A Different Kind of Richness

 

The Press
09/12/2010
Manfred Ingerfeld

A long time ago in India, a desperately poor family was struggling to make ends meet in their little hut. What they didn't know was that not far below the dirt floor of their hut lay buried treasure. Had they only known, they could have so easily dug it out and enjoyed the rest of their lives in comfort. This story is sometimes told to illustrate the point that we are all rich, but we have not yet discovered our “treasure”.  There's no need to dig up the floor of our house; what is meant is inner richness: happiness, fearlessness, compassion, and a host of other qualities. Everything needed for a fully developed, fully functioning inner life is included. And this richness is not something we need to acquire from somewhere else; it is ours already. All we need to do is uncover it.

On reflection, this makes sense. After all, the times we cherish most, when we feel most deeply alive, are when happiness comes from within. It's when emotional entanglement and mental chatter drop away, hopes and fears dissolve, and there is the joyful feeling of being fully alive and aware, and somehow whole. Isn't that what we are looking for when we plan a holiday? Isn't this the aim and motivation of every sportsperson, the heady experience of being “in the zone”? Love, friendship and compassionate action can all produce timeless moments where personal boundaries and concerns just dissolve. In each of these cases, the experience of being fully and joyfully present appears spontaneously the moment there is a crack in our habitual thought patterns, our hopes and fears, likes and dislikes. Clearly this state is something we already had, but didn't know about or couldn't access.

There are many examples of people whom life dealt a tough deck of cards, yet they have become living proof that happiness does not depend on anything outer. One such example was Helen Keller, a blind and deaf American woman. She lived a happy, fulfilled and insightful life and years after her death she is still an inspiration to many. “Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within”, she said.

In a way we want to see the world with the eyes of a poet. The poet can find inspiration in the most unlikely places. The inspired state is always there and once activated, the world becomes a mirror, a shiny and rich place where just about everything can serve to express this creative inspiration. We can then be kind to both ourselves and others, relax, and open up to the possibilities that present themselves.

As in all areas of life, nothing comes without at least a little effort, and Buddhism offers us useful tools in the form of sound advice and a broad array of meditation methods to chose from. The essence of all these methods is nothing else than to be fully and joyfully present in the moment, in an ongoing unfolding of inner richness.

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