It was the beginning of March, 2014 when a silent meditation retreat in Nepal’s Himalayas was on the verge of commencement. That’s right, the best story I’ve heard in two years of traveling happened at a silent retreat.
Upon arrival, yet before the start of the retreat, I had a yarn with an older fellow. Turns out he used to be an executive director of Green Peace during the 70’s. He briefly mentioned spending some time on a ship trying to stop Japanese whalers from harming our seafaring brothers. I didn’t push the subject, it was interesting but I had spent the better half of the day mentally preparing for silence so I wasn’t fully engaged in the conversation.
Somewhere around the fourth or fifth day of spending over 11 hours seated inside a meditation hall the idea of being out on the open seas protecting the whales crossed my mind. How amazing that must have been. I wondered if there were opportunities for a photographer like myself to be placed on a ship like that. These thoughts hung around the back of my mind from days five through ten. At the end of the retreat I had to ask Maury how he ended up as an executive director and this is, as best I can remember, the story he told:
As a young man I worked as an engineer in Toronto. I knew it wasn’t for me, I didn’t love it. One day I sought my uncle’s advice. He asked me what I would do if money wasn’t an issue. I told him I would go out to the middle of the ocean and fight for the whales. He said he would pay me $3000 per month to go follow my dreams. Remember, this was in the 70s when $3000 was a lot of money.
“Call me when you get there and I will send you your first check”
I called him when I got on a boat, heading out for sea, and asked him for the check.
“Your a smart kid, you’ll figure it out”
That’s all he said, and never sent me any money. So I started fundraising for Green Peace and before I knew it the money was rolling in. I was making more money than I knew what to do with. I told them to cut my paychecks in half. The same thing happened 6 months later so they cut it in half again. Then I started to move up in the company…
Wow! What a story. How many time in our lives, or even in each day, does money affect what we do or how we behave? Probably a fair few times. Especially in the big decisions, like ‘what should I do with my life’. This story encompasses all that I have felt for such a long time. Funny enough, this man was now a buddhist and it is quiet the Zen philosophy to worry about being happy, and understanding that the right amount of money will come on its own.