I learn so much from simply sitting back and observing. Today’s observation/lesson/experience comes from one of my oldest and dearest friends in this lifetime, and it is one that speaks so much to our times as well as to my relationship with the world around me. This friend, whom I have been friends with for about 35 years, simply stated something so obvious in the moment that it is often so blatantly lost in that moment. My friend’s message was this:
Life is like a box of donuts. Take time to enjoy each one for its special flavors. And never eat the whole dozen alone. Yeah Monday!! (As I eat a cream cheese frosted brownie.)
A true gift from a true friend! Allow me to share this experience and understanding as well as the inspiration it provided in the form of a story.
♥ ∞ ♥
Once, a man studied a religious book, and took instructions from others who were considered masters of the same book. He lived his life according to the teachings of this book, and tried mightily to adhere to each of the principals the book described and in accordance with the teachings of the masters. Regardless of how he felt about something, he followed the instructions and teachings of his masters and soon he became the book rather than a man who knew the book. He felt as the book told him to feel, lived as the book told him to live, and thought what the book taught him to think.
In one instance, the masters taught him in great detail how horrible apple fritters were. According to the teaching apple fritters were abhorrent, unnatural, and needed to be treated like poisonous tumors on the essence of humankind. The man never had experienced apple fritters before, but he knew from what he was taught how horrible they were as well as how horrible people who ate them were. He based his entire thought process on a notion given to him not from experience, but from the words and teachings of others. Eternal damnation surely awaited those who ate apple fritters.
One day the man saw a woman eating an apple fritter at a donut shop. It was obvious she didn’t read or believe in the book or its teachings. The woman looked so happy in the indulgence and so content in each bite. Yet the man could not get over his revulsion at the act. He frowned at her in distaste, and instantly felt anger at her joy. He could not understand how this woman could actually eat something his religion taught was so sinful. He wanted to stop her, and teach her the “right” way according to his book. Even though he couldn’t pinpoint the reasons if asked, he hated her joy in doing what was “wrong”, and completely disregarded her happiness in the process. For her part, the woman was so happy, so much in joy that she didn’t notice the man’s disdain for her.
What the religious instruction taught, from both the book and the masters who taught it, wasn’t love. It was judgment. It was anger. It was the natural reaction to ideas of wrongness. To make matters worse, the instruction taught him how to wrap those ideas in a shroud of an egoic idea of what love was. According to the instruction, you needed to change someone you loved to be “righteous” and show disdain for them until they saw things “rightly”. Otherwise, eternal damnation and fear were the answers.
As the man left the donut shop, he was in a terrible accident. Seeing this, the woman put down her apple fritter and ran to his aid. She was a doctor, and as the man lay there wounded she tended to him. Her love had not vanished, her joy had not vaporized. Rather, she simply exercised it in caring for a man who was a total stranger to her. She had no ideas of this man’s worthiness and no conditions attached to her aid. She simply worked actions of love that stated their intent to relieve his suffering.
The man was in agony. Although only moments before he had great disdain for this woman, his suffering and her attention to it allowed him to see the love in her. His anger was replaced by a different form of suffering which was replaced by pure, unconditional love. He realized that this beautiful woman helping him in his time of need wasn’t the cause of his anger. She had just been doing what was natural for her, what felt good for her, and what brought her great joy. She wasn’t hurting him, threatening him, or wishing him any harm, yet his ideas of her created a great anger. Those ideas, and his attachments to them, were the true cause of the anger he felt.
After he recovered from his injuries, the man returned to the donut shop. The woman was in front of him in line and didn’t notice him. As she ordered her apple fritter, the man looked at the cashier.
“Allow me to pay for that,” he said with a beaming smile.
The woman turned, smiled, and gave the man a hug. “Thank you”.
“It’s the least I can do for my hero,” he replied. “I may not like those fritters, but I love the person who does!”
The man had learned that any idea that is contrary to joy, love and happiness wasn’t an idea worth holding onto. Not only did those ideas create great anger in him, they prevented him from seeing the love he could have felt toward this woman. Now he no longer focused on what the book told him, or what the masters taught, he focused on what his own experience taught him and the joy, happiness and love those experiences inspired. He became the Writer of the Book, not a reader of a book.
He had become a true Master.