On one of the few sunny days recently, I was walking along the lanes near our house and took this photograph of the cows happily eating in the farm next door. It reminded me of the old Buddhist tale which I have posted about before, but because it follows some of the themes of the last few days I will return to it again here. Mindfulness practice helps us see that our sense of wellbeing can be increased if we stop trying to hold onto our idea of what life should be like, and instead move towards what life actually is like. So this leads to another meaning in the words “let go” – letting go what we think we need for happiness and the conditions we feel must be fulfilled in order for happiness to come.
The story is here told by Thich Nhat Hahn, and like all parables can speak to us in different ways at different moments in our lives. Hopefully it may speak to you in some way today:
One day the Buddha was sitting in the forest with some monks when a farmer approached them. The farmer said, “Venerable monks, did you see my cows come by? I have a dozen cows and they all ran away. On top of that I have five acres of sesame plants and this year the insects ate them all up. I think I am going to kill myself. It isn’t possible to live like this”
The Buddha felt a lot of compassion toward the farmer. He said “My friend, I am sorry, we did not see your cows come this way”. When the farmer had gone, the Buddha turned to his monks and said “My friends, Do you know why you are happy? Because you have no cows to lose”
I would like to say the same to you. If you have some cows you have to identify them. You think they are essential to your happiness, but if you practice deep looking, you will see that it is not these cows that have brought about your happiness. The secret of happiness is being able to let go of your cows.