Strawberry Picking

By Lingzhi

Living in an urbanized modern city, I am surrounded by concrete buildings. Although Singapore has nice parks and gardens, I have never been one of those who will make an effort to visit the many beautiful parks around the country. On a recent trip to Australia, I had a chance to be closer to nature and visited a fruit picking farm.☺ Being an urban dweller, I was definitely excited as it was my first experience picking organically grown strawberries right out from the field!

While picking the strawberries to fill up the box I was given, I observed that the strawberries were different though they were being grown in the same bed of soil. There was a lot of variation in size, colour and condition of the fruit.  Also, the fruit that did not grow well went back into the soil to act as natural fertilizers. 

Of course, my natural tendency was to pick those that were big and red. As the box was being filled up, there were still empty spaces – I proceeded to pick some smaller and red strawberries to fill up the gaps. During this process, I thought to myself, is this process of selection and filling up gaps similar to how human beings live their lives? 

For instance, in the workplace, only the most suitable candidate will be hired for a position. Given the same conditions, people who can produce the best results would be considered more favourable than those who are average performers. This is like the big and red strawberries which I had chosen to be placed in the box. The people who are still needed hired to keep things in place are akin to the smaller but red strawberries which I needed to fill up the box. Those who are unable to perform up to expectations,  are like the strawberries that did not manage to grow well.

This experience has allowed me to reflect on how the universe does not reject any one of us, but instead accepts all of us, flaws and bad habits included. In life, we are quick to judge and differentiate, and choose to see and interact with what we like or favour while disregarding people, things or situations which are unpleasant or distressful to us. Our lack of equanimity also results in us being envious of those who are much better than us. 

Without good awareness of our ego and a lack of equanimity, we will, unknowingly plant negative karmic seeds. Our speech, thoughts and actions when interacting with different people will be different as we already have our own predetermined perception. Our actions will thus be judged as unfair or biased. For instance, I may be more impatient and unwilling to help while speaking to someone whom I am envious of, as I feel upset that he or she is performing better than me. Envy is a poisonous emotion that will cultivate a selfish and negative mindset and which is detrimental to myself in the long run. On the contrary, I should see how I can learn from those who are better than me and improve from there!

Everything happens for a reason. This strawberry picking experience took place over a few short hours but it has taught me the importance of learning how the universe is ever so willing to accept every one of us who are unique individuals. I definitely have a long way to go before I am able to treat everyone equally without any prejudgement. This process requires deep self awareness and humility but I am confident that as long as I persevere , it will definitely lead to me being a wiser and more accommodating person.

To conclude, I would like to share a quote from Venerable Master Shen-Kai:

“We are all interdependent. Therefore, we need to understand the principle of cause, condition and effect. Do not criticise others as right or wrong but accommodate them regardless. When we understand this, our presence will be welcomed and our endeavours will be unhindered.”