Here’s a parable that I think speaks to the topic of happiness and the hypnosis of the culture.
One day a monk stopped by the house of a wealthy man and found the owner busily filling a large steel chest with gold and silver coins. Puzzled, the monk asked him what he was doing.
The man replied, “Sir, you have no cares. The faithful feed you, and if they do not, it doesn’t matter because you don’t care what happens to your body. But it is different with us householders. We must hoard some of our wealth so that we will not go hungry in time of need.”
The monk’s reply was to invite the rich man to visit him the next day in the hills outside of the city. When he arrived he found that the holy man had dug a pit in front of his hut and was busily filling it with small round stones. He had been working since dawn and had already amassed quite a pile.
“What are you doing, sir?” the man asked. “The mountain behind your hut is covered with these smooth, round stones. Why are you collecting them?”
“For time of need,” the monk replied. “It might happen that all these mountains are washed away, and so I am collecting these stones and hiding them in case I need them.”
“That’s crazy,” the wealthy man replied. “It is not possible for this mountain to be washed away.”
“And it is not possible that Life will fail to lay your food before you,” the monk replied, jumping out of the pit. “It is foolish to waste your precious time hoarding gold and silver. Your task in life is to know yourself at every level. Hoard your energy for accomplishing this noble purpose instead of frittering it away on petty cares and anxieties.”
I’ve had this little parable for years on a page of magazine print. I can’t even remember where I got it from. I’m surprised that I kept it because it didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time. Was the message that you shouldn’t be concerned about the future? That saving for a time of need was not important? How can you have happiness without abundance?
I found this filed away recently and I read it again, but now, I get it. Let me tell you what happened in 2009 that allowed me to understand this story.
In 2009 my wife and I had just purchased our house in the middle of the great recession. House prices were down and so was my business. Many people were losing their homes at the time.
Shortly after moving into my house, I became very afraid. Most of my life I’ve had no desire to buy a house because of the commitment. Now I had a big commitment in the form of a monthly mortgage. I started to worry that if business didn’t pick up I might lose my house just as quickly as I bought it.
The fear began to grow. My business phone was deathly silent. I started to have pictures in my mind of packing up our stuff and moving out.
One night, as I lay in bed unable to sleep, I looked back over my life. I realized that most of my life, I had been without any substantial amount of money or material goods. This made me feel even worse.
But then, something else occurred to me. I have never been homeless. I had never lacked for food. When I needed a car, I was able to get one. I was always able to buy clothes if I needed them. Yet, in spite of all this, I had always been worried about money.
That night, for the first time in my life, I knew I could always count on myself to get by, but more importantly, that Life would provide for me. If we lost the house, we would always have a place to stay. I realized that worrying about it was paralyzing me and keeping me from doing the things I needed to do to attract business. And this worry was stealing my happiness.
My key to happiness was to transform doubt and fear into faith and gratitude.
To break free from the hypnosis of the culture and fully understand that who I was is not defined by my house, my car, or my bank account, but instead, by who I declare myself to be and how well I am able to live up to that declaration.
I felt gratitude that for the fact that at least that night, I was sleeping in a house that I owned. That my two children were healthy and strong. That my wife was healthy and had a good job which she enjoyed. I felt happiness growing within me as I fell asleep.
I like nice stuff as much as the next guy. I don’t want to just get by, I want to thrive and I am. But I’ll tell you this, I’ m ever vigilant of the hypnosis of “more and bigger” and it’s ability to infect me. My goal is to explore what it means to be human and to be present to and grateful for the opportunity to live in this place at this time.
I’m not sure that I could write this if I was homeless, or suffering a tragic loss. I am not arrogant enough to assume that whatever blessings or good fortune I’ve had is soley the result of anything I’ve done.
In addition, I don’t know why I got so lucky as to own a home, have a healthy family and a job that I love. I’d like a mansion and Ferrari but I sure as hell don’t need one.
But if I am able to manifest that, it’s not going to happen by looking with envy at what the other guy has and feeling like a failure or less than. It’s going to be by declaring myself incredibly wealthy and blessed right now. These thoughts bring me happiness.
Shortly after that night, the phone start to ring again and my business picked up. I got some help from coaches and mentors, some who were very generous with their time. The economy seemed to be getting better. Or maybe the only thing that was getting better was me.
To listen to a podcast of this blog, go to www.tedmoreno.com/podcast
Photo by Skye Moorheadwww.skyemoorhead.com