• Judy Mortellaro

Picking Blackberries

I last stayed at a lovely campground in California. It was situated on a blue-green lake surrounded by oaks and grasses. I was visited by deer, geese, lizards, wild turkey and was often delighted by the hawks flying overhead, skillfully, gracefully gliding on the winds. On my first morning walk, I came on a row of blackberries along the road. They were ripening and abundant. My fingers were red and sticky from the juices as I greedily picked and ate without restraint. The next morning I returned with a jar to gather enough for a large bowl of cereal. Luscious!

Twice, I went back for more. On the third visit, there were significantly less ripe berries near the road because so many campers had found their sweetness. I watched myself reaching further back and several times, was scratched by the brambles that, of course, I was not oblivious of. I began to wonder what the blackberries needed protection from. I couldn't help reaching for one more, scratch or not.

My mind wandered. I LOVE blackberries and was willing to feel some pain to pick them. Granted, it wasn't long lasting pain, but nonetheless, it was pain. I thought about the many times I thought I was in love. In most cases, there was pain. A painful parting, knifelike words and accusations, painful loss of dreams. Does it really have to be this way? For there to be Love, must there be pain? Is that the only way to truly know Love?

“If we are to have neither pleasure nor pain in life, are we not likely to become insensitive to the joy of life?” This doubt arises from a wrong assumption, that there is only pleasure and pain and nothing else. Always cutting things up into two classes – everything must be either this or that – is one of the fatal weaknesses of the intellect. Because of this dualistic trap, we find it difficult to understand that the rare person who is able to receive good fortune without getting excited, and bad fortune without getting depressed, lives in abiding joy.”  Eknath Easwaran

The duality that ego insists on engaging in is at the root of this vicious circle I have often found my self in. It is a source of fear. It is the cause of suffering. To know joy, to know Love transcendent of emotion, it is necessary to find harmony and balance that is the abiding joy. When we can be present with what is, noticing and allowing without "cutting things up into two classes" we can experience the prickling pain without the suffering and we can know the joy of the fruit of our labors.

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