The master nods solemnly and says, “Yes, young disciple…tell me…what is it that you have come here to learn?”
The student could not help but to feel frustrated. For the master has asked him this same question every morning and every evening for four years.
Discouraged, he replies, “Master, I have come to learn how to achieve my desires.”
“And how does one go about doing this?” asked the master.
The student mechanically replies, “One must learn to focus the mind and eliminate unproductive thoughts.”
“And do you believe you have achieved this?”
“Yes sir, I have labored arduously in my training and I now have complete control over my mind.”
“Oh?” asks the master. “Well if that’s the case, then you should be able to take this fly from my hand.”
The master slowly outstretched his arm and uncurled his fingers to reveal a perfectly calm and content fly.
The student stared at his master in disbelief for what seemed like minutes: “Why hadn’t the fly simply taken its leave?” he wondered.
Without the slightest hesitation, the student’s hand exploded into motion after the fly. But he was far too slow for the master who was easily able to close his hand again.
“You see, my son, you cannot leave here until you are able to take the fly from my hand. Only then can we know that your training is complete.”
The student, still frustrated, seemed somewhat at ease with this response. Now he could at least see the end in sight. The only task that remained for the student was to take the fly from the master’s hand.
The next day, the student woke up before the sun and meditated for hours before spending the entire day training his agility. He focused clearly and intently on snatching the fly. He was able to visualize it with perfect, stunning clarity.
Yet, day after day went by and he was still unable to catch the fly. But the student had learned very well up to this point that he must not allow himself to become discouraged. For weeks, the student persisted and remained focused on the final task.
But over and over the student had failed to seize the fly.
Then, exactly three months later, the student had a sudden realization while watering the garden one morning. Excited, he gasped and stood motionless for several seconds…
He then quickly dashed back to his dorm to think. It had occurred to him that the fly is simply an analogy.
As part of the student’s final training, the fly was to stand as a symbol for his desires.
The student spent the entire day making connections between the fly and his desires. For over six hours he rifled through every one of the notebooks and recorded memos that he compiled during his four year training at the monastery.
Then the time came, once again, to meet his master on the bridge above the pond.
Without saying a word, the student approached the master, staring him confidently in the eye. The amusement was almost too much for the master, as a subtle smile ran across his face. He could see in the student’s eyes that an epiphany had fallen upon him.
There stood the student, calmly and confidently, while the master once again casually outstretched his arm and uncurled his fingers. The fly stared deeply into the student’s soul. But the student remained poised, fixing his stare upon the master’s eyes.
“Well…go on!” exclaimed the master with delight.
The student drew in a deep breath of air and exhaled. He slowly raised his arm, removing his gaze from the master’s eyes and onto the fly. His heart cried out with a longing like he had never felt before. A sweet song of joy erupted inside of his chest; and a delighted smile swept across his face as he experienced an overwhelming sense of love and gratitude for the fly.
Calmly, carefully, assuredly…the student gracefully reached out and slowly scooped up the fly. The master’s hand did not even move.
Appearing quite satisfied, the master said, “You see now, young disciple, that the fly was always yours for the rightful taking. When you try to artificially expedite the process, you will fail over and over again…as you’ve well learned. You may now go forth and utilize this wisdom in your own life.”
The student accepted his accomplishment with humility and said, “Thank you, master, for all of your teachings. I am sworn to utilize these lessons for the growth of others and the benefit of the planet.”
“Very well, my son…just remember this one final proverb: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
What the student finally realized is that his desire was there waiting for him the whole time. He just had to calmly reach out and take what was already rightfully his.
The student failed every other time because he believed that he had to “snatch” the fly. This implied that he did not deserve it.
We are often sold on ideas, products, and services that “guarantee” fast results. These resources will almost always fail to produce results. And if they do, the results don’t last. Whatever gains were made in the short term will slip through your fingers like sand.
Don’t be fooled, comrade.