The Magnificent Strawberry

Buddha told a parable in a sutra:
A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, and the tiger chased after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above.
Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.
Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away at the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!

I love this story and wanted to share it with all of you on this day, the day before thanksgiving.  Sometimes we find ourselves living our daily lives, feeling like we are constantly being chased by tigers — the tigers in our head, that illusion of how things would be great if only this or that were different.

And yet, here is a man, hanging on a vine, with a tiger above and a tiger below, with mice gnawing at the vine, and he sees a magnificent strawberry.  It’s not so much that he ate it that grabbed me but that he noticed it.  He was alive, so alive in his presence, that he could see, appreciate, and digest that splendor.

So, on this day,  a day before Thanksgiving, try and look around and notice all the magnificent strawberries that are right in front of you.  And perhaps, notice how that vine you think you are hanging on for dear life, is only the fear you are allowing to branch out into your day.

–My chin is dripping red with gratitude


Expand your presence

“An old zen master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, he sent him for some salt. When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then to drink it.
“How does it taste?” the master asked.
“Bitter,” spit the apprentice.
The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake.
The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”
As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”
“Much fresher,” remarked the apprentice. ”Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.
“No,” said the young man.
At this, the master sat beside the young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering,
“The pain of life is pure salt, no more, no less.
The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same.
But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in.
So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things…Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

I read this a few weeks ago and it stayed with me and so I thought I would share it with you.  For me, this is the reason I practice yoga.  Yoga expands my presence, it’s the way inside so that I can stay awake.  Otherwise, I am the apprentice, only drinking from my salty cup, thinking the world a bitter place.  

I will always recommend yoga (remember the physical practice is just one of the eight limbs of yoga so there is a lot of yoga out there to study) but if yoga doesn’t call out to you, then find something…a cooking class, dance lessons, learning a new language, saying yes to something that you’re afraid of…anything that can keep you anchored to the present moment and expand it.  I find that the more conscious I am, the more the world isn’t defined by the past or the future, the more I can be the lake.

Happy swimming


“Inside the River” Query Letter

Thank you readers (and Ang Lee, even though he doesn’t know it yet) from 52 different countries for sharing this journey with me.

I’m seeking representation for my novel, “Inside the River.”  I believe this story will appeal to you because it explores the raw emotions of suffering and forgiveness.  There is also a magical book, a white haired tambourine playing gypsy, and the fish who forgot their pact of silence and sang.  “Inside the River,” bridges Magical Realism with Contemporary Women’s Fiction, and totals 94,000 words.

No life comes without some struggles — the toughest trick in life though is how to heal ourselves and love.  “Inside the River” follows the poignant stories of two women, separated by centuries, but connected by their shared history of having suffered as girls and then struggling to learn how to heal themselves and love years later in their lives.

In an ancient time when magic was still real Ana, a blue haired girl, hears fish singing, and jumps inside the river beside her small village to get away from her suffering.  In modern day New York City, Emma mysteriously hears the same song and responds, also to get away from her own suffering.  But are these two stories intertwined beyond a song from inside the river?

After crossing the river, Ana becomes a fortune teller and meets Eloisa, a red haired gypsy, who has been searching for the blue haired who made the fish forget their pact of silence.  Emma, on her way to a Starbucks in New York City, meets Antonio, an old man who tells Emma how the tinges of blue in her hair remind him of Ana, whose story was passed down through his family for centuries.  Indeed, Ana and Emma’s stories are eventually revealed to not only parallel, but also mysteriously interact and, in the unfolding of their lives, the reader learns how both women are able to heal and break the cycle of suffering.

“Inside the River” will appeal to book clubs — it is “The Shadow of the Wind,” meets anything by Paulo Coelho.  This is my debut novel.  I hold a BA in English Lit and a Masters in English and Writing Education.  The manuscript is complete and available at your request.

Thank you for your consideration.  I look forward to the possibility of working together.


Mindy Levine