Last month, I made a promise to my fellow students: a month-long short-story challenge in which I’d write at least one short story that teaches a lesson every day.
I’ve done many 30-day challenges in the past. Ranging from adding good habits such as running 30 minutes per day, to giving up bad habits like watching television. And I did them, each and every day — for a month.
When I did these challenges, I learned a little more about myself. These challenges taught me to become more self-aware. By learning and knowing more about myself these challenges have also encouraged me to improve myself.
How did I do it? Well, in case you didn’t know (of course you didn’t — how could you?) I’m fond of collecting moments. Every time I take the subway, or go to the grocery store, or read a book, I’d mentally note what I’ve learned or observed from doing each one. At the end of the day, my brain has a collection of events that I’ve recorded since morning. Then I put them down on paper and save them.
The following morning, I’d post what I’ve written the night before, first thing. That way, I got it out of the way. I kept telling myself to be consistent no matter how redundant it may felt. I told myself this is my way of setting an example for the children to whom I’ve promised, so they wouldn’t prize me as someone who was just full of it.
Another reason why I chose to write was to have something to carry around in my brain throughout the day; a wonderful lesson to reflect upon. In case you’re wondering, research have shown that reflection does wonders if you do them correctly and consistently.
The stories herein are not written for a common human. They are written for the human who longs for a way of life beyond the meager state of a societal human. They are for the human who succumbs to the endless satisfaction from one moment to the next. And, in doing so, becomes the living embodiment of Truth.
I must warn you, every one of these stories is about you, no one else. If you apply them to anyone other than yourself, the stories will do you damage. Since each of these stories is a direct revelation of Truth make sure that each time you read a story you single-mindedly search for a deeper understanding of yourself.
That said, if you genuinely decide to pursue this matter, in order to do so, you must arrive at the point of seriousness. Here’s what you can do:
- Read a story once. Then move on to the next. This manner of reading will give you pleasure and entertainment.
- Read a story twice. Reflect on it. Apply it to your daily life. That will give you a taste of inward awakening.
- Read the story again, after you have reflected on it. Create a silence within you and let the story reveal to you its inner depth and meaning: something beyond words and reflections.
Or carry a story around in your mind, so you can dwell on it in leisure moments, and allow its fragrance, its melody to haunt you. Let it speak to your heart, not to your brain. That will give it a chance to work on your subconscious and reveal its hidden meaning. You will then be surprised to see that in exposing yourself to these stories, you were auditing a course in self-knowledge for which no teacher, no scripture, no monk, no master, no specialist, no sutta, no priest, no guru is needed other than yourself!
Everyone loves stories — especially the ones with a profound and special quality. Most of the stories written have a comment appended to them. The comment is meant to be an example you yourself may want to make. Do make your own. Don’t limit yourself to the ones you find here. Why borrow someone else’s insights, right?
The stories come from a variety of countries, traditions, and religions. They belong to the cultural heritage of the human race.
All that your author has done is string them together with a specific aim in mind. His task has been that of the weaver and the dyer. He takes no credit at all for the thread and the loom.
Nothing - And I Mean Nothing - Else Matters!
A slave was taken into captivity and thrown into a prison, where to his amazement, he found other slaves who had been there for years, some of them all their lives, for they had been born there. He soon became acquainted with the various prison frivolities.
The slaves banded themselves into clans. One clan consisted of the gangbangers; another was the socializers; another was into the prison smuggling business; another was attracted to various circuses of sports; another was cultural, for its purpose was to carefully preserve and keep records of the customs, the tradition, and the history of the times when the slaves were free; other clans were religious - they gathered mostly to chant and perform various rituals and sermons about a future freedomland where there would be no walls; some clans attracted those who were artistic and poetic by nature; others were political and revolutionary, and they met to plot against their masters or against other political and revolutionary clans. Every now and then a riot would break out, one particular group would be wiped out by another, or the leader would be killed and be replaced by a younger up and coming leader.
As he looked around, the newcomer observed one slave who always seemed to be deep in thought, a loner who belonged to no clan and mostly kept away from everyone. There was something strange about him that commanded everyone’s admiration and everyone’s hostility, for his presence aroused fear and self-doubt. “Join no group,” the lone stranger said to the newcomer. “These poor fools are busy with everything except what is essential.”
“And what is that?” asked the newcomer.
“Studying the nature of the walls.”
If one does not acquire this absolute freedom, one will have wasted his or her whole life.
