A Taste for Life (or Stop and Smell the Flowers)
Guest Post by Tim Torres, Prayer Chaplain and Board of Trustees Treasurer at Unity of SA
A friend tells me that I think too much. We can all use more friends like that. She’s not wrong. When I’m uninhibitedly being me, I’m simply enjoying the moment. I’ve said it before in different ways because it is the secret to happiness. Taste what is. Love what is.
An old Buddhist story: A woman is running from tigers, and tiring. She comes to the edge of a cliff, and, seeing a vine there, goes over the cliff holding onto the vine. Then she looks down and sees there are also tigers below. Glancing back up, she sees a mouse gnawing on her vine. And growing beside her, she sees a beautiful bunch of strawberries. She looks at the tigers above and below her and then looks at the mouse. Then she picks a strawberry and pops it in her mouth. Delicious!
Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron says, “Each moment is just what it is. Resentment, bitterness, and holding a grudge prevent us from seeing and hearing and tasting and delighting. This might be the only moment of our life, this might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could feel depressed about this or we could finally appreciate it. We could delight in the preciousness of every single moment.” From Comfortable with Uncertainty, Chapter 56.
These Gospel stories are about thinking too much: Do Not Worry (Matthew 6:25-34), Feeding the 5,000 (Matthew 14:13-21), and Jesus Walks on the Water (Matthew 14:22-33). Stopping to smell the flowers (or taste the strawberries) isn’t just about making time for the enjoyment of life. It’s about understanding that we can’t have it both ways. We can’t simultaneously have worry, fear, hate, and a sense of lack on the one hand and enjoyment of life in the other hand. When we analyze, judge, evaluate – really when we even put limiting labels on our experience – we destroy our heaven.
This passage is from the Chuang Tzu (one of the three classic books of Taoism [pronounced ‘dow-ism’], named for its author):
In the old days, their knowing reached back to before the time when there were distinctions between things. Later on came people who started making distinctions between things but did not give them names. Then they began to give them names, but did not yet distinguish between right and wrong. Then when right and wrong appeared, Tao was lost. (Chuang Tzu, Chapter 2)
Can you see parallels to this passage of The Chuang Tzu in the Book of Genesis, Chapters 1 and 2? All things were created but not named, and God saw that they were good. Then Adam named them. Then Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, hid from God, and were forced out of Eden.
If everyone just stopped to smell the flowers (or taste the strawberries), there would be no worry, fear, hate, or sense of lack in the world.
To say “Life is good” or “Life is beautiful” is to say nothing about the world and everything about the mind seeing it that way. When we love what is, we can only see it as beautiful. Faith isn’t just about believing; it’s also about seeing. See it with me and we’ll all have one foot in Heaven.