(Egypt: Many years ago.)
The old camel driver leaned back on the brightly colored blankets rolled up behind him and stacked against the base of a tree. He took a straw from his mouth, turned to the young boy with him, and said, "There is something I need to tell you, something you have to understand. I think you are old enough now and should know."
"What is it, uncle?" The boy stopped scooping sand in his hands and sat up a bit.
"Listen carefully. This is simple but very important."
"Tell me. I want to hear."
"All of life is a journey. Some days, we are out in the desert, for what seems like forever. Time, it moves differently then -- slowly, very slowly. Other days, we are at delightful oases like this, with good food and drink, abundant water, and friends. We tell stories. We sing and dance, and we enjoy ourselves. But the hours of hard travel can feel very different.
"On days of scorching sun, we pray for shade. Then when the storms come to block the sun and we can't see beyond the nose of the camel, we pray for clear skies and air without sand. We hear the young men say, 'We can't survive this storm!' But of course, they were the same ones saying, 'We can't survive this sun!' We survive. And when we arrive at destinations like this, we rejoice. The pain of the travel vanishes like a mirage of water flowing across the hot sand. And we are refreshed."
"Yes, uncle, it is very good to be here, now." The young man smiled.
"But the real secret, my boy, is to carry in your heart an oasis every day, a place of refreshment within. Then, when the sun is intense, or when the storms lash out, you can have a measure of what you feel right now, under these stars, surrounded by these swaying palms, eating these figs, and enjoying this cold happy drink. The oasis within is yours, if you take it with you."
The boy thought a moment. "But tell me, how do I take it with me?" He turned to face the old man and looked deep into his eyes for the wisdom of his years.
"With your thoughts, dear boy. All the power we have starts with our thoughts. Use your thoughts well, and you carry with you the most vital thing you need for life's journey. Your thoughts have great power, very great power. Use them well each day."
"Please tell me more." The boy sounded eager to learn something new.
"Consider the camel we have. In the sun, he is calm. In the storm, he is calm. Here, tonight with us, he is calm. It is difficult to excite or alarm the beast. He lives in the moment and carries on, regardless of what he faces."
"But uncle, maybe he does not understand. We know how things can hurt us, and that's why we are scared, or worried. He does not see things as we do."
The old man smiled. "Have you ever seen a telescope?"
"Yes, once, in town. There was a man with a small telescope, and he let me look through it. Things far away looked very close. I liked it very much."
"When I was young, a man gave me a small telescope. I imagine it was much like the one you saw. I used it to look all around. I, too, was in town. I could see the people in their houses, men at a distance, and animals far down the road. And I discovered something important. When I looked through the small end, it always made everything look bigger and closer. But then, I turned the telescope around in my hands and looked through the big end. I was so surprised! It made everything around me look much smaller and far away. Large men seemed little. Tall trees were shrunken."
"I never looked into the big end like that!"
"Well, we all have in our minds something like a telescope for our feelings. When things seem bad, we automatically look through the small end of our telescope, like most people do, and then those things look much bigger and worse than they really are. That's what makes us scared or worried. But just like a real telescope, we can turn our mental telescope around, and look through the other end. That will make things look smaller. It will reduce in our minds the size of what we face. Then we will feel better and more powerful. Sometimes, that is a little trick we need."
"So when you are afraid or worried, think of your inner telescope. Are you looking through the end that everyone looks through? Are you making things seem bigger and more imposing than they really are? You have the power to turn that telescope around and look through the other end. You will then see things as smaller, and you will feel bigger and more powerful."
The old man smiled. "Or, my boy, you can just put the telescope down and look at things as they are. Most things are no bigger than we can handle. And it's important to remember that."
The boy thought for a few seconds. Then he said, "The camel stays calm because he feels big and sees most things as small, or at least no bigger than he can handle."
"Yes. And there is one more thing. The camel, he lives in the moment. He doesn't worry about the future or the past -- what yet may come, or what is gone. That's another mistake people make with their mental telescope. They seek to peer into the future, or spend too much of their time trying to look back into the past. But all they see are things that don't exist right now, in this moment. The past is gone and the future has not yet come. We must learn from the past and remember how it was, and we must plan for the future and try to make it good, but letting your heart rise and fall, overcome with good or bad feelings about what you think you see in either the past or the future can make problems for how you live right now."
"A person who can live in his heart in the one rich wide moment that alone is now real is most happy. That person takes his oasis with him wherever he goes."
The boy thought some more and then spoke: "So, part of taking my oasis with me through life means living in the moment and part of it means not letting things look bigger or worse than they really are."
"Yes, you are getting the idea. We have many ways of taking our oasis with us. These are two of the ways."