Once upon a time there were two brothers who lived together in their father's house. Upon the death of their father they were to split all of his assets fifty-fifty. When the time came, they divided his houses, his livestock and his money equally.A couple of weeks ago, before the winter break, I was feeling weary of my life. Not the whole of it, but the routine. Get up. Walk the dog. Feed the dog. Water the dog. Wake up Kid #1. Feed Kid #1. Meditate. Wake up Kid #2. Feed Kid #2....You get the idea.
After this was done, however, they discovered two rings which had not been included in the estate. The first ring was made of pure gold and encrusted with diamonds, which sparkled from a great distance. The second ring was made of silver. It was old and scratched and any shine it had once had was long gone.
The older brother immediately took charge and said, "As the oldest male in the family the gold ring should be mine, I will give it to my oldest daughter when the time is right." The younger brother did not complain and so he received the silver ring.
Many years passed. The older brother had made a great fortune out of what his father had left to him and yet he was dissatisfied with his life. The younger brother still lived in the small house which he had inherited from his father. He had endured many hardships in his life and yet he was very happy.
One day the older brother could not stand it any longer. He went to his brother's house and said, "Brother I do not understand, you have suffered much and have not made much of yourself in this world and yet you are happy. I have had an easy life and have made a great fortune and yet I am miserable. What is your secret?"
The younger brother smiled and, reaching into his pocket, pulled out the old silver ring, even more scratched and dull now than it was when he inherited it. "It's this ring brother. It has made all the difference in my life."
The older brother grabbed the ring and inspected it closely. "This ring?! What about this ring makes you so happy? There is nothing special about it at all."
"Not on the outside," the younger brother began, as he gently took the ring from his brother and directed his attention inside.
There on the inside of the ring was the inscription, "This will also change."
The older brother read it over a couple of times and still looked puzzled. Looking up at his younger brother he said, "I don't understand. How has this ring made you happy?"
The younger brother smiled again and said, "I kept this ring with me always as a reminder of our father. When things were going badly, I took it out and held it. One day I noticed the inscription inside and it reminded me that, 'This will also change.' This reminder helped me get through the hard times, because I knew they would not last. Likewise when times were good and I was happy I would take the ring out and think of papa and read the inscription, 'This will also change.' It reminded me that this happy time would not last forever, and that I should enjoy it fully."
The older brother resisted the urge to grab the ring from his younger brother's hand and clutch it to himself. All of a sudden he was struck with the thought, 'This will also change,' and he knew that the wisdom of the ring would always be his.
--My retelling of a folk tale I heard at my first Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat
I was bored of doing the same things, in the same order, at the same time, day after day after day.
I think we all feel this way sometimes, when we have been living the same life, working the same job, greeting the same neighbors, year after year after year.
And yet, what I realized on our walk that morning was just how many different lives I have led. How many ruts I have found myself in over the years, and then fallen out of; only to end up in a different rut.
Conventional wisdom states that cats have nine lives, while humans get only one. I disagree.
As I thought about it on that walk, I realized that I have had more than nine different lives already, and I'm only a bit on from half-way through my life. (If I'm lucky :)
In my first life I was a baby, completely dependent on my parents and not really aware of much that was going on aside from my physical needs. I don't even remember this life.
Soon, I became mobile and aware. I was a toddler, learning about my world, talking and getting into stuff.
Then I went to school and made friends and learned to read and write. A whole new world opened up to me.
A year later, we moved and I changed schools - another group of friends and teachers and neighbors - another life.
A few years later, we moved again, this time from the mid-West to the East Coast. Talk about a whole new life. Everything was different - the houses, the people, the schools, my friends, the language. I was only eleven and already I was living my sixth life.
I graduated from elementary school and went to junior high, another life. Then high school, my eighth life. College, and so on.
By even a conservative count I have lived at least fifteen different lives so far, which helped me to realize that this life I was feeling restless in will be gone before I know it.
Our dog will be gone one day and I can't imagine our lives without her, even if walking her twice a day sometimes seems like the most tedious of chores. The kids are growing every day and often beginning entirely new lives themselves - new schools, new activities, new friends - which in turn lead us to new places.
One day they will be making breakfast for themselves and I will look back longingly and say, "I miss making breakfast for my boys."
In fact, just days after that restless day, winter break began and we were thrown into a whole new life. Sleeping late, shopping, friends hanging out all day, family coming over to celebrate, gifts being exchanged and played with.
Every day of the past ten days has been something different and I can't wait to get back to our routine. Ha!
That's why I believe that this story is so important to a full and happy life. THIS WILL ALSO CHANGE. It may be the one thing we can count on.
And it calls upon us to live each moment fully. Because a whole new life is just around the corner. Make sure you appreciate the one you're currently living before it's just a distant memory.
[Happy New Year to All! May you live every moment of this year to the fullest!]