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Racine, WI 53405

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Keeping Our Center ~ 133

There seems to be no shortage of challenges and difficulties in life. And only some of them have to do with the pandemic we’re dealing with. The question becomes how do we deal with them? How do we respond to obstacles, disappointments, frustrations, and crushed expectations?

Buddhist teacher and author, Jack Kornfield, in his book “A Path With Heart,” uses the story of the poison tree to describe three stages of spiritual maturity which guide how we deal with difficult situations.

The story goes like this... once upon a time there was a poison tree. Upon discovering the tree, some people immediately wanted to cut it down because they saw it as dangerous and a threat to everyone. Another group of people responded instead with compassion for the tree. They suggested putting a fence up around the tree to keep people safe while still allowing the tree to survive. And a third group of people looked at the poison tree and thought, “A poison tree, just what I need!” That group picked the fruit, analyzed its properties and used it as a great medicine to help heal the sick.

The first group of people represents our knee-jerk reaction to things we perceive as negative - get rid of it! Preferably as quickly as possibly! Or at the very least avoid it at all costs. I totally understand this. Just when life seems to be going along pretty well, inevitably something happens to destroy my nice, calm, sunshiny ride. It’s hard to embrace these things at the outset and much easier to whine, rage, ignore or shut out whatever it is. 

The second group of people represents those times when we are able to take a step back and open to all of life with compassion and a desire to understand. It does not allow judgment and fear to take hold. I practice this one a lot, which is not to say that I don’t need more practice! Deep breath... we are all one.

The third group represents the best in ourselves, our highest spiritual evolution, where we are able to see the situation in a way most people cannot, and find value even in the most difficult of times. Ugh. This one is really tough in the moment. It’s much easier looking back from time and distance to see the gifts something challenging has brought. 

It seems apparent to me that we don’t always live in only one of these stages. However, I share this with you because it offers an interesting way to reflect on ourselves and our lives. It’s especially interesting to apply it to these crazy times when we’d just like the virus to go away. Since that isn’t going to happen, can we get to a place where we look to see what it might be teaching us about life, about ourselves and our relationships, about priorities, about freedom and about the Divine? Let’s find out what gift and opportunity this “poison tree” has for us.

Love & Light!