“The Humble Pilgrim”

woman in red jacket and brown shorts standing on pathway near green trees and mountain during

Three pilgrims set off by foot on a 90-mile (about 145 km) pilgrimage down a well-traveled path in the mountains. In a bid to impress the other two pilgrims, the first trekker attempted to hike thirty 30 miles (about 48 km) his first day…. far past any reasonable mileage. Consequently, he blew out one of his knees on the 28th (45th km) mile. Badly injured, the first pilgrim was forced to abandon his journey. The second pilgrim, in a vain attempt to impress his friends back home, tried to record his entire pilgrimage on his phone. However, on the first day, he covered only two miles (3 km) before falling off a small cliff trying to capture a dramatic “selfie”. He, too, was forced to abandon his journey due to breaking his arm in the fall. Meanwhile, the third pilgrim went humbly upon her way at a moderate pace.  She stopped along the trail for brief intervals to give thanks to the spirit of the mountains that guided her feet and soul in tandem. After 7 days and 90 miles (about 145 km) of walking, the third pilgrim at last arrived at the destination: a glorious mountain top where soaring eagles greeted her with blessings of acknowledgment for a pilgrimage traveled without hubris or vanity.

“A Miracle in the Town Square”

man in orange robe standing on gray concrete floor during daytime

One day an arrogant and wealthy politician encountered a monk at the center of the town square. The monk, clad in a flowing orange robe with a begging cup in hand, did not pay the politician any notice. He just strolled slowly by the prominent man with eyes staring straight ahead absorbed in a walking meditation.  Enraged at having not been acknowledged, the politician ran up behind the monk and aggressively grabbed him by the arm and said:

“Don’t you know who I am? Everyone bows down before me!”

The monk locked eyes with the politician for a few seconds and then suddenly began laughing hysterically out loud. Growing even more enraged, the powerful and famous man raised his fists in the air and threatened the monk with violence. He then demanded to know what was so funny. Still laughing, the monk pointed down at the politician’s feet. The politician looked embarrassingly down at his feet and saw that he was standing in a pile of fresh cow dung! As the politician bent down to clean the dung off his shoes, the monk stood over him and said:

“I think I remember who you are now. You are that former politician turned humble servant of his people. Now allow me to help you clean the cow dung off your shoes.”

 At that moment it has been said that a great miracle took place. An arrogant and wealthy politician was transformed into a kind and humble servant for the poorest and most oppressed among his people.

“Meanderings Down the Path”

photo of soil road surrounded by trees

When I first started down the path I was consumed by the goal of one day becoming enlightened. Then, I traveled down the path a little more and that desire began to gradually fade away. Now, as I find myself slightly further down the path I see that even the concept of enlightenment is a distraction and a potential trap from getting on with the truly all-important spiritual work of becoming a compassionate, humble and peaceful being.

“Blessings of a Wise Being”

red and gold great buddha ceramic figurine in closeup photo

If one is truly fortunate, a rare wise being will come into their lives. When you meet such a person you immediately feel that you are in the presence of someone who really knows something about life and how to live it. Such a being’s individual nuances, background and spiritual point of connection may vary; but always the characteristics of their souls are the same. They are as humble as the roots of trees, are filled with boundless compassion, live to serve their communities and embrace life’s most challenging moments as golden opportunities to grow in their faith. Such wise beings also live simply without any attachment to material things, show gratitude each and every day and have rascally sense of humors! But above all, people of wisdom live fully and authentically in the consciousness of that underlying reality called God or Tao. It is clear through spending even a minute in their presence, that such beings have discovered an eternal well of love within them. To share time in their presence is to drink the sweet nectar from the Divine itself and to bask in the light of its grace. If you have met just such a being absorb all of their teachings and model your life after them!

“The Genuine Teacher”

shallow focus photo of flower

A genuine spiritual teacher

Is a humble person

Who does not try to “awaken” others….

Rather, such a being is simply one

who creates

A loving space

To naturally allow

For the open sharing

And transmission of wisdom

Between kindred souls.

Mindful Musings: Mar 16

“The King who Served for One Day”

By: Forrest Rivers

Once upon a time, there was a great king who after many years of intense meditation practice and reading the scriptures ascended to the throne in the wake of his father’s passing. On the afternoon of his first day in power the King called over his devoted assistant and said:

“Oh, beloved friend please bring before me the most impoverished couple in the kingdom.”

