There is an old saying that a pessimist complains because roses have thorns, while an optimist rejoices because thorns have roses.
We realists tend to fall somewhere in between. We can see the necessity of the thorns to protect the delicate blossoms from marauding insects – and humans – yet also see the necessity of the roses to dress up an otherwise somewhat undesirable form of plant life.
But loving either perspective does not always come naturally. In other words, we simply cannot seem to cure ourselves of wanting thornless roses.
In her book “A Return to Love,” Marianne Williamson shares one of the rarer traits of hungry peacocks – sometimes they are willing to eat thorns when food is especially scarce. It is purported that ingesting the thorns is in some way responsible for producing the beautiful plumage male peacocks are known for.
Whether that is scientifically true or not is open for debate, but the metaphor is a powerful one. If we want the beauty, we must learn to see everything that goes into creating our experience of beauty as beautiful – each step, each moment, each learning curve we encounter along the way.
This is not an easy attitude to adopt. Thorns hurt. They cut, and scar. We bleed. Sometimes we cry.
And then we heal. It happens this way time and again, time and again. We hurt. We bleed. We cry. Then we heal.
Yet each time it happens, we must once again do battle with our tendency to argue with the thorns, with their pain, their power, the necessity of their presence in our lives.
What would life look like – how would our experience of our own life be different – if we could learn to love the thorns?
This is where a mentor’s presence can be so helpful. All of the great teachers I admire and look up to – Marianne Williamson, Byron Katie, Pema Chodron, Mother Teresa, my own mentor, and many more – have had what might appear to be more than their fair share of thorns along the way.
And look at them now. Listen to their words when they describe the blessing of the thorns, and how necessary it was to not just endure but literally embrace the dark, tough times in their lives in order to get to the centered place from which they live life today.
I want to stand in that centered place with them. I am working on loving the thorns – the loneliness, the pain, the uncertainty, the regret, the second-guessing, the unknowingness – working on seeing these aspects of life as bearing their own brand of beauty, maybe slightly better concealed, but beautiful just the same.
Today’s Takeaway: Who are the great teachers you admire? What inspires you about their life story? Where do you take hope for your own life from studying theirs? In what way would your own life be different if you could shift your perspective from resisting to loving the thornier parts of each day?
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Last reviewed: 4 Jun 2011