During a meeting to determine job screening scenarios for potential applicants, a manager put forth this situation: “A bathtub is full with water. We then offer the candidate a teaspoon, a teacup or a bucket in order to empty the bathtub.” A colleague replied, “I get it, the best choice would be to use the bucket because it’s larger than the spoon or the teacup.” “Well, no,” said the manager. “The best decision would be to pull the plug.”
This vignette illustrates the idea that what we are looking for is often right in front of us. Whether trying to solve a problem or gaining greater appreciation for where we are in life, this realization can be both humbling and enriching. As writer Nathanial Hawthorne stated, “What we need for our happiness is often close at hand, if we knew but how to seek it.”
The key is not only knowing what we are looking for, but also being open to what we might find or already have that would fulfill that need or desire. This ability requires us to be conscious enough to be present to see and hear what is taking place around us. It also requires the ego to let go of pre-determined expectations or even beliefs.
A simple example might be thinking we need to purchase edging material for the garden. However, we may find when rummaging through the garage with a curious and open attitude that items can be found that will do quite nicely.
If ego has relinquished its need for new or ‘normal’ edging, then what we already have will suffice. In fact, we often find that this newly seen way evokes creativity, spontaneity and a solution better than ego’s initial expectation.
This shift in thinking does not mean putting up with abusive or dysfunctional situations. The shift moves us from wanting to appreciating. It moves us to look at people and situations free of expectations and from controlling how they should be; thus, creating an often transcendent way of looking at our lives. In many cases, fears are replaced by trust in what we truly want.
This optimism allows us to be in touch with the abundance of life that is already available and allows a deeper appreciation of our current situation, including people, our surroundings and items. As Thich Nhat Hanh stated, “Every object, every being, is a jar full of delight.”
Realizing that we do indeed have available (or have available if we are able to see) most, if not everything we need is sometimes difficult. We often have difficulty living in the moment and do not appreciate what we already have. As the French writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette poignantly observed, “What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.”
In the video game, “Batman: Arkham Asylum,” gamers are asked by the Riddler, “When is something right in front of you but still hidden from view?” Perhaps this holiday season we can look around and see who and what are right in front of us, providing us what we actually need.