Mindful Musings: Apr 30th

“Seeds of Karma: A Short Story”

By: Forrest Rivers

two men sitting on road

One day, a very wealthy banking executive by the name of Jeffrey Goodwin was walking down the street in New York City just a few blocks from his office for lunch when a homeless woman grabbed his attention. The young woman, who was around 25 years old, waved him down and said in a polite voice:

“Sir, could you spare some change? I have fallen on difficult times.”

The 55-year-old banker, who was dressed in an expensive Armani suit, stared dismissively at the young woman and said in an arrogant tone:

“I worked hard for my money, why should I help you? “

The banker then proceeded to carry on his way but not before the homeless woman recaptured his attention by calling him out by his childhood name:

“Jeffey, I am very disappointed in you. I did not raise you this way. Don’t you remember when your mother used to bring you to soup kitchens when you were but a teenager to serve meals to those in need just like me?”

Taken aback, Jeffrey Goodwin stopped cold in his tracks and turned to face the woman who was 30 years younger and said:

“How do you know my childhood name? And, who told you that my mother used to bring me to soup kitchens when I was young?”

The homeless woman stared adoringly at the wall street elite standing before her and whispered the words:

“I know these things because I was your mother before I passed away when you were the same age I am now. “

Jeffrey Goodwin suddenly dropped to his knees and began sobbing uncontrollably for the first time since his mother’s death all those years ago. He then stared the young woman right in her eyes and said:

“But how can this be? How is it even possible for you to have died and then to retrun in a new body. I don’t think I understand!”

The young woman, who was in fact his mother from her previous life, hugged the banker and shared what wisdom she had:

“The Universe is a mysterious web of wonder, dear son. About three years ago, I roamed through India for a period of time and met a venerated sage. And he taught me that reincarnation is a fixed and eternal law of the cosmos. Everything is born, then it dies and then it is reborn again. My child, just as the butterfly sheds its cocoon at its moment of transformation from a caterpillar, the soul sheds its body at its moment of transformation from form back into the deathless realm of pure spirit. And, after the soul sheds its body, it then wonders about freely without any hindrance into the mystical planes. But inevitably, the day finally arrives when the soul, pulled by its own karma, chooses to leave the sanctuary of its celestial heavens to take birth once again in a body to continue its journey of truth and enlightenment. “

Astounded at what he had just heard, the wealthy banker then asked the woman in a semi-skeptical tone:

“But how do you know that what your teacher, or whatever you call him, was telling you the truth?”

The young woman smiled and simply said:

“For one a true sage never lies. Most importantly, I experienced the truth of his words directly. One day, while meditating with him and some of his disciples high in the mountains, I had several visions myself from a previous life as your mother. In those visions, I discovered that you, dear one, are my link to the timeless wheel of birth and death!”

For the first time since meeting her, the banker looked upon the homeless woman with great reverence.  Within his own heart he now heard the truth of her words speak. Oblivious to the loud background noise of the city, the reunited mother and son rejoiced in a long and joyous moment of silence together. Finally, the banker broke their awe-filled moment and summoned the courage to ask his mother a question that now arose in his mind:

“If I may ask, why did our paths cross here in this improbable setting of New York City? Afterall, you raised me in the country. How is it that we are meeting here?”

In response, the homeless woman laughed and said:

“All I can say is that it was our seeds of karma to appear, here, in this moment of space and time so you could remember that there exists no power stronger in this universe then love. “

Tears streamed down the face of the wealthy banker as he began to feel great shame for all his greedy and selfish behavior. He thought of all the people like his reincarnated mother whom he had brutally judged and ridiculed for their suffering. And he thought of the lies that he had told countless people to convince them to sign away what little savings they had to fatten his own wallet. In that moment of deep reflection, Jeffrey Goodwin experienced great regret for a life wasted in pursuit of ignoble aims. Right then and there, he resolved to use his immense wealth to create a foundation to serve the homeless and all people suffering in poverty. And he just now happened to know the perfect person to appoint as both his personal spiritual advisor and director of a campaign to serve the poor with the spirit of loving kindness.