A Tale of Five Mice
Have you heard the story of the five mice in a cage? It goes like this. Five mice are thrown in a cage by a sadistic mouse-hater. Enough food and water is available at the bottom of the cage, saving them from starvation while forcing them to lead a boring life of staring through the glass every day. The food at the bottom is bad, but sufficient. At the top of the cage, however, a large block of cheese alluringly waits. Conveniently, a ramp to the top has been provided by the sadist.
After getting over the shock of being caged, one of the mice scales the ramp and reaches for the cheese. All of a sudden a fire hose appears from nowhere. The mouse at the top of the ramp is soaked with cold water, but not only him — all of the other mice are soaked as well, in an exercise of group punishment for the sins of one freedom-loving mouse.
Over the next few days the experience repeats itself several times. One mouse makes a run for the cheese, the whole troop of mice gets soaked, and pretty soon the group starts biting any mouse brave enough to scale the ramp. The cheese is still at the top, but just out of reach. The mice reluctantly accept the fate of living a life without cheese.
Then one day the experiment changes. The sadist takes one mouse out of the cage and replaces him with another one. Not knowing the consequence of being doused with cold water, the new mouse immediately begins to scale the ramp in pursuit of the cheese, the rest of the mice pull her down before she reaches the top, and the troop settles in again.
The next day another mouse is replaced, and then another, and the process repeats itself: the new mouse lunges for the cheese, gets pulled down, and adapts. After five days, no mouse from the original troop remains, and no mouse has ever been soaked with cold water — but every mouse knows they are not supposed to climb the ramp. One of the mice finally asks, “Hey, why can’t we eat the cheese?” The others shook their heads and say, “We’re not sure — we just know we can’t.”
Belief in authority breeds fear. Luckily, people are not mice. Because people have the ability to set themselves free.
The Heart Knows Where It Truly Belongs
A boy was found at the edge of the forest, lying down beside a boulder. He had received a strenuous blow to the head, which had made him forget who he was. He had lost his memory.
Upon waking up at the hospital, the staff questioned him, and he would say, “I don’t know who I am, or where I come from,” and a stream of tears would start flowing from his eyes. In the end, three families claimed he belonged to them. Of course, it was not possible that he belonged to three families, so they took him to each of the three towns and left him on his own.
In two of the towns he just stood, very confused, and didn’t know what to do. But when he arrived at the third town, his dull eyes suddenly lit up and his expressionless face started showing emotion. He went to one street all by himself and, seeing a particular house, started to run toward it. It was as if some power had suddenly entered his sleepy soul. He had recognized something; he had remembered his home. With a feeling of utter joy he said, “This is my house. Now I remember who I am!”
The same thing has happened to all of us. We have forgotten who we are because we have forgotten where our home is. Once we are able to see our home, it is natural to recognize our true self.
We constantly search - in the countryside, by the sea, on the mountain - and even I, myself, is prone to this yearning. But all this is quite the contrary, when it is open to us at any time, a seek within. No search offers someone more peace and quiet and relaxation than that into one’s own mind.
Truth exists within our very self. And it is not even so difficult to find, but we have to travel inside to do so. When one goes inside oneself, one finds Truth as well as one’s self, at the deepest core of his or hers life’s breath.
All this does not mean that you simply wait and do nothing. All this, I simply mean a well-ordered life, like keeping a room in order and leaving the window open. You can never invite the wind, but you must leave the window open. Then perhaps, if you’re aware enough, a cool breeze will come in.
Delaying the Inevitable
Owing to a variety of circumstances, the egg of an eagle found its way to one corner of a barn where a hen was hatching her eggs. In time, the little eaglet was hatched with the other chickens.
Now as time passed, the fledging, quite unaccountable, began to experience a longing to fly. So it would say to its mother, the hen, “When shall I learn to fly?”
The poor hen was quite aware of the fact that she could not fly and hadn’t the slightest notion of what other birds did to train their fledglings in the art of flight. But she was ashamed to confess to this inadequacy, so she would say, “Not yet, my child, not yet. I shall teach you when you are ready.”
Months passed and the young eagle began to suspect that its mother did not know how to fly. But it could not get itself to break loose and fly in its own, for its keen longing to fly had become confused with servitude it experienced toward the bird that had hatched it.
A reporter was interviewing a famous businessman. The reporter asked, “What kind of people do you hire to work in your company?”
“I don’t look for the A+ students because they are not moldable. I typically prefer the A- and B students,” replied the businessman.
“Why?” countered the reporter.
