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three questions

drop me in the water

Dear soulsister,

Today I’ve posted the short story by Leo Tolstoy “The Three Questions”.  I used this story as one of my resources at the retreat last weekend.  It beautifully illustrates one of the most important lessons we can learn in order to live authentically and well.  Living is an art and often the most beautiful art is simple.  In Tolstoy’s story, an Emperor seeks the answers to three questions in order to feel he is doing his job properly.  The Hermit reminds him that the answers are staring him in the face. The art of living well is so simple and it stares us all in the face – yet, we don’t see.  We make things more complicated than is needed.    I hope you enjoy!

ONE day it occurred to a certain emperor that if he only knew the answers to three questions, he would never stray in any matter.

What is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?

The emperor issued a decree throughout his kingdom announcing that whoever could answer the questions would receive a great reward. Many who read the decree made their way to the palace at once, each person with a different answer.

In reply to the first question, one person advised that the emperor make up a thorough time schedule, consecrating every hour, day, month, and year for certain tasks and then follow the schedule to the letter. Only then could he hope to do every task at the right time.

Another person replied that it was impossible to plan in advance and that the emperor should put all vain amusements aside and remain attentive to everything in order to know what to do at what time.

Someone else insisted that, by himself, the emperor could never hope to have all the foresight and competence necessary to decide when to do each and every task and what he really needed was to set up a Council of the Wise and then to act according to their advice.

Someone else said that certain matters required immediate decision and could not wait for consultation, but if he wanted to know in advance what was going to happen he should consult magicians and soothsayers.

The responses to the second question also lacked accord.

One person said that the emperor needed to place all his trust in administrators, another urged reliance on priests and monks, while others recommended physicians. Still others put their faith in warriors.

The third question drew a similar variety of answers. Some said science was the most important pursuit. Others insisted on religion. Yet others claimed the most important thing was military skill.

The emperor was not pleased with any of the answers, and no reward was given.

After several nights of reflection, the emperor resolved to visit a hermit who lived up on the mountain and was said to be an enlightened man. The emperor wished to find the hermit to ask him the three questions, though he knew the hermit never left the mountains and was known to receive only the poor, refusing to have anything to do with persons of wealth or power. So the emperor disguised himself as a simple peasant and ordered his attendants to wait for him at the foot of the mountain while he climbed the slope alone to seek the hermit.

Reaching the holy man’s dwelling place, the emperor found the hermit digging a garden in front of his hut. When the hermit saw the stranger, he nodded his head in greeting and continued to dig. The labor was obviously hard on him. He was an old man, and each time he thrust his spade into the ground to turn the earth, he heaved heavily.

The emperor approached him and said, “I have come here to ask your help with three questions: When is the best time to do each thing? Who are the most important people to work with? What is the most important thing to do at all times?”

The hermit listened attentively but only patted the emperor on the shoulder and continued digging. The emperor said, “You must be tired. Here, let me give you a hand with that.” The hermit thanked him, handed the emperor the spade, and then sat down on the ground to rest.

After he had dug two rows, the emperor stopped and turned to the hermit and repeated his three questions. The hermit still did not answer, but instead stood up and pointed to the spade and said, “Why don’t you rest now? I can take over again.” But the emperor continued to dig. One hour passed, then two. Finally the sun began to set behind the mountain. The emperor put down the spade and said to the hermit, “I came here to ask if you could answer my three questions. But if you can’t give me any answer, please let me know so that I can get on may way home.”

The hermit lifted his head and asked the emperor, “Do you hear someone running over there?”

The emperor turned his head. They both saw a man with a long white beard emerge from the woods. He ran wildly, pressing his hands against a bloody wound in his stomach. The man ran toward the emperor before falling unconscious to the ground, where he lay groaning. Opening the man’s clothing, the emperor and hermit saw that the man had received a deep gash. The emperor cleaned the wound thoroughly and then used his own shirt to bandage it, but the blood completely soaked it within minutes. He rinsed the shirt out and bandaged the wound a second time and continued to do so until the flow of blood had stopped.

At last the wounded man regained consciousness and asked for a drink of water. The emperor ran down to the stream and brought back a jug of fresh water. Meanwhile, the sun had disappeared and the night air had begun to turn cold. The hermit gave the emperor a hand in carrying the man into the hut where they laid him down on the hermit’s bed. The man closed his eyes and lay quietly.

The emperor was worn out from the long day of climbing the mountain and digging the garden. Leaning against the doorway, he fell asleep. When he rose, the sun had already risen over the mountain. For a moment he forgot where he was and what he had come here for. He looked over to the bed and saw the wounded man also looking around him in confusion. When he saw the emperor, he stared at him intently and then said in a faint whisper, “Please forgive me.”