Mindful Musings: Apr 20

“The Final Test”

By: Forrest Rivers

gray and brown pagoda temple beside calm body of water at daytime

A celebrated master of a spiritual community deep in the Southern Appalachian Mountains was nearing his death and had a vision that he would drop his body in one month’s time. In the weeks leading up to his passing, Master Changing Winds, as he was affectionally known by all in the community, chose three of his wisest and most beloved disciples (out of a pool of ninety-four) to put through a battery of tests to determine who would succeed him. Following the tradition of his ancestors, he would then select one among the three based on the qualities of courage, devotion, discipline, and humility.  Over the course of three and a half weeks, the three disciples were put through a series of tests that included some of the following: martial arts, a six-day fast, ten days of solitude meditating in the high mountains, three days of intensive volunteer work in the community and the recitation of one-hundred and two sacred mantras. All three seekers performed at the very highest level of a bodhisattva, or an enlightened and compassionate soul. After so many tests and still no clear successor, Master Changing Winds was not the least bit concerned.

On the day before Master Changing Winds was to die, the venerated sage lined up his three devotees, looked them each in the eyes and prepared to put them through their final test. He then called each one forward and asked them one question to which they had to offer an immediate reply. He addressed his first devotee, Timeless Seasons, and asked:

“Death has arrived, now what shall we do?”

Timeless Seasons summoned all the courage within him and then replied:

“Death has arrived so now let us dance, play and sing!”

Master Changing Winds smiled warmly at Timeless Seasons and then called upon his second devotee, Flowing River, and asked her the same question:

“Death has arrived, now what shall we do?”

Flowing River quickly collected her thoughts and replied:

“Death has arrived, now lets us pray together for favorable births in our next lives so that we may serve all sentient beings!”

Once more, Master Changing Winds smiled warmly at his devotee and motioned for his third and final disciple to come forward. He asked the same question again:

Death has arrived, now what shall we do?”

Like Timeless Seasons and Flowing River had done before him, Silent Mountain bowed to his master and began to speak:

“Master, has Death arrived? If so, where did it ever go? Has death not always been present among us like the changing winds, the timeless seasons, the flowing rivers and the silent mountains?”

The old master beamed with delight and exchanged bows with Silent Mountain. Then, very suddenly, his body began convulsing and he fell to the floor and died. Timeless Seasons and Flowing River ran immediately over to Master Changing Winds and began sobbing:

“Master, please don’t leave us! How can we go on without you!”

As Timeless Seasons and Flowing River struggled to process the passing of their beloved teacher and sage, Silent Mountain stood in stoic silence. He then knelt to the ground, wiped a few tears from his eyes and quietly recited a prayer that his now late master had once taught him:

“As we all grow old, the ocean tides they come and go. Life is an eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. May the heavens always guide our souls through the darkness of night only to awake again in light.”

To the complete astonishment of all three disciples, Master Changing Winds opened his eyes at the exact moment Silent Mountain stopped speaking. Standing in disbelief, Flowing River stammered:

“But how can this be? Your breathing ceased before us! Let us all behold this miracle!”

Master Changing Winds got to his feet and spoke in a calm and gentle tone:

“What you just witnessed was an ancient practice to curtail one’s own breath. The monks of old practiced this technique for the purpose of mastering their own minds. The faking of my death and your reactions to it was your final test. I wanted to see which one of you would display the greatest degree of acceptance and equanimity in the face of our greatest existential fear. “

The old sage paused again and then turned and bowed to each of the devoted seekers. He then continued to speak:

“You have each made me proud and honored to be your teacher. I regard each of you as a holy being. Tomorrow, I will depart this world and go beyond the Void once more to commune with the spirits of our ancestors. And according to tradition, I must choose a successor to carry on the sacred teachings. I have made my decision who that person will be. Silent Mountain, please come kneel before me. In the face of my dying, you perfectly demonstrated both the acceptance and equanimity of a fully realized being. Tomorrow, I will hold a farewell gathering with the entire community present as is also custom for the passing of a spiritual leader. Tomorrow, I will also introduce you, Silent Mountain, as the next leader of our community. May peace and goodwill be your candle and flame as you humbly guide your devotees to enlightenment. “

Silent Mountain bowed to Changing Winds, Timeless Seasons and Flowing River and all four wept out of joy, hope, sorrow and relief to know the ancient teachings would continue on.

The following morning, the whole community gathered in a beautiful lush green valley cradled by majestic blue mountains. They were there to celebrate the life and imminent passing of their beloved teacher through song, dance, and storytelling. As Master Changing Wind’s final moments drew near, the entire community formed a large circle around him and then began chanting and tossing flower petals upon him. The old holy man sat cross legged in the middle of the circle smiling radiantly at all of his disciples. Keeping with tradition, he then motioned for his successor, Silent Mountain, to sit down beside him as he removed his white robe and swapped it for his successor’s red one. The two then put on their new robes and bowed to one another as Master Changing Winds returned to Lotus position, closed his eyes, took three deep breaths and passed away. Within moments after his death, Silent Mountain then turned to his community and back again to his beloved teacher and solemnly read aloud the same prayer he had recited to himself only the day before when he thought his master had died:

            “As we all grow old, the ocean tides they come and go. Life is an eternal cycle of birth, death and rebirth. May the heavens always guide our souls through the darkness of night only to awake again in light.”

