Question: if you only had ten euros (or the equivalent in Chinese money then) how should you use it?
Sage replies: You should spend half of it on bread and half on flowers.
At first sight it might seem simple advice but on deeper consideration it can be seen as advice for how to live. Sure, you have to take care of the daily needs but if that is all you are concerned with your life is nothing more than the life of an animal.
Since we as humans have within us the potential to become something much more than animals it is a wasted opportunity to not facilitate that potential.
Buying flowers can be interpreted as spending time and money on facilitating your inner development. Isn’t it interesting that the word “spend” is used for both time and money and we could add energy to them. The inner development I refer to is an inner transformation that we can facilitate in ourselves by certain kinds of activities.
These activities include; reading spiritual books and listening to talks by people who speak about these matters, making time for quietness and relaxation in our lives,meditation and prayer, making time for silence such as turning off the tv and radio, paying attention to what is going on in ones inner life in terms of emotions and behaviour patterns.
Many of us spend all our time, or most of it earning our bread and distracting ourselves from ourselves with the many entertainments that are readily available to us nowadays, indeed foisted on us by society.
I think it was Thomas Merton who said; many people never see a tree until they are ready to cut it down. If all your time and energy goes into maintaining physical self or building up your worldly assets then you will not have used this potential within you. You’ll have missed out on the greatest opportunity of being human.
What the sage is saying is that you need to spend your energy wisely, nourishing both inner and outer aspects of you at the same time.
The inner energy is more to do with conserving energy that might be spent on superficial worldly activities and to direct it towards your inner life. The more energy you conserve from external activities and use to enhance your inner growth the more it becomes accessible and appreciated by you. You come to appreciate yourself in a way hitherto unexpected and in the process you come to have a deeper appreciation and understanding of all life. This process develops as it goes along and as you support it by “spending money on flowers.”