The boy began to feel uneasy.
"What then," he wondered, "is The Precious Present?
could possibly make me happy forever?" He found it difficult to even
imagine the answer. And so he returned to ask the old man.
"Is the Present a magical
ring? One that I might put on my finger and make all my wishes come
old man said. "The precious present has nothing to do with
As the boy grew older he
continued to wonder. He went to the old man. "Is the Precious Present
a flying carpet?" he inquired. "One that I could get on and go
any place that I like?"
"No," the man quietly
replied. "When you have the precious present, you will be perfectly content to
be where you are."
The boy was becoming a young man
now, and felt a bit foolish for asking. But he was uncomfortable. He began
to see that he was not achieving what he wanted. "Is the Precious
Present," he slowly ventured, "a sunken treasure? Perhaps rare
gold coins buried by pirates long ago?"
"No, young man," the
old man told him. "It is not. The richness is rare, indeed, but
the wealth of the Present comes only from itself."
The young man thought for a
moment. Then he became annoyed. "You told me," the young man
said, "that anyone who receives such a present would be happy
forever. I never got such a gift as a child."
"I'm afraid you don't
understand," the old man responded. "You already know what
the Precious Present is. You already know where to find it.
And you already know how it can make you happy. You knew it best
when you were a small child. You simply have forgotten."
The young man went away to
think. But as time passed, he became frustrated, and finally angry. He
eventually confronted the old man. "If you want me to be happy,"
the young man shouted, "why don't you just tell me what the Precious
"And where to find
it?" the old man volleyed.
"Yes, exactly," the
young man demanded.
"I would like to," the
old man began. "But I do not have such power. No one does. Only
you have the power to make yourself happy. Only you. The
Precious Present isn't something that someone gives you. It's a gift
that you give yourself."
The young man was confused, but
determined. He resolved to find the Precious Present himself. And so he
packed his bags. He left where he was. And went elsewhere.
To look for the
After many frustrating years,
the man grew tired of looking for the Precious Present. He had read all
the latest books. And he had looked in The Wall Street Journal.
looked into the mirror. And into the faces of other people. He had wanted
so much to find the Precious Present. He had gone to extraordinary
lengths. He had looked for it at the tops of mountains and in cold dark
caves. He had searched for it in dense, humid jungles. And underneath the
seas. But it was all to no avail. His stressful search had exhausted him.
He even became ill occasionally. But he did not know why.
The man returned wearily to the
old man's side. The old man was happy to see him. They often laughed out
loud together. The young man liked to be with the old man. He felt happy
in his presence. He guessed that this was because the old man felt happy
with himself. It wasn't that the old man's life was so trouble-free.
didn't appear to have a lot of money. He seemed to be alone most of the
time. In fact, there was no apparent reason why he was so much happier and
healthier than most people were. But happy he was. And so were those who
spent time with him. "Why does it feel so good to be with him?"
the young man wondered. "Why?" He left wondering.
After many years, the once-young
man returned to inquire further. He was now very unhappy and often ill.
needed to talk with the old man. But the old man had grown very, very old.
And, all too soon, he spoke no more. The wise voice could no longer be
The man was alone.
At first, he
was saddened by the loss of his old friend. And then he became frightened.
Very frightened. He was afraid that he would never learn how to be happy.
Until finally he accepted what had always been true. He was the only
one who could find his own happiness. The unhappy man recalled what the
happy old man had told him so many years ago. But as hard as he tried he
could not figure it out; he tried to understand what he had heard:
THE PRESENT HAS NOTHING TO DO
WITH WISHING. . . WHEN YOU HAVE THE PRESENT YOU WILL BE PERFECTLY CONTENT
TO BE WHERE YOU ARE. . . THE RICHNESS OF THE PRESENT COMES FROM ITS OWN
SOURCE. . . THE PRESENT IS NOT SOMETHING THAT SOMEONE GIVES YOU. . . IT IS
SOMETHING THAT YOU GIVE TO YOURSELF. . . .
The unhappy man was now tired of
looking for the Precious Present. He had grown so tired of trying that he
simply stopped trying. And then, it happened! He didn't know why it
happened when it happened. It just. . . happened! He realized that the
Precious Present was just that: THE PRESENT. Not the past, and not the
future, but THE PRECIOUS PRESENT.
