Giving Thanks

by Jeff Martens

The Fox and the Tiger

Once there was a young, somewhat foolish man who had spent his life looking for the easy path.  The sum of his search was, ironically, much work and suffering as well as a constant wandering, externally from place to place and internally from belief to belief.  One day, becoming impatient with his own half-heartedness the young man strolled off into the forest and came to a small clearing where he saw something he had not expected.

There in the clearing he saw a small fox caught in a hunter’s trap.  Though it was evident from the rust on the metal jaws that the trap and its victim had been long forgotten, the fox appeared to be healthy.  This was a mystery that greatly intrigued the young man, and just as he began to move closer there was a sudden rustling in the brush.  The young man withdrew from the clearing in time to witness an enormous tiger stalk slowly toward the fox, baring its enormous feline teeth.  Thinking that the fox had come to the end of its time, the young man’s eyes looked on as the tiger loomed over the trapped animal.  But instead of devouring the fox, which remained incredibly calm, the young man noticed a rabbit falling from the big cat’s jaws with a soft thud.

The fox nosed the dead rabbit and then proceeded to eat its fill as the tiger turned and slowly walked back into the jungle.  The young man backed quickly away, and when it felt safe enough he ran as fast as he could until he was out of the forest.  “What an amazing sight!” the young man thought.  “This is the answer to all of my problems.  If God takes care of a fox in such a way, imagine what God will do for me.”

Without further consideration, the young man entered his small hut, sat in a dusty corner, and began to pray, determined not to move until God brought him whatever he needed.  Daylight soon turned into moon shadow.  Bouts of sleep overcame the young man but still he remained seated in his corner as the sun rose once again.  Hunger and thirst began its slow gnawing into the young man’s belly.  At the end of the second day the young man was experiencing his doubts, but his stubbornness caused him to continue sitting and praying until the middle of the third day when he began slipping in and out of consciousness from the lack of food and water.

As the third night approached the young man had a sudden clear moment.  The fog of the past three days had lifted and he could hear something coming towards him, a sound like pounding hoof beats building into a voice that vibrated with soundless thunder.  “This is it!” the young man thought.  “The message I’ve been waiting for.”  And then the voice spoke, impressing its meaning deep into the young man’s bones:

“You fool,” said the wise Voice of thunder, “Emulate the Tiger, not the Fox.”

In (Thanks) Giving We Receive

The spiritual aphorism “For it is in giving that we receive” is repeated so often, especially around the holidays, that this phrase seems almost a cliche’ instead of the profoundly wise statement that it truly is.  But why is this statement so true?  How is it related to Thankfulness?  Have you ever wondered why it is that when we truly and authentically give of ourselves, we also feel in a profound way that we are receiving what is given?

The truth is, we are always getting what we give in life.  Because there is no one else in here but you.

Realization and the Joy of Abundance

When we are thankful for something, it automatically implies a recognition that we already have experienced what we are thankful for.  Since we can only give of what we have, the more you give, the more you get.   When we give something to another, this action affirms to the universe that we have such an abundance of what is being sought that we can easily share what’s needed and allow the energy, feeling or material good to flow right through us.

Most of the time, however, we do not give from a place of abundance but from a state of wanting something in return motivated by personal gain, a sense of superiority, a desire for recognition or to ease some inner guilt.  Giving from these motivations is giving from a world of limitation, separation and fundamental poverty or lack.  The gifts from such an offering will be, at best, limited and transient, which may also describe our experience as the giver.  So if you are interested in truly giving and experiencing abundance, it is important to start recognizing the physics of abundance within ourselves.  First, realize that what we are seeking is not so much the car or the relationship or the money but the feelings the experience — that achieving these things might bring us.  Once we recognize that it is these feelings that we wish to live and know, we can then live these feelings by helping to create them right now in ourselves or in others.

