There is an old Sufi story that has a man leaving one life for another, and far enough into the desert that he has no sense of where he has been or where he is going.
At some point he begins to sense a wild tiger chasing him. He has nowhere to go. Frantically, he runs and runs and comes upon a well. As the tiger approaches, he has not choice but to jump into the dark well.
As he falls, he can see the tiger growling above him. As he continues to fall, he can suddenly see that a dragon is hissing and waiting for him at the bottom of the well.
Just then, he sees a branch growing out of a stone in the well. He grabs it. Amazingly, it holds his weight. As he strains to hold on, with the tiger above and the dragon below, a single ray of light falls on the one leaf on the one branch that holds his life.
And on that leaf, in the light, is a single drop of honey.
With the hissing of the dragon and the growling of the tiger in his ears, the man, leaving one life for another, summons all his strength, to lick the single drop of lighted honey.
The story ends there with the man, en route to a new life, savoring the single drop of honey while the tiger and the dragon wait.
I had read this story a few years back and then Mark Nepo reminded me of it as he read it at the workshop I attended a couple weeks ago. While on my cancer journey, I felt very much like that man, hanging on the branch. My tiger was the cancer and my dragon was the chemo. While going through treatment I felt like one or the other was going to do me in. But one day while in the treatment room with my iPad open, I received an email about a year long photoshop class. At first I told myself that with all the chemo there was no way I could take the class. But then I stopped, looked around the room and made the decision to sign up anyway, even if I would not be able to do all the assignments. That email was my branch, and the class was my honey. That class let to several others and I formed new friendships with people who continue to be an inspiration to me. What I’ve come to learn from this experience is that these lighted moments come and when they do, we need to grab on, to taste the honey of life in that moment. I do my best to carry the lighted moment with me.
What is your tiger and your dragon?
What does standing by one’s core in the face of danger and the press of life mean to you?
I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone who left a comment on the blog last week for The Conversation post. I am touched by your soulful comments. I continue to appreciate each and every one of you for visiting me here.
About the photos: Last week we decided to beat the heat and head over to Double Bluff on Whidby Island. It is a local spot. Lots of driftwoods washes ashore and the kids have fun making forts with all the debris. When the tide is out it is also a grand place for beach combing.