Befriending a tiger

Sitting on the cliffs at Portlock Point never fails to bring inspiration.  It’s difficult not to be inspired; you’re staring at an endless sea in one direction and town and Diamond Head in the other.  The swell was big and unruly today.  Feeling the ocean spray hit my skin cooled me off as I did yoga on the cliffs.  I felt like I was in a yoga DVD.

I sat on the cliffs and took some time to listen.  Not to the waves, but my mind.

Today I heard a buzzing chatter in the back of my head.  It’s a symphony of thoughts, feelings, anxiety,  fear, sadness, anger, anticipation and who knows what else, that has become unconscious background noise.  When I took a moment to notice, is when I finally heard silence.  What then?  Do I listen?  Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

So why don’t I listen?  Am I afraid of what I might find?  Sometimes I bubble over in joy (I like those days).  But in my experience, more often than not, it can be painful to peer inside.  What we hide are the things we don’t like to feel; the things we don’t like to believe we are capable of feeling.  Often loneliness, sadness, anger, fear, shame.  What some would refer to as their “dark side”.  We all have one.  But not listening does not make these things go away.  It’s like a tiger that lurks inside.  You can befriend it and accept your co-existence or you can pretend it doesn’t exist.  What is scarier is not knowing it exists at all.

The tiger feeds on lack of awareness. When you don’t take time to acknowledge what is going on, it will manifest itself in one way or another; usually unconsciously.    It may strike out when you least expect it; sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle.  Whether it injures others or only yourself, you are trapped in its cage, subject to its whims.  I’ve learned this the hard way and continue to do so, and will for the rest of my life.

It sounds so cliche, but I can’t help but think of the novel, ‘Life of Pi’.  I read it a few years ago and recently saw it on a flight from LA.  As I read the last chapter my heart fell as the real scenario of his 200+ days at sea was revealed. What? I was shocked and felt misled.   Pi wasn’t stranded on a boat with a tiger, he was the tiger.  The dreadful loss of his mother, the murder of the sailor and the eventual death of the cook … was the entire story an elaborate tale he made up?  A better question to ask is, did it matter?  Maybe not.

The truth of Pi’s story is not explicit, but how I’ve personally interpreted it is that he experienced the trauma of losing everything, just a teenager, and had murdered the cook for survival – and he had to come to terms with it.   The murder was completely justified and necessary to survive, but its hard to believe we have it in us to kill someone.  At least physically.  And the grief of loss; the kind that changes you forever. The enthralling story he told is his way of befriending his tiger.  And the line about, “what story do you want to believe?” rings true.  The truth of who we are, what we’ve experienced  and what we’ve done sometimes deserves a new story.  A fantastical, brave story of heroism.  Because befriending your tiger and accepting who you are is just that.

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