In no time at all the assistant appeared with an elderly couple wearing nothing but rags and carrying alms cups in their hands. The king felt great shame in his heart for his father’s dreadful neglect of the poor. He then locked eyes with the couple and said:

“Thank you for journeying all this way. How may I make my kingdom of service to you?”

The couple bowed and took two nervous steps forward in the king’s direction. The old woman then spoke:

“Your majesty we stand before you with great reverence. The truth is we work hard but we haven’t eaten in six days. We would simply ask for a respite from our grinding life of poverty. “

In a display of overflowing love, the king hugged the pair and gave them a year’s worth of food, brand new clothes and enough gold coins so they would never have to work a day in their lives again.  The couple cried tears of gratitude and then went on their way.

Later that same day the king once again called over his devoted assistant and said:

Oh, beloved friend please bring before me the two most diseased people in the kingdom.”

In no time at all the assistant appeared with one young man and one young woman who were groaning in agony. The king stared at the pair with deep compassion for their ill state of health and said:

Thank you for journeying all this way. How may I make my kingdom of service to you?”

The two bowed to the king as the young man spoke:

“Your majesty it is a great honor to be here in your presence. As you can see, we have both been robbed of our youth by this scourge of leprosy. We would love nothing more than to have our health restored.”

With overwhelming empathy for the pair’s suffering, the king summoned the best healers in the kingdom and set them upon the task of curing the two lepers. Within just three hours the healers gathered and successfully cured the pair of their disease right there before him in the palace. In disbelief, the two former lepers cried tears of joy and went on their way.

As dusk set upon the kingdom, the young but saintly king called over his devoted assistant once more and said:

“Oh, beloved friend please bring before me the two most oppressed people in the kingdom.”

In no time at all the assistant appeared with a middle-aged couple. They were visibly malnourished and had terrible scars from endless days of dangerous toil across their faces and arms. Recalling his own life of luxury, the king felt not only empathy for their suffering but disgust at the injustice they had endured under his father’s rule. The king stared at the couple and said:

“Thank you for journeying all this way. How may I make my kingdom of service to you?”

This time the pair of visitors fell down to their knees and began sobbing. The oppressed man spoke first:

“We have been beaten, starved and forced to toil in the mines. All we have known is great sadness and despair. “

The oppressed woman then spoke:

“After so many years of enslavement we are both resigned to our lot in life. All we ask is freedom for all our brothers and sisters who labor in servitude next to us. That is all we request.”

The king’s heart was so moved by the selfless words of the oppressed couple that he too dropped to his knees and said:

“May your wish be granted. At this moment I here by abandon my right of succession to the throne and turn over the kingdom to you two wise servants of the poor and downtrodden. May it fall upon you to end the enslavement of our people and restore justice across the land. And may your first decree as king and queen be to liberate all those humble souls who produce the wealth for this kingdom. “

In response to the King’s words, the oppressed couple began chanting sacred incantations to this great king of love and compassion. The king then left his final instructions to his assistant to introduce the new royal couple the following morning and show all the people proof of his seal of approval anointing them as his successors.

The next morning at the first crack of dawn, the now kingdom less king packed a bag full of food and supplies and set off by foot eight miles (about 13 KM) into the surrounding mountains to a storied peak where many seekers before him had gone in search of their enlightenment.  After a challenging four hour climb through the breathtaking pine forests he at last arrived at the top of the majestic mountain. The king walked over to the edge of the peak and looked off in awe at the glorious vistas ahead. He then sat down in the lotus position and began to meditate. But just as he began to close his eyes and tune in to his own breath, he heard an unknown but tender female voice surround him that spoke with the wisdom of the ages. This mysterious voice said:

“Thank you for journeying all this way. How can my kingdom be of service to you?”

Astounded, the king recognized the voice that repeated the question he had once asked as belonging to the mountain. Beaming with joy, the king then replied to the mountain’s familiar question:

“All of my life I have intuitively known that power and riches are not the measure of a man or of a life worth living. I have journeyed to your rarefied abode in search of the deepest wisdom.

