A beggar had been sitting by the side of a road for over thirty years. One day a stranger walked by.
‘Spare some change?’ mumbled the beggar, mechanically holding out his old baseball cap.
‘I have nothing to give you’, said the stranger. Then he asked: ‘What’s that you are sitting on?’
‘Nothing’, replied the beggar. ‘Just an old box. I have been sitting on it for as long as I can remember.’
‘Ever looked inside?’ asked the stranger.
‘No’, said the beggar. ‘What’s the point? There is nothing in there.’
‘Have a look inside’, insisted the stranger.
The beggar managed to pry open the lid. With astonishment, belief and elation, he saw that the box was filled with gold.
I was reminded of this story that Eckhart Tolle tells at the beginning of his book, The Power of Now, during a week when I read the parables that Jesus tells us about treasure. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field. Again the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it’ (Matthew 13:44 – 52).
It is easy to think that the treasure is literally in a field, somewhere outside of us and we have to keep looking outside for it. The treasure, the kingdom of heaven, God, is in the field that is within us.
Christian meditators believe that meditation, through stillness and silence, offers us a way to look inside for the pearl of great price. There are of course other ways, other spiritual paths, to find the treasure. The important thing is that we look inside, not outside, for it.
It is likely that the treasure has been buried over years of our life by layers of traits and things that we have accumulated, and is so well hidden that we do not even know that the treasure is within.
Jesus tells the rich young man to ‘sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’ (Mark 10: 17-31, Matthew 19:16-30). The words ‘sell everything ’ recur. Selling everything means detaching from all that is holding us back from, and getting in the way of, our search for our treasure, God.
St Ignatius in the Principle and Foundation, asks us to detach from ‘wealth, health, longevity and honour’, the principle things in our lives that build up our ego and keep us bound, chained, and Edge God Out (EGO).
As St Augustine describes so well.
‘Lo, you were within, But I outside, seeking there for you, and upon the shapely things you have made. I rushed headlong – I, misshapen. You were within me, but I was not with you. They held me back far from you, those things which would have no being, were they not in you.
‘You called, shouted, broke through my deafness, you flared, blazed, banished my blindness, you lavished your fragrance. I gasped; and now I pant for you; I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst, you touched me and I burned for your peace.
‘When at last I cling to you with my whole being, there will be no more anguish or labour for me, and my life will be alive indeed, alive because filled with you.’
Susie Hii is a writer and author of Happy, Healthy, Holy.