The Pain of Lack: Heyam Duhkham Anagatam
The pain yet to come is completely avoidable…  Yoga Sutra 2.16

In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali points out that some of our greatest pain (duhkha or “bad space”) comes from repetition or identification with a habitual self based on ignorance (avidya) or the forgetting of our true Divine Nature.  Such pain requires that we continually re-identify with our imagined state of lack and suffering, which in turn creates more dhukha from this faulty perception of ourselves and the world.  But Patanjali states that this pain especially, which is based upon an illusory mental-form of a future, is completely avoidable if we are able to remember who we are, which is The SOURCE of all that is in this moment.  One small step in this direction is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in our lives – to recognize that which is in the present and see its perfection within our current situation.  This can be easy when things are going wonderfully, but a bit more of a challenge when things are going not so well.

One thing that we can all give is a good thought or focus, to see our friend or family member happy, healthy, abundant.  To see the highest in others.  As all gifts are returned to us, even if the other person does not believe these highest things of themselves and ‘returns’ the gift, you get to enjoy it yourself.  The same holds true with the negative thoughts towards another as well.  If you send negative thoughts towards an ‘enemy’ or see the worst in them and they refuse this characterization, well that is a gift returned to you as well.

The Tiger gives from a place of abundance and power.  Only the fool in us gives from a place of lack or negativity…

The Art of Gratitude, The Science of Giving

When experiencing lack or a state of disharmony, accepting yourself as you are in the present moment can foster a sense of gratitude.  To be Thankful strengthens the recognition of our abundant nature as creators and choosers, shifting the mind from its usual focus of lack or what’s missing from the present moment.  When we offer support in the form of nurturing or loving feelings toward another, when we help others to feel loved, graceful, strong or successful, we tap into a source that is beyond our limited idea of who we are and what our resources can be.  Once we have stopped identifying with our limitation, those same feelings we are willing to offer begin to flow through us to reach their intended goal.  It is in this flow that we make ourselves open channels, experiencing what we are so freely giving on a profound level that alters every fiber of our being.  If we started by giving what we thought that we were lacking, we will suddenly discover that our source and supply has become so rich, so abundant that we cannot help but share it with everyone we contact.  In giving what you thought you were lacking, you rise into your tiger-self.

The Tiger, The Master in You

One beautiful defining quality of becoming a master is that ability to give what was thought to be lacking within oneself.  This is a journey into the Universal Source of all things where you see yourself as the Creator and realize fully that, in this moment, nothing is lacking.  Such a state of connectivity also allows you to see yourself in your neighbor and offer freely and creatively whatever might be needed in the present moment.  By making yourself the channel through which the current of Divine Abundance flows, you experience what is given much deeper than the one who just receives the end result in the form of a feeling, event or material object.  Looking closer at this process we begin to discover the true meaning behind “As you give, so shall ye receive.”

To give so completely that we “lose” ourselves and become an experiential channel is not as unfamiliar as it may seem.  The laws of giving work the same way with our habits or negativity.  We may already experience this on a daily basis when we react and “give” so freely of our anger, fear or doubt to another person.  When the source of our “giving” is habit, we create the experience of suffering and limitation for ourselves and others.

On the other hand, few would argue that when we give from a place of Love or Divine Presence, the resulting experience is transcending, absolute and liberating.  Why is this?  Because the giver literally embodies not only the gift, the giver lives as the source of that gift in order to share it so completely with another.  So giving from a place of fear causes us to identify with and fully experience that fear.  Giving from our Tiger Self, our Divine Source, leads to the experience of our true identity beyond all limitation.  This second way of giving manifests the bliss known by Karma Yogis/Yoginis who practice liberating selfless action, literally becoming the Divine Source in all that they do.  Rather than identifying with the victim Fox trapped by habit and limitation, we begin to emulate the Tiger in all of its original and creative glory.

Eye of the Tiger

How do we get to be the Tiger-Master?  Practice giving what you think you are lacking to yourself or others.  For the moment you have made yourself that essence of untapped joy and boundless freedom, that is the moment you allow the heart and mind to dance as one in a field of liberation, no longer bound by the illusory mental forms of lack or unfulfilled desire.

Jeff Martens is a teacher, writer and co-owner of Inner Vision Yoga.  All suggestions are voluntary.  Consult a qualified teacher or your physician before you embark on any practice in which you are unfamiliar.