The Elephant and the Fly


One day, a disciple and his teacher were walking through the forest. The disciple was disturbed by the fact that his mind was in constant unrest.

He asked his teacher: “Why most people’s minds are restless, and only a few possess a calm mind? What can one do to still the mind?”

The teacher looked at the disciple, smiled, and said, “I will tell you a story.”

“On one beautiful day, an elephant was standing by the shade of a tree, eating its leaves. Suddenly, a small fly came buzzing and landed on the elephant’s ear. The elephant stayed calm and continued to eat, not heeding the fly.”

“The fly flew around the elephant’s ear, buzzing noisily, yet the elephant seemed to be unaffected. This bewildered the fly, and it asked, ‘Are you deaf?’

“No!” The elephant answered.

“Why aren’t you bothered by my buzz?” The fly asked.

“Why are you so restless and noisy? Why can’t you stay still just for a few moments?” Asked the elephant, and peacefully continued eating the leaves.

The fly answered, “Everything I see, hear, and feel attracts my attention, and all noises and movements around me affect my behavior.”

“What is your secret? How can you stay so calm and still while I am buzzing in your ear?”

“I can continue eating peacefully because my five senses do not disturb my peace.

“How is it possible?” Asked the fly, amazed and baffled.

“Because I don’t let them rule my attention.” Answered the elephant.

“I am in control of my mind and my thoughts, and therefore, I can direct my attention wherever I want and ignore any disturbances, including your buzz.”

“And therefore,” continued the elephant, “I am completely immersed in the act of eating, enjoying my food, and chewing it peacefully.”

Upon hearing these words, the disciple’s eyes opened wide, and a smile appeared on his face. He looked at his teacher and said:

“I now understand! My mind will always be in constant unrest if my five senses and whatever happens in the world around me control my mind.

“On the other hand, if I am in command of my five senses, able to disregard sense impressions, and able to control my thoughts, my mind will become calm. I will be able to disregard its restlessness and enjoy peace of mind.”

“Yes, that’s right,” the teacher answered, “The mind is restless and goes wherever the attention goes. Control your attention, and you control your mind.”

“This story is from the book Focus Your Attention.”

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