Friday, October 14, 2011

Releasing The Cows

“Each moment is a chance for us to make peace with the world, to make peace possible for the world, to make happiness possible for the world.”

Thoughts for Wednesday's blog and classes come from one of the dharma talks that Thay gave during our recent retreat with him.  It's a story that he often tells and in true Zen fashion, it is a simple reminder for us to come back to the happiness available in this moment.  It speaks to so many of us so I thought I'd share it:

Releasing The Cows
One day, after the Buddha and a group of monks finished eating lunch mindfully together in the woods, a farmer, very agitated, hurried by and asked, "Monks, have you seen my cows?!?  The Buddha asked him "What happened?" and the man said "Monks, this morning all 12 of my cows ran away.  And this year my whole crop of sesame seeds was eaten by insects! I don't think I can survive such misfortune!"  The Buddha said, dear sir, I'm so sorry, we have not seen your cows.  Perhaps they have gone in the other direction."  After the farmer went off in that direction, the Buddha turned to the monks and said, "Dear friends, do you know you are the happiest people on earth?  You have no cows or sesame plants to lose." 

We always try to accumulate more and more, and we think these "cows" are essential for our existence when in fact, they may be the obstacles that prevent us from being happy.  If you have too many cows to take care of, you will be very busy.  That is why, in order to be happy, you have to learn the art of cow releasing. 
Cow Releasing 101:
The purpose of our practice is to release our cows.  So, we release our cows one by one.  If we have too many "cows" inside or outside, we have to let them go them in order to create space. Without space we can't be happy.  Without space we become preoccupied with lots of things, we worry about lots things, we pack our days full of too many plans, and we think all of them are necessary to our happiness, but it's not true. As we release more cows, we will be happier, lighter and have more freedom.
We can do everything – walk, drink tea, talk – in a way that improves our freedom.
There is no need to do things in a stressful way. We can start by limiting ourselves to few projects and commit to do them with mindfulness, joy and clarity. We can refuse to be drawn in by the number of cows we have. We sacrifice them because our freedom and wellbeing are important.
We have to learn to live in happiness in this moment, to touch in peace and happiness what is available now.
If someone asks us: "Have you experienced the happiest moment in your life?", we may say, "It will happen soon." But, if we continue to live in such a busy way, it may never appear. 
We must make this moment into the most wonderful moment and we can do it if we stop running toward the future, stop worrying about the past, and stop accumulating so many cows.
You are free human beings; you are alive. Open your eyes and enjoy the splendor of the sun, the blue sky and the wonderful children around you.
Breathing with awareness inside and out assists you to be in your best – relaxed, fresh, stable, serene, free and able to enjoy this moment as the most wonderful moment of your life. 
So, we have to ask ourselves; what is really essential to our happiness?  Will we be happy only when we get that new expensive purse?  Will our happiness begin when we can sell our house and move to sunny California?  Will we finally be content when we acquire that promotion or title?  

We all have cows or conditions that seemingly prevent us from being happy. That's why releasing the cows around us and letting go of the preoccupations inside of us is an essential condition for happiness. This is the space we are talking about when we practice. I am space; within and out. I feel free. Freedom is the real foundation of happiness.
When we start to unbury ourselves from our internal and external stuff, we will find more access to our experience, and more space to breathe, move, love, and have compassion.  In addition to feeling lighter with less to carry, we will have more time to spend with others, and more energy to contribute to the world as well.

What are some of your cows?  What are some of the conditions that are keeping you imprisoned in fear, busyness, worry?  Release the cows and find that happiness resides in freedom and spaciousness.

Until next time... let the cows roam free! :)


  1. This was exactly what I needed to read today (still playing catch up on your thay posts) I am sharing this.
    I hope to practice with you some day!