Just as the bridge of life connects the mysterious cycle of birth and death, so too, did master and disciple come to share the thread of cosmic awareness.

Mindful Musings: Mar 16

“The King who Served for One Day”

By: Forrest Rivers

Once upon a time, there was a great king who after many years of intense meditation practice and reading the scriptures ascended to the throne in the wake of his father’s passing. On the afternoon of his first day in power the King called over his devoted assistant and said:

“Oh, beloved friend please bring before me the most impoverished couple in the kingdom.”

In no time at all the assistant appeared with an elderly couple wearing nothing but rags and carrying alms cups in their hands. The king felt great shame in his heart for his father’s dreadful neglect of the poor. He then locked eyes with the couple and said:

“Thank you for journeying all this way. How may I make my kingdom of service to you?”

The couple bowed and took two nervous steps forward in the king’s direction. The old woman then spoke:

“Your majesty we stand before you with great reverence. The truth is we work hard but we haven’t eaten in six days. We would simply ask for a respite from our grinding life of poverty. “

In a display of overflowing love, the king hugged the pair and gave them a year’s worth of food, brand new clothes and enough gold coins so they would never have to work a day in their lives again.  The couple cried tears of gratitude and then went on their way.

Later that same day the king once again called over his devoted assistant and said:

Oh, beloved friend please bring before me the two most diseased people in the kingdom.”

In no time at all the assistant appeared with one young man and one young woman who were groaning in agony. The king stared at the pair with deep compassion for their ill state of health and said:

Thank you for journeying all this way. How may I make my kingdom of service to you?”

The two bowed to the king as the young man spoke:

“Your majesty it is a great honor to be here in your presence. As you can see, we have both been robbed of our youth by this scourge of leprosy. We would love nothing more than to have our health restored.”

With overwhelming empathy for the pair’s suffering, the king summoned the best healers in the kingdom and set them upon the task of curing the two lepers. Within just three hours the healers gathered and successfully cured the pair of their disease right there before him in the palace. In disbelief, the two former lepers cried tears of joy and went on their way.

As dusk set upon the kingdom, the young but saintly king called over his devoted assistant once more and said:

“Oh, beloved friend please bring before me the two most oppressed people in the kingdom.”

In no time at all the assistant appeared with a middle-aged couple. They were visibly malnourished and had terrible scars from endless days of dangerous toil across their faces and arms. Recalling his own life of luxury, the king felt not only empathy for their suffering but disgust at the injustice they had endured under his father’s rule. The king stared at the couple and said:

“Thank you for journeying all this way. How may I make my kingdom of service to you?”

This time the pair of visitors fell down to their knees and began sobbing. The oppressed man spoke first:

“We have been beaten, starved and forced to toil in the mines. All we have known is great sadness and despair. “

The oppressed woman then spoke:

“After so many years of enslavement we are both resigned to our lot in life. All we ask is freedom for all our brothers and sisters who labor in servitude next to us. That is all we request.”

The king’s heart was so moved by the selfless words of the oppressed couple that he too dropped to his knees and said:

“May your wish be granted. At this moment I here by abandon my right of succession to the throne and turn over the kingdom to you two wise servants of the poor and downtrodden. May it fall upon you to end the enslavement of our people and restore justice across the land. And may your first decree as king and queen be to liberate all those humble souls who produce the wealth for this kingdom. “

In response to the King’s words, the oppressed couple began chanting sacred incantations to this great king of love and compassion. The king then left his final instructions to his assistant to introduce the new royal couple the following morning and show all the people proof of his seal of approval anointing them as his successors.

The next morning at the first crack of dawn, the now kingdom less king packed a bag full of food and supplies and set off by foot eight miles (about 13 KM) into the surrounding mountains to a storied peak where many seekers before him had gone in search of their enlightenment.  After a challenging four hour climb through the breathtaking pine forests he at last arrived at the top of the majestic mountain. The king walked over to the edge of the peak and looked off in awe at the glorious vistas ahead. He then sat down in the lotus position and began to meditate. But just as he began to close his eyes and tune in to his own breath, he heard an unknown but tender female voice surround him that spoke with the wisdom of the ages. This mysterious voice said:

“Thank you for journeying all this way. How can my kingdom be of service to you?”

