Between the Tiger and the Dragon


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.


Table Questions

What is your tiger and your dragon?

What does standing by one’s┬ácore 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.

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About Carol

Thank you in advance for respecting my art. All the images and text posted to this blog are owned my me and protected by copyright law. Copying any of the content here without permission is against the law and you know, not cool. Many thanks again.
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6 Responses to Between the Tiger and the Dragon

  1. Karen Olson says:

    Carol, you caught me in a very interesting place this morning as I opened the email with your blog post in it. It did not take more than a minute to relate to the tiger and the dragon.
    There are many days as of late where I feel caught between, looking for that drop of honey. The tiger is my extroverted, bright, pleasant self – healthy and productive. The dragon is my introverted, sullen, self – in pain and wandering aimlessly. Somewhere in between is a balanced life, comfortable with aloneness, and also happy with what I have to offer the people around me. I have always felt my value was measured in what I could do for others. Now, with illness limiting my everyday activities, I have to find other ways to contribute.
    Being happy with whatever that is, the new life I am seeking. But it is not as simple as it sounds and there are days like today, where I find myself like that man in the story, having no sense of where he has been or where he is going.

  2. Jana Vargas says:

    What a lovely reminder of one of my favorite Nepo stories and what a powerful example you give of your version of it. My tiger and dragon are change and movement, often caught between one place and another with many moves between states and many homes to buy and sell – change is truly my constant. One old, tired yet comfortable way ends up representing a place where growth for my partner has stalled and become a snarling, sullen tiger – The new, promising, inviting place is a dragon all its own with the fiery brilliance of the new and exotic, but where dangers and uncertainly will also reside. My honey is the inward journey, the soulful expression and exploration – the love that I carry and express continually, deeply, reverently. Love is that nectar that no matter how battered the exterior becomes, lights my interior and spills from me into the world I touch.

  3. You have surely been caught between the Tiger and Dragon and came through superbly. I don’t think I have had that many Tigers or Dragons thank goodness. Maybe I have but didn’t know it like you have. Hum not sure. These remind me of when I went to our park here and saw the old man and the dragons in the rocks.

  4. Susan says:

    I think everyone has a tiger, dragon and that single drop of honey! You certainly deserved that drop of honey in the mist of cancer and chemo…both which in my opinion are terrifying! My story is more about the grass always looking greener on the other side of the fence! My tiger is “should I stay” and the dragon is…should I go? With the insight that I receive from Mark Nepo’s teachings, I will reach for that drop of honey and see where life takes me! Great story, thanks for sharing!

  5. Carolyn says:

    A profound post . … has caused me to pause and reflect throughout the day. Have had a journey with depression for the last 10 years and I think my honey has been the constant love and support of my spouse and my faith. A difficult journey for sure, but have come out on the other side, thankfully.

  6. Oh, Carol, your posts are so wonderful. I too have heard the old Sufi story. You are so amazing in your journey and sharing it with us.
    I always look forward to your cookbook reviews. Just wish I could smell and taste everything you cook!!!

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