This Too Shall Pass (Book Snippet 36)
According to a Jewish wisdom folktale, King Salomon once lost a chess game to his most trusted advisor, Benaiah Ben Yehoyada. Being a bit of a sore loser, King Salomon decides to teach Benaiah a humbling lesson by assigning him an impossible task: to find him a ring, which has the power to make a happy man sad and a sad man happy. Benaiah is given half a year to produce this magical ring. He searches in every corner of the kingdom, but to no avail. Just as he returns to face the king and admit his failure, Benaiah stumbles into a small and dusty workshop tucked away in a little alley not far from the castle. After one look at the inside of the little store, Benaiah disappointedly turns around to walk away. It is impossible that this goldsmith will have what not even the most famous goldsmiths in the kingdom ever even heard about.
In this moment, the owner, an old and frail man approaches him and asks how he might help him. Benaiah sighs and shares his quest for a ring that possesses the power to make a sad man happy and a happy man sad. The old goldsmith smiles, nods and says he might just have what Benaiah is looking for. Stunned, Benaiah waits patiently as the old man rummages in the back of his store. After a short while the goldsmith returns and hands him an unassuming gold ring. Inspecting the ring, Benaiah discovers an engraved sentence on the inside. Benaiah reads the sentence and his face lights up. He pays the old goldsmith handsomely and hurries back to the castle. King Salomon watches him approach, looking forward to Benaiah’s admittance of defeat. With a knowing smile Benaiah hands Salomon the gold ring. Salomon frowns, turns the ring in his fingers, and finally detects the engraving. He reads: ‘This too shall pass’. And Salomon, in his wisdom, sees that this ring contains the truth. Life is impermanent and everything will pass.
Because of being obsessed with wanting happiness but not sadness we fail to witness what thoughts do naturally — appear and disappear. There is no need to be so scared of our experience. To say it in the words of my client Barbara: ‘What now happens more and more is that I feel a certain way and then I suddenly remember that this state, this depression, is only here now, only true in this moment. When I remember that this feeling of sadness or the dark thoughts I have are not permanent, they most often begin to loose their grip on me. In the past, feeling down turned into feeling terrible because of all the doomsday thoughts I had about feeling down.
‘My problem was actually not feeling low-spirited. My problem was getting in the self-blame-cycle of, “OMG — I should be beyond this after all these years. Why do I feel down now? Is this starting again? Was this period of being happy and full of energy only make-believe? Who did I think I was fooling with my good mood this past week? This is how I really am.” When I thought that, feeling low-spirited turned into feeling depressed,’ Barbara said.
She continued, ‘The other day, I noticed I felt down and thought of the story of King Solomon you had shared with me. This too shall pass. And you know what? It actually does pass! In a way, it now appears so astonishingly simple. At least it does sometimes. Of course, the moment I think, It’s so simple! another part of me loudly exclaims, Oh no, it’s not! I’ll show you how simple it is when you lay in bed depressed! But what I seem to manage more often as of late is, instead of getting all panicked about that thought, to go back to: This too shall pass. And then it is simple again.’
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