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Living on the Edge

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Several years ago I met a woman who was hooked on skydiving. Although she didn't have a lot of money, she jumped whenever she could.

Since I don't even much like to climb ladders, this passion amazed me. When she described the sensation of falling through the sky, I experienced a strong feeling of vertigo.

I've known other people who enjoy high-risk adventures. Some choose dangerous professions, such as firefighting, police work, and racing cars. Some thrive in work environments that, while not dangerous to themselves, have high drama: operating rooms, criminal court, or the stock exchange.

"Accidental" Adventures

While some people deliberately create drama in their lives, others seem to stumble into highly charged situations. This would look accidental if they didn't do it over and over again.

I have had friends and clients whose lives seemed to be an unending series of crisis. They would go right up to the wire in a house foreclosure process and miraculously avoid it. They would come close to divorce until the tearful reconciliation. Every new job or business negotiation in which they were involved was either going to be the best thing that ever happened or the absolute worst.

When they described their perils, I noticed a certain kind of glitter in their eyes and an excited tone in their voices. Their words were, "This is terrible," but their sub message was, "This is exciting." These people weren't consciously saying, "Well, I'll see if I can create some danger in my life today," but on a vibrational level, they attracted what came to them and relished the drama of their experiences.

I say "they," but I might as accurately say "we," for I, too, have been an accidental adventurer. Something was always happening to me. When I was with friends, I usually had a story to tell.

In the early 1980s, I had a close encounter with the possibility of death. I noticed that once the crisis had passed, life seemed very precious. This experience occurred in February, and I even managed to appreciate the piles of snow in the city streets.

Around this time I remembered a famous Zen proverb.

The Tiger and the Strawberries

One day while walking through the wilderness, a man stumbled upon a 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. The strawberry was delicious.

When I first read this fable in the early 1970s, I decided its meaning was that when we realize how fleeting life is, we appreciate its pleasures more fully. My post-surgical musings gave me a different slant on the story. Imagine it told this way:

Further Thoughts on Strawberries

Around the time I reached this conclusion, I came across the fable again and saw more in it. I imagined a man, maybe a farmer or a merchant, who had been thinking for a while about how dull his life had become. What had become of the exuberance of his youth? Why did he wake up each morning in dismal anticipation of nothing new?

Needing a break, he decided to take a walk in the wilderness, hoping that nature's untamed quality would somehow enliven him. Did he consciously hope to run across a tiger, the ultimate symbol of untamed nature? He surely knew they lived in the forest.

His blood quickened at the thought of danger, and his thoughts turned into vivid reality. His life no longer seemed dull, now that he hung on the verge of losing it. In this state of heightened senses, the taste of a strawberry was more thrilling than any experience he'd known.

I understood the craving for that kind of sensation, but I was becoming aware that it wasn't necessarily good for my mental and physical health. I became interested in relaxation methods, which led me to explore spiritually.

I realized that my life seemed out of control because I'd been living a lot of it on automatic. For every time I consulted my intuition in making a choice, I made about ten others out of habit, and habit seemed to take me to the edge.

As I became more deliberate about the thoughts I cultivated in my mental garden, I gradually began to assume more control of my life. This reassured me that I was doing the right thing.

However, as disasters and thrills seemed to leave my life, I realized that I missed the exciting seesaw pattern of my old life. How, I wondered, could I experience the deliciousness of the strawberries without being under the threat of never getting to eat one again?

The Crystal Solution

Discovering the beauty of crystals gave me a new perspective. Not only the dazzling colors and lights of crystals captivated me, but the uniqueness of each stone I saw.

Once I began to sell crystals, thus getting the opportunity to see and choose a lot more, I realized that the thought of going to a wholesaler's warehouse filled me with excitement as I anticipated discovering new treasures. It was equally thrilling to open a box of crystals and find new treasures.

The thrill of discovering crystals however, was more than the immediate pleasure of a beautiful stone. Although I knew plenty of beautiful things existed above ground, I'd never thought much about what lay beneath. Now I began to realize that the world was probably full of treasures that I'd ignored.

This new awareness led to a shift in my consciousness. I saw that I had been looking to the outside world to provide my excitement. Now I recognized that my focus and attention could make a so-called ordinary thing exciting.

I began to see the beauty in a fallen leaf or a glowing sunset. This new appreciation inspired me to study painting. As I learned to train my eyes, more beauty filled them.

There are still moments--and some of them seem very long--when life is full of turmoil and the mice seem to be chewing on the vine. Then I reach out for everything I can appreciate. Those acts of appreciation signal to the universe that I'm open to receiving the countless gifts life has to offer, and they come to me. The turmoil eases, the mice go away, and the strawberries are delicious.

Learning to Taste

Look for things to appreciate: the silkiness of your cat's fur, the fragrance of a delicious meal, or a moment of peace. You can also train yourself in appreciation by stopping once every hour and deliberately searching for something about your environment or life to appreciate. Some people like to make lists every day of ten things they appreciated in its course.

By being more and more open to the positive events of life, we draw more of them to ourselves. Then our lives are neither humdrum nor boring or spent teetering on the edge of disaster. Stress reduces; joy increases. We don't have to climb out on a limb to taste the strawberries.

Crystals

If you spend enough time with any crystal, you will begin to appreciate the magic of life. If you want to practice this kind of appreciation, choose something showy: a quartz crystal, malachite, tiger's eye, chrysocolla, or a sparkling Herkimer diamond.

Flower Essences

Although I haven't often seen this suggestion made in the many books about flower essences I've read, I find that it's very helpful to have a picture of the essences you're taking. The Internet makes it easy to find images.

If you're feeling deeply discouraged, the image of golden Gorse can amplify the energy of the essence. The soft colors of the Impatiens flower can smooth the edges of impatience. Cheerful Mimulus, another bright yellow flower, can help to take the darkness out of fear.

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.
The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
speaks to me.
The strength of the fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
they speak to me.
And my heart soars.
--Chief Dan George


Beyond the Rainbow
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