What cows do you need to let go of?

The area where I live, south Kildare, has some of the finest pasture land in Ireland and it is a lovely place for a walk at the weekend.  So it is easy to be reminded of this old story about cows, retold here by Thich Nhat Hanh. Like all parables it can speak to us in different ways at different moments in our lives.

Today it reminds me that I should stop trying to hold onto my idea of what life should be like, and instead move towards what life actually is like.

This can become a simple daily practice – we can repeat the words “let go” –   letting go of what we think we need for happiness and the external conditions we believe must be fulfilled in order for happiness to come.

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. You must have the courage to practice letting go.

Thich Nhat Hanh, You are Here

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