Astounded, the king recognized the voice that repeated the question he had once asked as belonging to the mountain. Beaming with joy, the king then replied to the mountain’s familiar question:

“All of my life I have intuitively known that power and riches are not the measure of a man or of a life worth living. I have journeyed to your rarefied abode in search of the deepest wisdom.

After a long moment of silence, the wise mountain spoke once more:

“Great King, you have already discovered the deepest wisdom. When you alleviated the suffering of the poor couple you embodied the deepest wisdom. When you gathered all the kingdom’s best healers to cure the two lepers you embodied the deepest wisdom. And when you gave up your kingdom to the oppressed couple so that all the commoners could at once be free you embodied the deepest wisdom. Now that you have journeyed all this way I invite you to stay with me for a period of 45 days and 45 nights. On the 45th day a great surprise shall await you.”

And so, the king stayed on the mountain for the entire duration of 45 days and 45 nights and learned all the secrets of enlightenment from his new guru.

 Finally, on the 45th day two mysterious pilgrims arrived at the King’s cave that was located just below the summit of the majestic mountain. The pair appeared wearing head scarves to mask their true identities. The king silently motioned for them to sit down on the ground in front of him. The two pilgrims obliged his request and began to remove their scarves. To the king’s great surprise, the two people seated in front of him were the oppressed couple whom he had turned his kingdom over too six weeks before. The former oppressed woman then spoke:

“Noble one, we have journeyed here to confirm the rumors that a holy man truly lives atop this mountain. “

The former oppressed man then said:

“Now that we have confirmed that the rumors are true we humbly ask that you return to the kingdom and serve as spiritual advisor to our kingdom. The people have been released from their heavy bonds of servitude and what they now desire is to pursue the path of self-realization. You, Great King, can help lead them there. “

Overwhelmed with joy, the former king turned holy man enthusiastically accepted the royal couple’s offer. Before setting back off to the kingdom the following morning, the three esteemed guests of the mystical mountain spent the 45th evening of the king’s retreat in a soulful night of prayer. And as the three prayed together for the kingdom’s peace and good fortune, they each swore that they heard the voice of the mountain speak to them with these parting words:

“May your kingdom always be of service.”

Forrest Rivers is a writer and teacher who lives in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His new book, COVID-19 and Humanity’s Spiritual Awakening is now available on Amazon HERE.

Mindful Musings: Jan 17

“The Day a Magician Learned Real Magic”

By: Forrest Rivers

woman holding sparklers bokeh photography

One day a popular local magician performed his act in front of a large group of people on the town square. The magician pulled all of his best tricks out of his hat to entertain the grateful audience. Everyone in attendance cheered wildly for the magician and his feats of illusion except for one young woman in the crowd who stood unimpressed with her arms folded. After he finished up his act, the magician immediately approached the woman, politely introduced himself and then asked if she enjoyed his act.

                The woman replied:

“I thought your tricks were very good. Certainly, you know how to entertain an audience. However, did I hear correctly that you said you could perform magic?”

The magician took a few nervous steps backwards and then said in a defensive tone:

                “I stand by what I told the audience. I am a magician; therefore, I can perform magic.”

A warm smile broke out across the woman’s face as she replied:

                “I mean you absolutely no offense. In fact, in my humble judgement you are a very talented street magician. What I question is your claim that you can perform magic.”

                The magician scowled and grew more defensive:

                “I am afraid I have no idea what you are getting it. I am a great and revered magician.”

                The smile on the woman’s face grew even warmer and more inviting.  Remarkably, the magician then saw a heavenly white aura emerge around the woman. In a gentle and soothing voice, she then said:

                “Can you love your neighbor as you love yourself? Can you perform the glorious act of serving the poor without seeking any praise or honor from others? Can you see within yourself all the earth’s forests, mountains, rivers, plants, animals and all the people too? Can you live in this world but not be up of it? Can you embrace death as your friend so you may live this life to the fullest? If you can accomplish all of these things, then indeed my kind magician, you can perform magic.”

                The magician froze in silent reflection and then he suddenly placed his magic cap before the feet of the mysterious woman and handed her his wand. For the first time in his life, he humbled himself before another person, bowed, and then said:

                “In truth, all I am is an entertainer. In my heart, I believe it is you who might be able to truly perform magic. Please, teach me your ways of wisdom. Please, teach me your magic.”

