In Eckhart Tolle’s, The Power of Now, the self-help book that has literally changed my life. Literally. And which I would attest will change yours, and which I now consider my personal Bible, Tolle speaks of this beggar, who had been sitting on the side of the road. For a really long, long time. Essentially, the way the story goes, this beggar is holding out an old cap, asking for some change, when a stranger, walking by, asks the beggar what he’s sitting on.
The beggar replies, “Nothing, just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.”
And you know what the stranger asks? The stranger asks the beggar whether he’s ever looked inside of that old box. And what do you think the beggar says? He says, “No, what’s the point? There’s nothing in there.”
But the stranger is smart. Probably a woman. And so, she insists that the beggar look inside. She’s likely also wondering what the hell is in that box that the beggar has been sitting on all these years.
And so, after all this time, the beggar opens this old box and looks inside. And what do you suppose he finds?
Well, I’ll tell you! He finds gold inside. That’s what he finds. Gold.
The point of this story, at least in my opinion is that we are each sitting on the goldmine of our own happiness. Happiness cannot be given to us. We cannot beg for it. Happiness is, well, it starts from within us. We can’t go looking for it elsewhere. You’re not going to find it in a new boyfriend, a new coat, a new purse, a pair of shoes. Yah, maybe for a little while, until the novelty of that new Kate Spade wears off, but happiness, ultimately, is internal. It is inside of us.
I remember when I ended up heading home during a difficult time in my life. During what I would consider to have been the worst depression I have ever experienced. I remember I was trying to cook supper for my parents, and so I was frying hamburger meat. And the tears. Oh the tears, they were just pouring down my cheeks. Silent tears. Awful tears.
I could hear my mother in the next room talking to my sister. I could hear laughter. Only I couldn’t laugh. And so that led to more tears. And then, while immersed in my own dark thoughts, I could sense that someone else was in the room.
I turned around to check. It was my dad, and so I turned quickly back to the pan on the stove. He was opening the mail. He hadn’t seen my face. But as he moved closer to me, to see what I was making for supper, he could see. He saw everything. I left the wooden spoon in the pan and walked away.
I went to a bedroom and I sat down on the bed. A little while later my father came in and offered me some cash to go do something fun. I told my father, that if I had won the lottery, it would not have mattered. It would not have made an ounce of difference. Money meant nothing to me. If I had been sitting on all the cash in the world, I would have still felt, well, empty.
I would have been an empty box. You see, money doesn’t buy happiness. People say, it helps. Well, yah, duh, it helps. But it’ll never fulfill you. And I know that. It will not even come close. And my dad knows that too. He was just pulling at straws. He was probably nearly as exhausted as I was with the weight of all that sadness that we were all carrying.
And he couldn’t give me that happiness. I was a beggar. But he didn’t have the kind of change I needed. But, still, happiness was inside of me somewhere. I never gave up on it. Not completely. And I remember that same day, after my dad had left the room, my mother’s voice calling to my sister to grab a camera. A bright, big double rainbow was filling the sky.
So, I got up from that bed, and I walked to the window. I stared at that rainbow and some small glimmer of hope began to grow inside of me. I’m not a religious person, but I could remember the Sunday school stuff from my childhood, and how the rainbow was a promise from God that things were going to be, well, okay. This shit was going to get better.
And I felt like, the universe or God, or whatever had given me this sign. Things were so hard. But things were going to be getting easier. And happiness was, well, it was still within me.
I hadn’t checked in that happiness box in a while, and perhaps I’d left the cover on it for so long, trying to search elsewhere, that life was unable to breathe from inside. So I began to slowly peel that damned cover off. And I started to nourish my soul and grow that happiness from an internal space.
I began to practice breathing. I’d forgotten to breathe. I began to spend more time outside. I started to write again. I was, I guess, in a dark box, that I’d forgotten to look inside of. But yet I somehow managed to push open the cover and let light back into my life.
I started to grow the good, like I talked about in my post, “Hardwiring Happiness.”
Maybe this blog is a bit all over the place. But what I am really trying to say is this. We are all sitting on a goldmine, and our happiness is something that we have to work on. It’s internal. It’s built from the inside, out.