The meaning of living fully in the present moment, neither retreating to the past nor anticipating the future, is wonderfully illustrated by a Zen parable about a monk being pursued by a ferocious tiger.
The monk raced to the edge of a cliff, glanced back, and saw the growling tiger about to spring. The monk spotted a vine dangling over the edge of the cliff. He grabbed it and began shinnying down the side of the cliff out of the clutches of the tiger.
Whew! Narrow escape.
The monk then looked down and saw a quarry of jagged rocks five hundred feet below. He looked up and saw the tiger poised atop the cliff with bared claws. Just then, two mice began to nibble at the vine.
What to do?
The monk saw a strawberry within arm’s reach, growing out of the face of the cliff.
He plucked it, ate it, and exclaimed, “Yum! That’s the best strawberry I’ve ever tasted in my entire life.”
If he had been preoccupied with the rock below (the future) or the tiger above (the past), he would have missed the strawberry in the present moment.
Life is best when you do not focus on the tigers of the past or the jagged rocks of the future but only on the strawberry that comes in the here and now.
Adapted from Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel
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