                An angelic smile swept across her face as the beautiful goddess like woman waved the magician’s wand and out of thin air a radiant ball of swirling golden and purple light appeared that washed over the magician with overwhelming love. In that moment, it has been said that that the magician achieved cosmic understanding and learned how to truly practice magic for the first time.

Mindful Musings: Jan 4

“The Fruits of the Gods: A Short Story”

By: Forrest Rivers

round red fruit during daytime

One Sunday a kind priest was delivering his weekly sermon when suddenly a wise and gentle voice from within him spoke:

“Take them outside and down the walking trail behind the church.”

 The bewildered priest paused for a long moment to silently acknowledge the voice. He then signaled an end to the sermon by waving his left hand and saying:

“My beloved brothers and sisters, please follow me outside and down the walking trail behind the church.”

The priest then led his confused but faithful flock outside the church and down the walking trial just as the mysterious voice had instructed.

The group then stepped onto the path and immediately into a lush green jungle of glorious rhododendron and mountain laurel trees. The priest then heard the strange but comforting voice again. This time it said:

“Have them eat the fruit on the sacred tree. But be sure to first bow and give thanks.”

Now twice baffled, the priest froze in his tracks and then took a few timid steps forward and stared in amazement at what was right in front of him. The most beautiful tree he had ever seen stood there in all its glory. The tree was very tall and its great limbs seemed to reach out with exquisite wonder. The priest had never felt the presence of a tree like this one before. It appeared otherworldly. He then noticed that many small fruits hung from the lower branches of this timeless being. The fruits were each about the size of a crab apple and had a pleasant aroma. The priest then turned to face his thirty-person flock and said:

“Come my faithful companions, let us eat the fruits on this tree. But be sure to bow and give thanks before eating.”

The priest then ate the first fruit to ease everyone’s discomfort in consuming an unknown food in the wild. Soon, everyone followed suit. Some ate one piece of fruit. Others ate two pieces. After the band of wanderers finished eating the sweet and delicious fruits they continued down the path through the enchanted forest. After a mile (about 1.6 kilometers) of walking, the priest heard the same voice within for the third time. This time it said:

“Stop walking for a moment and embrace the ecstatic visions of creation. The fruits of the Gods shall now speak.”

Once again, the priest quietly acknowledged the voice and then turned to face his followers once more. What he saw at that moment instantly brought tears to his eyes. An aura of dazzling white light circled his flock and the limbs on the trees surrounding him expressively extended their branches as if to say, “We are conscious and brimming with the spirit of oneness.”

For the first time in his life the priest became aware of how fully alive the earth was and how pure her essence. The priest then bent down on the ground to examine a bizarre but gorgeous red mushroom. On close inspection, he was astounded to find mysterious hieroglyphic like symbols encrypted on it. The symbols seemed to him to be a secret language that conveyed a supreme cosmic wisdom that transcended the limits of his rational mind. The priest then stared adoringly back at his followers who were now embracing one another in the same dazzling white light. The priest’s heart overfilled with such overwhelming love for his brethren that he had to lie down on the ground to center himself.

After a few moments, the priest got back to his feet only to find a majestic doe standing only a few meters from him. The two beings locked eyes in a moment of divine recognition and the priest then bowed to the beautiful animal. To his amazement, the doe bowed her head back to him. A second and third exchange of bows then followed before the priest dropped to his knees and bowed one final time. Remarkably, the doe bent down as low as she could go almost like a curt seat and bowed before running back off into the forest. Overcome with awe, tears streamed down the priest’s face as he felt certain that he had just had a direct encounter with the Creator itself.

The priest quickly got back to his feet once more and ran over to his flock and began joyously embracing each of them. In turn, everyone (who by then were experiencing the psychedelic fruit’s power to shift consciousness and reveal the spirit behind forms)began hugging one another with great love and affection. Then in a moment of telepathic communication the priest and his followers began stomping their feet and chanting the following mantra:

            “Mother Earth, Great Spirit, your power is wise, your power is divine, let us serve you.”

As they chanted, the earth began to tremble beneath their feet, golden eagles began to circle overhead, a rare pack of black wolves emerged from the shadows and the bowing deer from earlier nestled in close to the band of seekers to share in the delight of Mother Nature’s mystical power to invoke a direct and true religious experience.

                           The Fruits of the Gods had spoken.