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Release the cowsIn proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness.

~Henry David Thoreau

This past week brought a triple whammy my way- moving, Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Through all of the boxes, and endless excess at the dinner table and store lines, all I could think about was that I was in the trap. I was the hamster on the treadmill. I was in the Matrix readily consuming what others or the TV were telling me to consume. I vacillated between gratitude for my life and the utter complexity of the trap itself. Another year, another holiday, another ‘thing’ that someone has to have or do, or worst of all a way that someone has to be.

I began to fill box after box and labeled them GOODWILL. The question on the tip of my tongue was, what did I really need? The only thing I really cared about in my place were my books, everything else was just trinkets of stuff that ultimately I could not take with me on the big journey. As the stress of the week began to confront me I began to laugh. I needed to release my cows. It was clear to me. I laughed as I remembered this Zen story told by Thich Nhat Hanh.

“One day the Buddha was sitting in the wood with thirty or forty monks. They had an excellent lunch and they were enjoying the company of each other. There was a farmer passing by and the farmer was very unhappy. He asked the Buddha and the monks whether they had seen his cows passing by. The Buddha said they had not seen any cows passing by.

The farmer said, “Monks, I’m so unhappy. I have twelve cows and I don’t know why they all ran away. I have also a few acres of a sesame seed plantation and the insects have eaten up everything. I suffer so much I think I am going to kill myself.

The Buddha said, “My friend, we have not seen any cows passing by here. You might like to look for them in the other direction.”

So the farmer thanked him and ran away, and the Buddha turned to his monks and said, “My dear friends, you are the happiest people in the world. You don’t have any cows to lose. 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. You release the cows one by one. In the beginning you thought that those cows were essential to your happiness, and you tried to get more and more cows. But now you realize that cows are not really conditions for your happiness; they constitute an obstacle for your happiness. That is why you are determined to release your cows.”

Simplicity is a way of being. Having stuff or owning things is not the culprit, it is who you are being in the face of these things. It is in this non attachment where we find happiness. I choose to release my cows. Lao Tzu summarized this way of being quite well.

Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.

Yes it does. The whole word belongs to you and you to the world. The beginning is the end and the end the beginning.

Call to Action:

  • Release your cows. Look in your life where you are attached. What can you release?
  • Live now, Live in this moment, not for things. It is who you are not what you have. Find these moments to rejoice.
  • Be LOVE

Thomas D. Craig

Author of A Cup of Buddha and soon to be released Is that so? A Modern Fable of Awakening

writer. seeker. warrior