“But what have you done that I should forgive you?” the emperor asked.

“You do not know me, your majesty, but I know you. I was your sworn enemy, and I had vowed to take vengeance on you, for during the last war you killed my brother and seized my property. When I learned that you were coming alone to the mountain to meet the hermit, I resolved to surprise you on your way back to kill you. But after waiting a long time there was still no sign of you, and so I left my ambush in order to seek you out. But instead of finding you, I came across your attendants, who recognized me, giving me this wound. Luckily, I escaped and ran here. If I hadn’t met you I would surely be dead by now. I had intended to kill you, but instead you saved my life! I am ashamed and grateful beyond words. If I live, I vow to be your servant for the rest of my life, and I will bid my children and grandchildren to do the same. Please grant me your forgiveness.

The emperor was overjoyed to see that he was so easily reconciled with a former enemy. He not only forgave the man but promised to return all the man’s property and to send his own physician and servants to wait on the man until he was completely healed. After ordering his attendants to take the man home, the emperor returned to see the hermit. Before returning to the palace the emperor wanted to repeat his three questions one last time. He found the hermit sowing seeds in the earth they had dug the day before.

The hermit stood up and looked at the emperor. “But your questions have already been answered.” “How’s that?” the emperor asked, puzzled.

“Yesterday, if you had not taken pity on my age and given me a hand with digging these beds, you would have been attacked by that man on your way home. Then you would have deeply regretted not staying with me. Therefore the most important time was the time you were digging in the beds, the most important person was myself, and the most important pursuit was to help me. Later, when the wounded man ran up here, the most important time was the time you spent dressing his wound, for if you had not cared for him he would have died and you would have lost the chance to be reconciled with him. Likewise, he was the most important person, and the most important pursuit was taking care of his wound.

Remember that there is only one important time and that is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future. The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at you side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”

much love,

Rebecca Signature

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morals of the story : swans and storks

morals - Swans & Storks

Dear soulsister,

Where did you find yourself on the spectrum of Swans and Storks in the two-part story in the last posts?

Some thoughts on the morals of the story……

1.  —THE COMPANY I KEEP COLOURS ME

—I have a lovely picture on my wall that says “When choosing friends, one should be wise.”

The idea “The company I keep colours me” is a fundamental aspect or law of life. Therefore, it’s important that I acknowledge, understand and make it one of my main guiding principles.

—I need to be clear about who and what I want to be. Then I need to find others I can spend my time with who live and behave as I want to, and who exude the qualities of the type of person I want to be. There are many types of people. To simplify the task of who and what I want to be, its helpful to imagine or draw a spectrum of behaviour. The question I need to ask myself is “where do I want to sit on the spectrum?”

—The next question I need to ask is HOW do I become that person? What are the qualities, aspects, requirements, talents, skills, traits etc, that I need to be this type of person? I can break this question down by asking :

a)     What qualities, aspects, requirements, etc do I already have?

b)     Which ones do I need to become better in?

—c)     Which ones do I need to learn?

2.  HOLD ON TO YOUR SELF RESPECT

Never let go of your feelings of self-worth.  We live in a world where, if we let it, we can be constantly bombarded by messages by way of media, consumerism, family and friends, our education systems, political systems and also religious and spiritual systems, that we are not good enough or not doing things as they should be done!  (as I am writing this paintings of Hell that I have seen during my lifetime are coming to my mind – where human beings are literally tearing each other down!)  Lets move on!

So, amidst all of this, it’s important that we protect ourselves with thoughts and feelings of love and care for ourselves.  Presently I am reflecting on this quote by Lucille Ball, “Love yourself first and everything falls into line.  You really have to love yourself to get anything done in this world.”

If we don’t love ourselves and remind ourselves of our inner beauty, uniqueness and greatness, we just don’t have the strength to do anything.  Positive thoughts and feelings, that affirm self-love and self-respect generate enthusiasm and motivation and get us doing the creating and constructing of our lives in the way WE want.

Its important to find ways that help you to keep your self-respect.

3.  THE VISION WE HAVE ON OTHERS IS POWERFUL

When we concentrate on the qualities, specialities, talents and skills of another we help and encourage them to display these.  If we concentrate on their weaknesses and shortcomings, we encourage them to display these.  The energy we send out through our eyes, in our words and in our actions ‘draws out’ similar energy from the one we are concentrating on.

