Once upon a time in a land far away; there lived an old man who was, in most people’s eyes, poorer than a church mouse. Yet in his own mind he was rich beyond his wildest dreams. True, he lived in nothing more than a wooden hut with no TV, computer or access to the internet to speak of. But he had his health; and a tremendous sense of gratitude for all the beauty that seemed to surround him on a daily basis.
The sound of birds singing in the morning, the wind blowing through the tress and the sun rising and setting each day more than made up for him not having fresh running water or electricity. For his was a heart full of thanks rather than one of lack. The way he saw things - he had far more than he needed and, as such, was thankful for the many blessings that easily came his way. Things it seemed most people were not even aware of. The changing of the seasons; the sound of children’s laughter or; the companionship of a good friend or book!
People around him found him strange for not wanting to live in a house with six bedrooms, a huge kitchen and at least 3 bathrooms. But as he felt he could only sleep in one – he saw no logical reason to bother building more than he would ever use. Just as he felt no inclination to drive around in a new car or wear gold ornaments. From what he’d astutely observed over the years, desires like that tended to fill people’s minds with an acute sense of lack.
Unlike those around him though, he did not pass judgment on others that felt they need far more - for he respected the fact that we all possess different wants and desires and knew only too well that the same amount of water will not fill every cup. Neither did he bemoan or complain about not having the latest I-pad or I-phone as he, himself, found great solace in silence. To him, time, was a gift far more precious than that of diamonds or pearls. It allowed him to commune with God, make peace with his transgressions and find the inner strength to rise up and meet the challenges that invariably lay in wait for him.
He knew that just as the ebb and flow of the sea came and went, or the changing of the seasons came to pass, nothing in life remained unchanged. Even a great tree that seems not to move at all is still growing deep within. As such, he greeted rain and sun, feast and famine, good news and bad with equal equanimity. Thankful for the knowledge that without darkness there could be no light - and without suffering there could be no joy. He was also quick to show forgiveness whenever he could, knowing that of all God’s gifts, forgiveness was perhaps the most precious - as it often bestowed far more healing on the one that gave of it than received it .
It was precisely because of this outlook on life that an old monk happened to visit him as he was passing through his village. Drawn to him almost; by the light he gave off in the darkness that surrounded him. Much like a lighthouse guides people to safety in a storm. The old man greeted the monk warmly and gladly welcomed him into his home where the happily chatted for the next several hours.
As it grew close to the time for the monk to continue on his journey, he politely asked the old man if they might pray together before he left. The old man excitedly replied that nothing would please him more. With that, the monk quickly started to recite a succession of mantras he would often deliver in front of his many followers several times a day. As he did so, the old man respectfully closed his eyes and smiled serenely.
“What are you doing?” asked the monk obviously annoyed. “Why do you not join me in prayer?”
Again, the old man respectfully smiled as he apologized profusely for not knowing the mantras the monk spoke - which only seemed to infuriate the monk yet further.
“Then how do you pray?” he asked rather rudely.
The old man meekly replied: “By giving thanks for the many blessings that pour over me each day.”
“What nonsense!” cried the monk aloud. “How can you connect with God if you cannot recite the many mantras that my temple teaches?”
“How can I not?” replied the old man firmly. “All that God asks from any of us is that we give thanks with an open and loving heart. Nothing more is required.”
Condescendingly, the monk then asked: “What about when you ask for something from God.”
To this the old man smiled again as he said with full conviction: “No one knows my needs better than God, I then have no need to ask of him what I know in my heart he shall provide. I simply have to trust that his will shall be done - and in that I do. That is why I give him thanks each day for the many blessings he sends my way.”
As if talking to a fool, the monk walked away most ungraciously, sighing deeply as he did so. “If only it were that simple old man.” Still, the old man waved after the monk as he left wishing him nothing but the very best as he continued on his journey.
High above the clouds, looking down on the day’s events, sat God surrounded by a host of his angels. He said to them in a whisper; “It really IS that simple.”
We are all connected to God and do not need intermediaries or fancy prayers to speak to him directly. Just as we are all equal in his eyes! All we need do is open our hearts, trust in his promise and speak to him with love and gratitude. It really is that simple!
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