“Because...,” the businessman concluded, “ultimately, the A students work for the B students, and the C students run the companies.”
Education should not be a preparation for life; it should be life.
Only a Professor Would Be Credible
The professor said:
“After the 15th century, none of the important inventions came from China. Today, China is one of the biggest car manufacturing countries in the world. But you can not find any Chinese name on the list of those who contributed to the car industry development...Chinese children are probably the most hard working students in the world. But, unfortunately, they have killed their creative nature.”
We are all creative beings.
Creativity flourishes when we are doing the work we love.
Creativity does not grow when we are doing mechanical and drudgery work. And it seems that the majority of students are conditioned to clutter their brains with stuff that does not lead to discovering what they truly love doing.
You don’t need to be a professor to see that “education” is grossly overrated. But you need a professor to credibly say it.
There is Wisdom in Simplicity
There was a group of elderly gentlemen in China who would meet to exchange news and drink tea. One of their diversions was to search for costly varieties of tea and create new blends that would delight their palate.
When it was the turn of the oldest member of the group to entertain the others, he served tea with the greatest ceremony, measuring out the leaves from a “gold” container. Everyone had the highest praise for the tea and demanded to know what particular combination he had arrived at this exquisite blend.
The old man smiled and said, “Gentlemen, the tea that you find so delightful is the one that is drunk by the peasants on my farm. The finest things in life are neither costly nor hard to find.”
We Are Our Own Teachers
There was a group of college students who begged the well-known author Sinclair Lewis to give them a lecture, explaining that all of them were to become writers themselves.
Lewis began with: “How many of you really intend to be writers?” All hands were raised.
“In that case, there is no point in my talking. My advice to you is: go home and write, write, write...”
With that, he returned his notes to his pocket and left the room.
Teachers won’t make you smart.
Doctors won’t make you healthy.
Coaches won’t make you fit.
Shrinks won’t make you calm.
Mentors won’t make you wealthy.
Nutritionists won’t make you lean.
Ultimately, you have to be self-reliant.
An African-American jazz musician was wondering how to give away his artistic talent to the public. The musical genius played his instrument all over the city’s busiest subway stations with the simplest disguise, but no commuter would even bother to stop and listen to his tune.
He announced over the local radio that an anonymous instrumentalist will be playing at the city park for free. No one seemed interested.
Finally, his wife advised him to advertise. The famous musician went back to announce on the radio that HE would be playing at a downtown jazz bar and tickets sell at twenty-five dollars each. Before the day was out, every tickets had been sold out!
Moral: when you’re worth something, don’t work for free. Because people won’t believe you — even if you’re famous.
We Never Listen
A talk show host interviewed a well-known Fortune 500 company CEO. Not only is the entrepreneur a multi-billionaire, but she is also a successful parent. Her eldest son went on to become a musician. Her daughter competes in equestrian and does various philanthropic work. While her youngest son recently released his first book and his work was listed on the New York Times Best Seller list. The show host was curious about the businesswoman’s thoughts on raising children, “What aspect should parents invest on their kids?” he asked.
“One thing I would tell parents is: do a lot more listening. Listen to your kids. More importantly, don’t listen to your friends. And when I say listening — watch them, what do they gravitate towards. Nobody thought that 20 years ago playing video game was going to lead to a luxurious financial life. It clearly has for some people,” said the billionaire.
The most difficult people to teach are the ones who think they don’t need to be taught — who don’t need to listen because they already know.
But the moment we say “I know,” we put a stop to our ability to learn more — our cup is full, and we don’t need or want to learn more.
Listening is an art. When we want to fully listen we must drop all preconditioned knowledge and begin with an empty cup. A silent mind.
Many parents have a certain degree of expectation, so they simply ignore the fact and mold their children to how they see fit. In the process, we’ve lost nature’s gift: to see who our children really are.
Division Causes Conflict
A spiritual guru tells the story of how an ancient king came upon his advisor looking attentively at a heap of human bones.
“What are you looking for?” said the King.
“Something I cannot find,” said the philosopher.
“And what is that?”
“The difference between your father’s bone and that of his peasants.”
The human mind makes foolish division as what Love sees as One.
The following are just as indistinguishable: Hindu bones from Christian bones, Chinese bones from American bones, Caucasian bones from Hispanic bones.
Religion, racism and nationalism are all inherently divisive because they highlight perceived differences between people, emphasizing an individual's identification with their own belief, skin color, and nation.
The Awakening of Spirituality