Wisdom comes from experience.
A young woman who was seeking a better life for herself received the name and address of a prophet who had transformed millions of lives. She was ecstatic! Finally a man who could answer all of her questions and teach her how to find true happiness. That very evening she drove seven hours to the prophet’s home and knocked on the door as the golden rays of the morning sun illuminated the scene filling her with a sense of radiance and hope.
A cranky looking woman answered the door, looked her up and down, and slammed the door in her face. Unwilling to provoke the woman by knocking again, she decided to drive home to avoid missing work on Monday. Of course it wouldn’t be that simple to change your life, she thought. As she pulled away from the curb it started to rain heavily. The drive home was the most terrifying experience of her life. She decided to pull over at the halfway mark and try to sleep.
As she struggled to get comfortable in her tiny car it became extremely cold with the car’s heating off. Dangerously cold. Shivering, she decided her only hope was to continue the drive in the torrential downpour.
It seemed nothing short of a miracle when she finally burst through the door of her own home and collapsed on the bed and didn’t wake up until her alarm went off on Monday morning.
At work, she blasted through her project and presented it, three months early to her boss. She had realized that all of the problems she’d been stressing about were really insignificant and the project really didn’t need to take so long and the only reason she was stretching it out and worrying so much was because she was afraid to show her boss too soon and appear to have not given it enough thought. And that’s exactly what she told him when she walked in to do her presentation.
Aside from being extremely impressed with her work, the boss noticed the change in her character and when he asked her about it, she ended up telling him the story about going to see the prophet. He had been on a similar journey, and he laughed like a child as he told her about an Abbot in Thailand who would not slam the door in her face. The radiance that had seemed to fill her being, before the storm, returned and she immediately made plans to visit Thailand.
Three months later, there she was, at the foot of a small mountain in a tiny town in the north of Thailand. At the peak was her new teacher. The morning sun was tinting the rainforest with golden light almost as if she were about to walk into the Garden of Eden itself. She set forth with excitement burning in her heart but in no time at all the path started to thin and the undergrowth began to creep in on her. No matter how cautious she was, she seemed to be walking through endless spider webs and brushing against all kinds of thorns and stingers. People must give up quite easily, she thought, but not me.
Matters got worse however, when it became impossible to identify the path and she found herself having to double back after following a washout up a hill. She couldn’t find the actual path anymore but her boss had told her to follow the river if she got lost because the Abbot’s hut was at the top of a waterfall.
She ducked down into the shallow riverbed but the current was strong and her sandals kept tripping her and slipping off so she removed them. The water and the smooth pebbles felt nice and cool on her feet and she was filled with a deep feeling of contentment. This was much better than hacking through the rainforest. Before long however, the rocks began to hurt and she was in so much pain it was as though no greater pain could ever be felt. Her pain threshold had been exceeded beyond her wildest imagination; hours ago.
She thought that she finally understood the classic maxim, “this too shall pass” as she finally ascended the knotted rope to the Abbot’s hut, up the side of the glorious waterfall; that she had no energy left to appreciate. She didn’t even care how dangerous the ascent was. She just needed to reach the Abbot and discover the secret to lasting happiness and fulfillment.
Before she could even knock, the door burst open and a little old Thai man stood there beaming at her. Evidently, he didn’t get many visitors. He didn’t speak much English but he was able to communicate that they should meditate together. She closed her eyes and her mind filled with all of the pain from her journey with fleeting moments of the radiance, contentment and joy that had briefly colored her experience.
At the end of the meditation the little Thai man was looking at her expectantly. His expression was confusing. It seemed to indicate that whatever was supposed to happen had been completed. “You can’t stay here,” he said. Disbelief flooded through her. She thought she had found her teacher but all she got was to sit with him for an hour. He can’t communicate his secrets anyway, she reasoned, and cursing her boss, she left and experienced all of the pain and suffering the journey had to provide all over again; only it was compounded by her exhaustion and tenderness.
Despite not uncovering the secrets to lasting happiness and fulfillment, she did feel lighter and upon returning to work was headhunted by one of the best companies in the country, where she met a colleague who told her about a life changing experience he had in Poland! There was a guru there known as the Ice Man who ran some kind of mind over matter workshops. By the end of two weeks you’d be able to climb a snowcapped mountain wearing nothing but your underwear.