In an instant the man was happy.
He realized that he was in the Precious Present. He raised both hands
triumphantly into the cool, fresh air. He was joyous--for one moment.
then, just as quickly as he had discovered it, he let the joy of the
present moment evaporate. He slowly lowered his hands, touched his
forehead, and frowned. The man was unhappy--again.
"Why," he asked
himself, "didn't I see the obvious long ago? Why have I missed so
many precious moments?" "Why has it taken me so long to live in
the present?" As the man remembered his fruitless travels around the
world in his search for the Precious Present, he knew how much happiness
he had lost.
He had not experienced what each
special time and place had to offer. He had missed a great deal.
felt sad. The man continued to berate himself. And then he saw what he was
doing. He observed that he was trapped by his guilt about his past.
When he became aware of his
unhappiness and of his being in the past, he returned to the present
moment. And he was happy. But then the man began to worry about the
future. "Will I," he asked, "be able to know the joy of
living in the Precious Present tomorrow?" Then he saw he was living
in the future and laughed--at himself.
He listened to what he now knew.
And he heard the wisdom of his own voice. "It is wise for me to
think about the past and to learn from it, but it is not wise for me to be
in the past, for that is how I lose myself.
"It is also wise for me to
think about the future, and to prepare for my future, but it is not wise
for me to be in the future, for that, too, is how I lose myself. I
lose what is precious to me."
It was so simple.
And now he saw
it. The present nourished him. But the man knew it was not going to be
easy. Learning to be in the present was a process he was going to have to
do over and over, again and again, until it became a part of him. Now he
knew why he had enjoyed being with the old man.
The old man was totally present
when he was with the younger man. The old man was not thinking about
something else or wishing that he was somewhere else. He was fully
present. And it felt good to be with such a person. The younger man smiled
at himself, the way the old man used to smile. He knew. "I can choose
to be happy now, or I can try to be happy when. . . or if. . . ."
The man chose NOW!
And now the
man was happy. He felt at peace with himself. He agreed to savor each
moment in his life. . . The apparently good and the apparently bad.
. . Even
if he didn't understand. For the first time in his life, it didn't matter.
He accepted each of his precious moments on this planet as a gift.
"I know that some people
choose to receive the Precious Present when they are young, others in
middle age, and some when they are old. Some people, sadly, never
do. I can choose to receive the Precious Present whenever I
As the man sat thinking, he felt
fortunate. He was who he was, where he was. And now he knew!
always be whom he was where he was.
He listened again to his
thoughts. "The present is what it is. It is valuable.
Even I do not know why. It is already just the way it is supposed to
be. When I see the present, accept the present, and experience the
present, I am well, and I am happy. Pain is simply the difference
between what is and what I want it to be.
"When I feel guilty over my
imperfect past, or I am anxious over my unknown future, I do not live in
the present. I experience pain. I make myself ill. And I
"My past was the
present. And my future will be the present. The present moment
is the only reality I ever experience.
"As long as I continue to
stay in the present, I am happy forever, because forever is always the
"The present is simply who
I am, just the way I am, right now. And it is precious. I am
precious. I am the Precious Present."
It was as though he could hear
the old man talking. And then he smiled. And his smile widened.
laughed. He felt great joy. He knew he was listening, not to the old man.
. . But to himself.
It felt good for him to be with
himself--just the way he was. He felt he knew enough. He felt he had
enough. He felt he was enough. Now.
He had finally found the
Precious Present. And he was completely happy.
Several decades later, the man
had grown into a happy, prosperous, and healthy old man. One day a little
girl came by to talk to him. She liked to listen to "the old
man," as she called him. It was fun to be with him. There was
something special about him. But she didn't know what it was.
One day, the little girl began
to really listen to the old man. Somehow she sensed something important in
his calm voice. He seemed very happy. The little girl couldn't understand
why. "How could someone so old," she wondered, "be so
happy?" She asked and the old man told her why.
Then all of a sudden, the little
girl jumped up and squealed with delight! As the girl ran off to play, the
old man smiled. For he heard what she had said: "Wow!" she
exclaimed. "I hope someday someone gives me the Precious