A monk asked Chao Chou, ‘Does a tiger have Buddha nature, or not?’ Chao Chou replied, ‘She does.’ Then why did she jump into that fur bag?’ Chou said, ‘Even though she knew better, she had to break the rules.’

~ Entangling Vines, Case 46

In many ways, we lead lives of avoidance and distraction. For obvious reasons, we spend a lot of time and effort trying to bypass discomfort, boredom and vulnerability. But by not allowing ourselves to jump into the parade of life that is constantly streaming around us, we can miss a certain richness that is always present.

I have a friend who was recently diagnosed with a not-so-serious form of skin cancer and went into the doctor for treatment. Arriving in the doctor’s office early in the morning, she expected to be out quickly. She went into the treatment room, and the doctor then called her back after some minutes because the margins were not yet clear. Then she returned to the treatment room a third and fourth time. By then, she said, ‘There were cracks forming in my façade, and I was not able to keep it all together…I couldn’t keep myself safe. I did not know how much of my face I would lose, how far it would go, or how I would look afterward.’ With tears streaming down her face, she realized that she had to fall into the life she was living that very moment. She jumped into that fur bag.

My friend’s inability to control outcomes paradoxically gave her a sense of relief. ‘I began to let my life have me in a way that was almost sensuous in its voluptuousness,’ she recalled. After the sixth attempt, she was crying and the nurse offered her some Ambian, which she turned down. She told the nurse, ‘I just don’t want to miss it.’ Then she went in for a seventh, and finally clear removal of the cancer cells as the office was closing.

In telling this story of her own experience at a recent retreat, Allison Atwill (aka Tyger) finished up: By jumping into that fur bag ‘you won’t be the person you were, you won’t have the life you had, you won’t know what life will come. But no matter what circumstances arise in your life… You will be ok. You will be the tiger that you are. And to have that, with each other, is such a sweet thing.’