It is common knowledge how important it is to affirm talents and good behaviour in children. The more we affirm goodness, the more the child feels good about themselves.  Affirmation and encouragement give the child the impetus and strength to continue to use their talents and behave well.  The end result is a well rounded, strong and capable human being.

However, for some reason we forget to do this when we deal with adults.  We think that adults are grown up so no longer need affirmation, but this isn’t necessarily so.  Even though the body may be that of an adult, the human soul has had it’s own journey to travel.  All our journeys are different.  All include setbacks, obstacles, wins and failures.   We need to keep this in mind and always be able to provide help and guidance to each other ALL along the way.

So be mindful of what vision you have on others by remembering that we all influence and affect each other with the energy we generate and put out into the world.

 

Are there any other morals/lessons you’ve picked up from the story about the Swans and Storks?  If so, please share 🙂

Take care.  Much love,

Rebecca Signature

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the swans and storks – part II

swans and storks part II

Dearest soulsister,

Part II of our story continues………the Swans were losing their kingdom, and then a curious thing happened…..

One day, one of the Swans, just an ordinary Swan told some of the other Swans of some very beautiful dreams. As she spoke the other Swans became completely mesmerized. It was as if they almost went into the dreams with her. Every day they would wait with eagerness to hear about the Swan’s dreams and every day they were taken on a beautiful, magical journey. The dreamer Swan talked about their Kingdom and told the other Swans exactly why the Kingdom was confused and how it had become like that. She told them about how the Kingdom used to be, a long, long time ago, before they could remember. It was SO beautiful. And they understood. They wanted THAT Kingdom again. She went on to tell the Swans how they could get their Kingdom back.   There was a gasp! Really? They were all ears.

“Yes”, she said. She told them their Kingdom had become confused because the Swans had become confused. They all looked at each other with puzzled faces. “Huh?” She smiled. “Yes! You know all of the Storks?”   Again, they looked at each other with puzzled faces. “Well, the Storks used to be Swans!” The poor Swans gasped again and their eyes grew as big as saucers. One of them said, “What do you mean all the Storks used to be Swans? How can that be possible?” “Well”, said the dreamer Swan, “we see it happening today, don’t we?  Some of the Swans think the Storks are funny and entertaining and they like spending time with them……we watch them. Gradually, they turn into Storks. This is how the population of the Storks has grown, and how we lost our beautiful Kingdom.”

“Oohhh” said the Swans, half recognising the reality of this. “What are we going to do?” cried one of the Swans. “Don’t worry” the dreamer Swan said. “We just need to change the Storks back into Swans.” “Oh really!” huffed one of the Swans. “How might we do that then?” “Well, said the dreamer Swan, we have to coax them. Many of them think they are so big and tough and great and wonderful, but actually that is all just a cover up. In actual fact they are the complete opposite!” She told them, that the thing was, that all the Swans had fallen for this “lie” and what they needed to do from now on was to see the ‘truth’ of the matter. “Oohhh” they said, and they were all ears.

The dreamer Swan began to tell them that they needed to remember, it didn’t matter how the Storks acted, it wasn’t really how they were. It was just all an act. Whenever the Swans saw the Storks they needed to see them as Swans instead, because in actual fact this is what they really are. “We need to see them as Swans and we need to speak to them and act as if they are Swans. It may be hard at first, but if we keep going it will get easier. If we remain strong, we will influence the Storks into becoming like us, instead of us being influenced to become like them!”

“Oohh”, agreed the other Swans, nodding to each other. Yes, of course, that would work. “But how are we going to be able to keep this up?” asked one of the Swans. “Sounds like awful hard work. How are we going to be able to maintain our strength to do this?” “Well”, the dreamer Swan smiled “Now comes the exciting part!”

All the Swans sat up to attention. All eyes were on the dreamer Swan.

“In my dreams, after I had seen our beautiful Kingdom and learned about how we had lost it, one day this beautiful orb of light emerged right in front of me.” The dreamer Swan was beaming. “It was so nice……soft, warm, full of loving energy, and it completely wrapped itself around me.” “How did it do that?” demanded one of the Swans. “I don’t know, it just did.” the dreamer Swan replied. “I was filled with this light. I felt so light and warm and full of love…..and I felt soooo happy. It was incredible.” “I’ve felt that!” said one of the Swans. “So have I.” “Me too.” “And me!” Many swans, one by one, spoke up and said they had experienced this as well. Maybe not in exactly the same way as the other, but many were revealing that they too had had similar experiences – they had just never had the courage to say anything before now.  They thought that everyone would think they had gone loopy.