After a long moment of silence, the wise mountain spoke once more:

“Great King, you have already discovered the deepest wisdom. When you alleviated the suffering of the poor couple you embodied the deepest wisdom. When you gathered all the kingdom’s best healers to cure the two lepers you embodied the deepest wisdom. And when you gave up your kingdom to the oppressed couple so that all the commoners could at once be free you embodied the deepest wisdom. Now that you have journeyed all this way I invite you to stay with me for a period of 45 days and 45 nights. On the 45th day a great surprise shall await you.”

And so, the king stayed on the mountain for the entire duration of 45 days and 45 nights and learned all the secrets of enlightenment from his new guru.

 Finally, on the 45th day two mysterious pilgrims arrived at the King’s cave that was located just below the summit of the majestic mountain. The pair appeared wearing head scarves to mask their true identities. The king silently motioned for them to sit down on the ground in front of him. The two pilgrims obliged his request and began to remove their scarves. To the king’s great surprise, the two people seated in front of him were the oppressed couple whom he had turned his kingdom over too six weeks before. The former oppressed woman then spoke:

“Noble one, we have journeyed here to confirm the rumors that a holy man truly lives atop this mountain. “

The former oppressed man then said:

“Now that we have confirmed that the rumors are true we humbly ask that you return to the kingdom and serve as spiritual advisor to our kingdom. The people have been released from their heavy bonds of servitude and what they now desire is to pursue the path of self-realization. You, Great King, can help lead them there. “

Overwhelmed with joy, the former king turned holy man enthusiastically accepted the royal couple’s offer. Before setting back off to the kingdom the following morning, the three esteemed guests of the mystical mountain spent the 45th evening of the king’s retreat in a soulful night of prayer. And as the three prayed together for the kingdom’s peace and good fortune, they each swore that they heard the voice of the mountain speak to them with these parting words:

“May your kingdom always be of service.”

Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon HERE.

Mindful Musings: Jan 17

“The Day a Magician Learned Real Magic”

By: Forrest Rivers

woman holding sparklers bokeh photography

One day a popular local magician performed his act in front of a large group of people on the town square. The magician pulled all of his best tricks out of his hat to entertain the grateful audience. Everyone in attendance cheered wildly for the magician and his feats of illusion except for one young woman in the crowd who stood unimpressed with her arms folded. After he finished up his act, the magician immediately approached the woman, politely introduced himself and then asked if she enjoyed his act.

                The woman replied:

“I thought your tricks were very good. Certainly, you know how to entertain an audience. However, did I hear correctly that you said you could perform magic?”

The magician took a few nervous steps backwards and then said in a defensive tone:

                “I stand by what I told the audience. I am a magician; therefore, I can perform magic.”

A warm smile broke out across the woman’s face as she replied:

                “I mean you absolutely no offense. In fact, in my humble judgement you are a very talented street magician. What I question is your claim that you can perform magic.”

                The magician scowled and grew more defensive:

                “I am afraid I have no idea what you are getting it. I am a great and revered magician.”

                The smile on the woman’s face grew even warmer and more inviting.  Remarkably, the magician then saw a heavenly white aura emerge around the woman. In a gentle and soothing voice, she then said:

                “Can you love your neighbor as you love yourself? Can you perform the glorious act of serving the poor without seeking any praise or honor from others? Can you see within yourself all the earth’s forests, mountains, rivers, plants, animals and all the people too? Can you live in this world but not be up of it? Can you embrace death as your friend so you may live this life to the fullest? If you can accomplish all of these things, then indeed my kind magician, you can perform magic.”

                The magician froze in silent reflection and then he suddenly placed his magic cap before the feet of the mysterious woman and handed her his wand. For the first time in his life, he humbled himself before another person, bowed, and then said:

                “In truth, all I am is an entertainer. In my heart, I believe it is you who might be able to truly perform magic. Please, teach me your ways of wisdom. Please, teach me your magic.”

                An angelic smile swept across her face as the beautiful goddess like woman waved the magician’s wand and out of thin air a radiant ball of swirling golden and purple light appeared that washed over the magician with overwhelming love. In that moment, it has been said that that the magician achieved cosmic understanding and learned how to truly practice magic for the first time.