I found these stories, despite its brevity, to have profound meaning…
A Japanese warrior was captured by his enemies and thrown into prison. That night he was unable to sleep because he feared that the next day he would be interrogated, tortured, and executed. Then the words of his Zen master came to him, “Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now.” Heeding these words, the warrior became peaceful and fell asleep.
One day while walking through the wilderness a man stumbled upon a vicious tiger. He ran but soon came to the edge of a high cliff. Desperate to save himself, he climbed down a vine and dangled over the fatal precipice. As he hung there, two mice appeared from a hole in the cliff and began gnawing on the vine. Suddenly, he noticed on the vine a plump wild strawberry. He plucked it and popped it in his mouth. It was incredibly delicious!
The tiger is the past. The fears, stressors and lack of focus in our lives that interfere with our desire to achieve peace.
The vine represents the reality that we live in every day. We are forced by our fear out of the peace of our field into grasping to the vine that is reality.
The two mice are day and time which slowly kill us. They are also the thoughts of good and evil and the deeper nature of man that we try to ignore but constantly gnaw at our consciousness and effect our grip on reality.
The cliff is the future.
The strawberry is the present. It is also the true nature of the smaller things in life. The true value of these things is not truly appreciated until we are forced in some ways to confront.
Forget the past, not worry the future, and concentrate in the present moment. Only by that way can we live happily. The kid movie Kungfu Panda also had a similar message of living in the present- saying
“Yesterday is history,
tomorrow is a mystery,
and today is a gift…
that’s why they call it present” – Master Oogway
More on this in Carrying The Burden? Three Stories…
To stop measuring days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence is a concept rooted in the Eastern notions of mindfulness — the ability to go through life with crystalline awareness and fully inhabit our experience — largely popularized in the West by British philosopher and writer Alan Watts (January 6, 1915–November 16, 1973). In the altogether excellent 1951 volume The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety (public library), Watts argues that the root of our human frustration and daily anxiety is our tendency to live for the future, which is an abstraction.
“If to enjoy even an enjoyable present we must have the assurance of a happy future, we are “crying for the moon.” We have no such assurance. The best predictions are still matters of probability rather than certainty, and to the best of our knowledge every one of us is going to suffer and die. If, then, we cannot live happily without an assured future, we are certainly not adapted to living in a finite world where, despite the best plans, accidents will happen, and where death comes at the end.”