But the curious thing was, that even those who hadn’t personally experienced such happenings, understood them. They all sat quietly in anticipation.

The dreamer Swan went on to explain to the gathering that this ‘orb of light’, this ‘energy’, or ‘entity’ had “spoken” to her. “Not in the way that we speak” she said, “The words were spoken in silence. There was no sound, but I understood. I knew what was being said.” All of the Swans nodded silently in knowing agreement. She went on. “The Light told me that whenever we needed to fill ourselves with energy, the Light would be here to do that. All we need to do is just come to the Light with our thoughts and we would be replenished, refilled with energy, and could go on. The Light told me that it was time for the Light to come to do this work and it needed the Swans to help it. The time has come to create our beautiful Kingdom again!”

“Aaahhhmmm” the Swans sighed softly and they all beamed with happiness. Hearing this made them feel all warm and gooey. At last, their Kingdom could be reclaimed and it would be a place of love and light and happiness again. Their Kingdom that they had all dreamed about and heard stories about really DID exist. It had just been lost because the Swans had lost themselves.  They had become tired after living for so long and they had forgotten who they were. They had given their power away to others they thought were greater than them.  But now the time had come for them to reclaim their own greatness and build a world of greatness.

The Swans had been given hope again.  But not just hope, they now had a reason, a purpose.  It had been made clear to them what had happened, what was happening now, and what was to happen in the future.  And the Light was really here….AND it was going to help them.

The End.

Tomorrow………..what are the morals of this story?

With much love,

Rebecca Signature

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the swans and the storks – a story

Swans & Storks Story

Dear soulsister,

Today I am going to tell you a story……

Once upon a time there was a kingdom that was full of swans and storks. This was a very confused kingdom. The swans and the storks were so different. Not only did they look different, but they spoke differently, they acted differently and their belief systems, which means their thinking, was different.

They had both been around for a very long time, yet the storks believed that the Kingdom belonged to them. Therefore, they believed it was a place for them to do as they pleased. Everything existed for their use and they could use anything at any time in any way they chose. They didn’t care if they ate all the fish, they didn’t care if they made enemies, they didn’t care if there were others in need, they didn’t care if whatever they did and however they did it made themselves sick! You would have thought they would care about THAT, but they didn’t. They just didn’t care about anything except getting what they wanted, when they wanted, and in anyway they could.

On the other hand, the Swans cared about EVERYTHING. And because of this they thought very deeply about what they thought, said and did. The Swans understood that their thoughts, words and actions impacted the world around them. They knew they affected the natural world, others and even their own bodies and souls. Therefore, they were very careful about what they did because they knew if they affected the natural world, others and their own bodies these things would actually affect them…..sooner or later. They understood ‘the secret’.

The Storks would strut around the kingdom eating and drinking all kinds of horrible things, yuk! They would talk, and even yell in big loud voices. They would be mean to each other and to the Swans whenever they got a chance. They would call each other names, make fun of others, put them down, get angry and even hit them, a n d even beat them! Sometimes, they would even do worse. And they thought that all of these things were very grand and even normal! They were big and tough and they made sure that everyone knew it. Some of them weren’t big and tough but they pretended they were otherwise they would be made fools of, and they didn’t want that.

The Swans on the other hand were gentle creatures. They were careful about what they ate and drank and only consumed the healthiest and cleanest foods they could find. They treated others with respect and were elegant and royal in their interactions. They were kind and loving and cared about everyone and everything. They made sure that everyone and everything were always ok. If they weren’t they set to work to make it ok.

Just as there were varying qualities of Storks, there were also varying qualities of Swans. Some Swans were extremely noble, and some ……well not so. You could even say they were almost Storks, but not quite. You see, some Swans kind of liked the company of Storks. They found them amusing and entertaining. They were impressed by them – “Oh, but they are so funny”, “They’re not THAT bad – they’re OK”, “Well, we’re all different”, they would say to the other Swans who cautioned them. The more noble Swans knew that the company a Swan kept (or a Stork kept for that matter) coloured them, and they tried to caution the ones who were ignorant of this. You see, they knew ‘the secret’!

But alas, some of the Swans just wouldn’t listen. They thought they knew best and they would spend more and more time with the Storks. Those Swans began to change. Every day they would become more and more like Storks. And then one day…..it happened! You couldn’t tell the difference. The Swan population dwindled. It became smaller and smaller and the Swans became really afraid. They were losing their Kingdom. They were losing everything that was dear to them.

But then a curious thing happened.

2nd part continuing tomorrow….

Hope you are enjoying…..much love,

Rebecca Signature