I have been searching during this pandemic for the words to share with the Class of 2020. A class who has arguably been through more than any in recent history. I was looking for ways to look at this time perhaps through a different lens.
In my search, I stumbled onto a story that Eckert Tolle (2005), the famous spiritual teacher, told in his book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. Below is a slight modification from the original text:
The story was about an ancient king in some Middle Eastern land who was constantly torn between happiness and despondency. The slightest thing would provoke an intense reaction and his happiness would quickly dissolve into despair.
The king eventually became tired of himself and his life and sought out help from a wise man who lived in his kingdom who was reputed to be enlightened. He said to the wise man, I want to be like you. Can you give me something that will bring balance, serenity, and wisdom into my life? I will pay any price you ask.”
The wise man said, “I may be able to help you. But the price is so great that your entire kingdom would not be sufficient to pay for it. Therefore it will be a gift to you if you honor it.” The king gave his assurances and the wise man left.
A few weeks later, he returned and handed the king an ornate box carved in jade. The king opened the box and found a simple gold ring inside. Some letters were inscribed on the ring. The inscription read. This too will pass. “What is the meaning of this?” asked the king. The wise man said, “Wear this ring always. Whatever happens, before you call it good or bad, touch this ring and read the inscription. That way you will always be at peace.”
Tolle goes on to explain the words on the ring are not telling you that you should not enjoy the good in your life, nor are they meant to provide comfort in times of suffering. Rather, they have a deeper purpose to make you aware of the fleetingness of every situation. The saying allows one to create space or stillness around a situation in other words peace.
Class of 2020, there are countless reasons to be downhearted with the things that you missed out in your senior year. On the other side of the coin though there is plenty of good that came out of the pandemic as well. A prime example is the precious time you were afforded. Time to slow down and be with your families. The time that would not have been available in normal times. The time that hopefully shed the importance of the gift of being with our loved ones.
The message from the wise man in the story takes on a relevant meaning during this time in history. It is not as important to classify life as good or as bad, as it is to acknowledge the impermanence of our lives. A wave of inner peace in knowing that regardless of the situation, this too will pass. The words allow us to lean into the good times and truly appreciate that and lean out of the bad times, knowing they will not last forever.
My hope for you is to lean into the good times and graciously endure the tough times, realizing all along the journey this too will pass. Today is a good day and unlike any graduation, we have ever done complete with a drive-in theatre, parades, and even fireworks. Enjoy the good, class of 2020, you will always have a place in my heart!
Tolle, E. (2005). A new earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose. New York, NY: Penguin Books.