A Zen story tells of a man who came home one evening and found a thief tossing his possessions into a sack. In Zen fashion, the homeowner decided to just sit outside the door and meditate. At some point the thief saw the man and dashed out of the house. In the commotion the homeowner opened his eyes and saw that the thief had dropped a bowl from his sack.
“Wait, you forgot something!” called the homeowner as he picked up the bowl and tried to catch the crook. But the thief was running fast and soon disappeared into the night.
The owner stopped and took a breath. He looked up into the sky and noticed the night was illuminated by a stunning full moon. “I wish I could give you the moon,” he whispered with a sigh.
This story makes no sense from a worldly point of view, since most people who discovered a thief would likely be outraged. From a higher vantage point, however, it makes perfect sense. The world as God created it is far more meaningful and valuable than any object we might possess. We already own everything worthwhile. The homeowner in the story sighed because he felt compassion and pity for the thief, who missed the magic of the moon because he was distracted by a few paltry possessions.
We all have possessions and we want to keep them. The question is, do you own your possessions or do they own you? If your possessions bring you joy, they are serving their purpose. If you worry about them, you have missed the moon. No one possesses the moon, yet everyone does. It is a gift for everyone to enjoy. If you are worried about your iPhone, car, or house, stop for a moment and look up. No one can take from you what God has given you. The appreciation of simplicity only increases with maturity.
At this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, best actress Oscar winner Natalie Portman was interviewed as she strolled down the red carpet en route to her win. “Do you enjoy all the glamour and attention?” a reporter asked Natalie. “Actually, my most delicious luxury is getting home, taking off my makeup, and lounging on my couch in sweats,” she replied.
While many of us dream of glamour and some of us actively pursue it, there is an internal reward that runs far deeper than attention or accolades. Your spirit is already bathed in a light brighter than spotlights. Jim Carrey noted, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
If riches and fame are not the answer, what is? A Course in Miracles tells us that the only gifts worth having are those that increase when you give them. These are the gifts of the spirit, all variations on the theme of love. When you give kindness, compassion, understanding, laughter, or forgiveness, you do not lose anything by giving. To the contrary, both giver and receive gain, and the blessing of the gift expands in your life and the lives of those you touch. You are bringing the eternal to earth and growing it in your experience.
When you give a finite gift such as money or an object, the giver has less and the recipient has more. The Course would say this is not a true gift, since in the process someone lost and someone won. The only true gifts are those in which everyone feels fulfilled.
When you give money or an object, the real question is, “What is the spirit in which the gift is given?” If you are giving with a sense of guilt or obligation or you hold the receiver indebted, no gift has changed hands because the spirit of the transaction is void. If, on the other hand, you give with love, generosity, and delight, and you are happy for the recipient, the gift is real and it enhances the lives of both parties.
In a culture hell-bent on doing, the experience of being is extremely refreshing, even healing. While many people can do, only a small number can be. Yet there is a part of each of us that knows how to be. Metaphorically, while a part of us is gathering stuff in our sack like the thief in the Zen story, another part recognizes the magic of tonight’s moon. Whether you experience the stuff in the sack or the moon depends on where you choose to place your attention.
At some point the thrill of seeking gives way to the deep satisfaction of finding. We value innocent pleasures more than contrived ones. Then we understand Leonardo DaVinci’s message: “The greatest sophistication is simplicity.”
Many of us have read books and gone to seminars to practice manifestation. After a while, you become more interested in de-manifestation. Many of us would gladly trade a sack of stuff for the moon. If so, just look up. It’s waiting for you to be full.
Copyright 2011 Alan Cohen. All rights reserved.