Out of all the gifts that you’ve ever been given in your life, is there one that you value above all the others? For most of us, it’s a difficult question to answer. For example, someone may have given me a million dollars, but if there are strings attached to the ‘gift’ ~ some expectation of return, then I don’t really value it as a true gift of love. Rather, it’s just one side of a business equation.
How about the old cliché of what’s more valuable to a hungry person ~ food or the knowledge of how to grow food? Or say for example, someone has given me one hundred dollars, but it’s all they have. Isn’t that hundred dollars a greater gift than one thousand dollars which is given by a billionaire? Maybe, but the hundred dollar gift could be a ploy of some kind, while the thousand, may truly be a gift from the heart.
What about the gift of true and meaningful friendship? Shouldn’t that be valued above and beyond money or the things money can buy? Surely most of us would agree that the most valuable gift is not only one that is freely and loving given, but it is one that is given with due regard for what we really need.
And what do we all need and truly long for? Not just loving relationships of various kinds, but the permanence of those relationships, and a secure place where those relationships can thrive and develop without anxiety ~ a permanent home. And yet as we try to achieve financial and relationship security, we all experience almost daily in one way or another, that the ground keeps shifting beneath our feet. Some people may have a good relationship of some kind, but external pressures put a strain on it ~ they live in a war zone for example, or they are in a critical financial position. In some cases, the opposite occurs. People may live in a country which provides a reasonable standard of social and financial security, but satisfying and lasting relationships elude them. And between these extremes lie all kinds of varieties of situations that we continually struggle with ~ doing the best we can, but no matter how much we may try, it’s never enough to overcome the nature of the basic problem.
According to Yoga teachings, the basic problem underlying our desire for permanence in this world, is the fact that while our real nature is spiritual and permanent, our physical bodies and the world we live in, are all subjected to continual change. Completely contrary to the permanence and security we all naturally long for, impermanence/change is the way of it in this material world, and thus the stage is set for never ending anxiety and drama in our lives.
As the introduction to the perennial television soap opera ‘Days of Our Lives’ wistfully puts it ~ ‘Like sands through the hour glass, so are the days of our lives’. Other than a few snippets here and there (and that was over forty years ago), I never watched the show for any length of time, but whenever I did, there was always some kind of drama/trauma going on for someone. No one got to happily ride off into the sunset ( not for any decent length of time at least), and so when it first came onscreen in the 1960’s, ‘Days’ well and truly broke the mould of the most popular themes of that era ~ mom, apple pie, and the American dream. I very much doubt that the script writers of that show intended their work to be taken seriously as an educational tool, but nevertheless, its tacit message was there for all to see. No matter how much happiness we may attain in this life, it is sure to slip through our fingers at some point. Previously available only in real life or on vinyl records, the blues were now also available as ongoing television melodrama.
And so in the face of all this, what is the ultimate gift that can be given, and who has the capacity to deliver it? That gift is what great spiritual teachers have been continuously giving for countless thousands of years. It’s the knowledge, the inspiration, and the opportunity to build a foundation for our lives that will not be continually shifting like the sands that pour through the hourglass. That foundation is a spiritual one ~ realising our spiritual nature and gradually re-establishing our natural loving relationship with the Divine and with each other. If we are successful in this endeavour, then the days of our lives will at last have some real and enduring meaning.