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Tigers Above, Tigers Below

May 29, 2013

Book coverThere is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs, and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly.


Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.

From The Wisdom of No Escape and the Path of Loving-Kindness by Pema Chödrön, page 25


This post was posted in Pema Chödrön

5 Responses to Tigers Above, Tigers Below

  • Deborah says:

    So I would definitely see myself as the person who is allergic to strawberries in this scenario.
    I extrapolate from this story that we are supposed to be bobble headed no-nothings who delight in a sunset to balance out real life situations as terminal disease, loss of a job, loss of a home, loss of a loved one, rape, addiction.
    You advocate pretending that all is well when you admit that it isn't.
    You advocate ignoring basic truth that life IS AWFUL.
    So what's the point of bothering to live when life is no more than being mauled?

    Posted on May 29, 2013 at 11:37 am

  • Une says:

    So where are the strawberries? If they had left some strawberries for me I would not fight back, but I have begun to hurt tigers by ANY means I am capable of. Seeing a tiger hurt, I guess, became my strawberries after all this enduring of them biting me. Btw. all this happened to me because I am a foreigner in a country without empathy: Norway. Stay away from Norway.

    Posted on May 29, 2013 at 11:40 am

  • Kathleen says:

    I found this quote very soothing and helpful. It reminds me to focus on the space in between the pain in life and feel the essence of my loving heart with the intention to expand that space. I believe that change in the world can come from finding and engaging that space, cultivating its growth, sharing it. If nothing else, pulling back from my own anger and pain results in there being that much less of what I don't want to see in the world or in myself.

    Posted on May 29, 2013 at 6:04 pm

  • Chris says:

    Life can be difficult.

    Especially if we do not take the time to enjoy the small pleasures that might come our way amid the turmoil. It won't make unpleasantness disappear; we can always go back to focusing on the pain and suffering any time we want - if that's where we want to be.

    Neither will the unpleasantness make small joys go away - unless that's where we want to be.

    Posted on June 3, 2013 at 6:19 pm

  • Jason says:

    Pema Chodron has touched my life so much. I have practiced tonglen since 2006 and it has helped me grow as a more compassionate human being. I have also learned the importance of letting go when I tend to cling to my ego and I have found my joyful mind is more consistent with lessened episodes of excessive pride, aggression or anger. I only pray that the spiritual discipline that I have been inspired to attain can influence others. The journey is not meant to be easy, and I have learned how to tap into my courage and genuine nature.
    The shared comments of the blog help me realize each individual is unique, feelings of gratitude and sarcasm are equally valid, and this non-judgement frees me from drawing false conclusions. If someone is either happy or sad, I can practice tonglen and wish the best for that person by exchanging myself for others.
    The story of the tigers above and below tell you a story of the moment, and the outcome of the life of an individual can change in a heartbeat. One minute the tigers are above and below and the next moment I have awakened to realize that I was making much ado about nothing and not to get caught up in the moment, rather to enjoy life in that moment regardless of the unforeseen outcome.

    Posted on June 4, 2013 at 10:48 pm

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