Sunday, December 6, 2009

The "If/Then" Mind

It seems that most of us are rarely satisfied with what we have. We live in a familiar state of "if/then" mind that goes something like, "If I could only have this thing or that thing, then I will be happy." We can literally waste a lifetime living in this kind of mind-trap.

There is a whimsical folk character in the Sufi tradition named Mullah Nasrudin, who is a combination wise man, holy man, philosopher, and fool. There are many humorous anecdotes that have been told about him over hundreds of years, and here is one that illustrates how the "if/then" mind works.

One day, Mullah Nasrudin was walking down a forest path, when he came upon a man sitting nearby who was sobbing. "What seems to be the problem?" asked the Mullah, who was always eager to help those in distress.

"My house in the village burned to the ground last night, and all I could salvage from it were these few possessions," wailed the man, pointing to a knapsack sitting next to him.

Mullah Nasrudin considered the man's predicament for a moment, and then seized upon an idea. He quickly snatched the man's satchel, and ran off down the road with it, ignoring the pleas and curses from the traveler, who now gave chase behind him.

The Mullah was fleet of foot, and soon the pursuer surrendered to the inevitable and quit running after him. When Nasrudin saw that the coast was clear, he carefully placed the man's possessions in the middle of the path, and then hid amongst the trees and bushes nearby.

In a short while, the refugee came trudging dejectedly down the path. "How could this have happened?" he lamented. "All I owned in the world has been taken from me!" Just then, he saw his knapsack sitting in the middle of the path where Mullah Nasrudin had placed it. His expression turned instantly from abject sorrow and grief, to joy and ecstasy. The man rushed to the pack, opened it, and found that all his possessions were still there. His eyes were now filled with tears of happiness and gratitude as he thanked the Divine for returning his things to him safely.

From his observation post, Mullah Nasrudin took all of this in, and then scratched his head and chuckled in amazement. "Hmmph" he grunted to himself. "It's funny what it takes to make some people happy!"

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