Of course she bought the tickets. This sounded like an opportunity that could not possibly fail to provide the answers she was looking for but right before the trip, the airline she had booked flights with had to ground all of it’s aircraft. The workshop was far too expensive not to go but she also didn’t have enough money to book last minute flights before her refund came through. She remembered that her cousin worked on a freightliner that crossed the Atlantic ocean.
After trying to talk her out of it, he agreed that it was possible to get her to Europe just in time for the workshop. That was enough for her. She had learned that she could handle pretty much anything in Thailand.
She wasn’t at all surprised when conditions weren’t great at sea and she wasn’t at all surprised when she came down with mild pneumonia. She was getting used to the way that life doesn’t always go to plan. What she was surprised by, was the fact that they had to dock in England for an emergency and they would not be able to leave for 30 days. She had very little money and getting from England to Poland would surely be expensive but she’d come this far and the cost of the workshop was still on her mind. She didn’t like to waste money.
She got a lift to the mainland with a fisherman and began hitchhiking to Poland. She met a lot of people and discussed the secrets of happiness and fulfillment with all of them. Happiness and fulfillment was all she was interested in. She came to realize that almost all of the people who were helping her had far less than she had back at home. She made a mental note to be more generous in her giving and contribute more. Just thinking about the change she could make in other people’s lives filled her with the same kind of radiant feeling she got from the sunrise falling on the prophet’s door.
As the prophet’s door filled her awareness she had a profound experience. Her awareness connected all of the dots from her experiences up until that very moment that had led her there and for a moment she existed in all of these moments simultaneously.
“We’re here,” the little old lady smiled as she pointed to the bus station that would take her to the Ice Man.
The workshop was amazing. There were a lot of people there on similar journeys and they shared stories and laughter. It was freezing and uncomfortable but the radiant feeling seemed to fill them all from the inside out. Nobody even seemed to notice the cold. By the end of the two weeks the group were able to immerse themselves in water that would have been frozen if it was not moving constantly downstream. Everybody took a different experience home with them but as our protagonist left she couldn’t help feeling that she learned more on the way there, than she had from the Ice Man himself.
Swirling around in circles in her office chair, back in the office, she felt a growing sense of irritability rising up from deep within her. This job was dead. Empty. She suddenly realized she hated it. If happiness and fulfillment was the goal, what the hell was she doing here. This thought was immediately followed by fear. She was terrified as she realized that her future had suddenly evaporated. She could not un-realize that she hated her career. The crisis set in.
When her boss popped in to see her she snapped at him and he called her into his office to discuss the problem in private. She decided to just lay it all out. She had no patience for half telling truths and she had no fear of being vulnerable. It only took twelve minutes for her to explain the truth of her predicament and the lessons she had learned on her journey. Her boss was blown away and sensing her vulnerability felt compelled to open up to her as well.
He had been having problems in his marriage and someone had suggested seeing a shaman in Peru. This was completely out of character for him because he had never used drugs and didn’t even drink alcohol but the shamans were there to guide your through a hallucinogenic experience using ancient plant medicines. As he rushed to explain everything he was expecting her to recoil in horror but she was fascinated by this idea. During the conversation he had some deep insights about the nature of his experience that he hadn’t realized during the experience itself because his awareness was so full of what other people might think about him getting high in the amazon jungle; which he later applied to his marriage.
She was off. She arrived at the retreat, machete in hand, having hacked her way through the jungle on the hardest route possible, which she chose, just for a challenge. There was such a strange variety of people there and she talked to them all about their challenges and problems, surprising herself as she realized she had a lot of wisdom to share. A lot of people said they would never forget her. The hallucinogenic experience itself highlighted her need to help others, which she had been expressing during her time at the retreat. The radiance of the morning sun became a symbol, an image she could conjure up that would transport her to a place inside herself that filled her with bliss.
This is happiness and fulfillment, she thought. As she looked around, she noticed that nobody else seemed to have access to this place within themselves and another profound moment struck her, connecting all of the experiences from her journey in a single moment. Only this time it revealed not only her past experiences, but the future she would create as well.
She returned home just before sunrise, exhausted from another profound trip. I’ll begin my work tomorrow, she thought, I just need a decent rest to process all of this.
As her head hit the pillow however, there was a knock at the door. Reluctantly, she got up and went to see who it could possibly be. As the door swung open she saw a young woman with a naive smile on her face, dressed like a corporate slave, reeking of expensive perfume and radiating need and lack. One look at her was enough. She slammed the door and went back to bed.
If you just experienced a paradigm shift, please pass my story on.