THE LOST RING
When I was seeing people as a counselor and spiritual teacher, I would visit a woman twice a week whose body was riddled with cancer. She was a schoolteacher in her mid-forties and had been given no more than a few months to live by her doctors. Sometimes a few words were spoken during those visits, but mostly we would sit together in silence, and as we did, she had her first glimpses of the stillness within herself that she never knew existed during her busy life as a schoolteacher.
One day, however, I arrived to find her in a state of great distress and anger. “What happened” I asked. Her diamond ring, of great monetary as well as sentimental value, had disappeared, and she said she was sure it had been stolen by the woman who came to look after her for a few hours every day. She said she didn’t understand how anybody could be so callous and heartless as to do this to her. She asked me whether she should confront the woman or whether it would be better to call the police immediately. I said I couldn’t tell her what to do, but asked her to find out how important a rig or anything else was at this point in hr life. “You don’t understand,” she said. “This was my grandmother’s ring. I used to wear it every day until I got ill and my hands became too swollen. It’s more than just a ring to me. How can I not be upset?”
The quickness of her response and the anger and defensiveness in her voice were indications that she had not yet become present enough to look within and to disentangle her reaction from the event and observe them both.
Her anger and defensiveness were signs that the ego was still speaking through her. I said, “I am going to ask you a few questions, but instead of answering them now, see if you can find the answers within you. I will pause briefly after each question. When an answer comes, it may not necessarily come in the form of words.” She said she was ready to listen. I asked: “Do you realize that you will have to let go of the ring at some point, perhaps quite soon? How much more time do you need before you will be ready to let go of it? Will you become less when you let go of it? Has who you are become diminished by the loss?” There were a few minutes of silence after the last question.
When she started speaking again, there was a smile on her face, and she seemed at peace. “The last question made me realize something important. First I went to my mind for an answer and my mind said, ‘Yes, of course you have been diminished.’ Then I asked myself the question again,
‘Has who I am become diminished?’ This time I tried to feel rather than think the answer. And suddenly I could feel my I Amness.
I have never felt that before. If I can feel the I Am so strongly, then who I am hasn’t been diminished at all. I can still feel it now, something peaceful but very alive.”
“That is the joy of Being,” I said. “You can only feel it when you get out of your head. Being must be felt. It can’t be thought. The ego doesn’t know about it because thought is what it consists of.
The ring was really in your head as a thought that you confused with the sense of I Am. You thought the I Am or a part of it was in the ring.
Excerpt: A New Earth By Eckhart Tolle