The Bitter and the Sweet by Brenda Shoshanna – New York City

honey dripping from a spoon

We all want life to be sweet, are looking for that taste of honey. Some dip apples into honey during this season and enjoy them thoroughly. Others look for relationships and friends that will not disturb them.

These individuals want to be with people who have the same views, are low maintenance. They avoid being with others who are too different or threatening, shut the gates of their lives to them, label them and thrust them away.

The goal here is comfort and being with undisturbed. These individuals seek out activities, places and life styles that affirm who they are, that will keep the honey coming in the form of approval and esteem.

While this is natural, while everyone wants peace of mind, it is not to be attained in this manner. This kind of honey must turn bitter.

By demanding that life and others be a certain way, we insulate ourselves from the vastness of experience. We refuse to taste the challenge, loss, and unwanted views and lives of others. But our refusal can only go on for so long. Life itself is a panoply of experiences that demand to be known.

The more we hide away from what is around us, the more it approaches and insists that we taste it too. Sooner or later we have no choice. What we push away enters our lives full force, sooner or later.

So, where is the honey that cannot turn bitter? Is it even possible to find sweetness and peace of mind amidst the variety of life as it is. My original teacher, Soen Roshi, had a very simple and powerful teaching.

“Do not avoid bitterness,” he said. When it comes, taste it deeply. He was guiding us not to avoid anything, to be open to life as it presents itself to us. And, when we follow this simple direction, a strange thing happens. What was bitter at first, turns sweet. By not refusing any taste, all of life becomes digestable. Then we are able to taste a sweetness that transcends this or that experience, the goodness of being alive itself.

Each week on my podcast, I take a new look at daily issues and problems. When looked at from the Zen point of view, these problems turn into koans. Not only do we then find unexpected solutions, but become able to thoroughly enjoy our lives. And our problems Come, listen in and join our community. If you care to register you can on There is also a community page for you to join in with comments, suggestions and questions.

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