The wise teacher asks, “When is the best time to plant a tree?”
I can let you into a secret: the answer they are seeking is, “20 years ago!”
So, when is the second best time to plant a tree? Of course we could say, “19 years ago…” and so on, but the answer I am holding onto today is… “Today!”
Having seen the Dalai Lama recently, several important matters became far clearer to me. One was that “Happiness” is definitely an inside job. Happiness has surprisingly little to do with external materialism. The undoubted value of material wealth is nevertheless eclipsed by: enriching relationships, being in the now, learning, growing, appreciating, giving, and creating a sense of purpose and direction. If I win the lottery this week, I shall be joyful, but that material wealth will only serve to fuel the other elements I’ve listed. Poverty, of course, can severely impact relationships, our ability to learn and grow, and can even sometimes make us reluctant to give. But money clearly isn’t the answer it’s been made out to be. It is not of prime importance.
A second important matter was that emotional change takes time. Becoming resilient takes time and experience and review and reflection. Resilience, like a tree, needs nourishment and nurturing. And so does learning to be happy.
I’d thought of planting financial trees that would help me in my later years, but I hadn’t thought of planting the seeds of becoming more happy, more resilient, more at peace. I certainly hadn’t considered that these trees might take 20 years to come to maturity. Of course, many trees can bear fruit within a few years – so I might be surprised by joy earlier than expected! However, the important lessons for me were that happiness really is up to me, and I need to be planting the seeds for the harvest I want now. With nourishment, those seeds can then grow and bear fruit year after year after year.
What trees would you like to plant? If money isn’t the answer we’d been promised, are we focusing on it too much? Is there a better use of our time?