The man sees a berry growing just within reach. He plucks it, eats, and says “how delicious!”

I lived in the moment the best I could, but the past and the future gripped me, holding me immobilized. All I had was the berry, moment to moment. How delicious, indeed. Yet, how exhausting and frightening too. The man felt all that one would feel —  the terror, the pain, the pounding heart and straining muscles. His choice — to focus on the one piece of beauty and delight in his world — is so admirable; so perfect, and yet, so futile. Any second the tiger will pounce, or the branch will break, and he’ll perish. Will the taste of the berry linger past that doom? I always have chosen to believe that it would indeed remain, a burst of beauty and life carrying one into the next future, the next path. Kind of a divine pat on the back for not giving up the quest for joy.

Now, I am in a place of getting to choose. I’m choosing joy, and freedom from old patterns and fears. I’m choosing a third future, without the tiger or the river. Living from crisis to crisis is just too tiring, too draining, and no longer serves me.

As I transition to choosing from love, choosing for joy and for the deep pleasures of order and peace, I have a great deal to let go of. I wrote this short mantra, or prayer, to help me keep this new focus. To help me stay out of the tiger’s path of the past, and away from the terror of the coming torrent:

I honor the past – and release it
I honor the future – and embrace it
I honor the now – and experience it

And So It Is.


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