Welcome to the new home of Poems by Papyrous

The Striving Heart

 Let us begin with a wonderfully beautiful proverb from the culture of ancient China. It goes like this:

"If I keep a green bough in my heart,
then the singing bird will come."

Now here is a statement of confidence. It is an if-then statement. It declares that: if I perform one action, then anther will occur. Many of us will recognize this if-then statement as a declaration of cause and effect. The cause is that of keeping a, "... green bough in my heart, ...". The effect is that, "... the singing bird will come."

This is also a highly visual and poetic statement. The green bough, being a very small branch of a tree, is not the usual item one would keep in one's heart. This unusual language has an element of pleasant surprise. The bough is green. Green could be a color of aspiration, hope, or spring -- the promise of things to come. We are told that a bird will come. A bird has been used to symbolize the coming of a message or spiritual event. But this bird is a singing bird, which adds a delightful feeling and perhaps may have the meaning of happiness. Looking closer, brothers and sisters, we see that the singing bird has not yet arrived to perch on the green bough in the author's heart. In fact, it may never have arrived for the author because our author shares this magnificent formula with us in an if-then statement. "If I keep a green bough in my heart, then the singing bird will come."

We see that this statement is an indication of a future event, and not a statement of what the author was doing when he or she recorded this formula for happiness. Did the event ever take place? Did the singing bird ever come to the author? It could only have come to the author if, in fact, the author engaged in an act of will. Now what in the universe does that mean?

In order to do what was meant by the keeping of, " a green bough in my heart.", the author would have had to initiate some action. This underlying action, or cause, is not stated because it is a poetic formula. But whatever that action was in the author's mind that would have been equivalent to keeping "a green bough" in the author's heart, the author would have had to make a decision to perform it and then will it to be carried out. The Author had to perform it. So we see that we have a beautiful formula for happiness and not something that was being carried out or accomplished at the time it was recorded.

Let us now ask ourselves how this formula could be carried out if we decided to apply it in our lives. In other words, how would we go about, (symbolically speaking), keeping a green bough in our heart in order to attract the singing bird of happiness? First of all, we would have to have enough self awareness to understand three basic concepts with respect to using the formula. The first is that we would have the understanding that, (relatively speaking), we were unhappy. Second, we would have t understand that there is such a thing as happiness, and third, that we would have to understand that there is at least one way to attain this happiness. Thus we see that there is a starting point, (unhappiness, a destination, (happiness), and a path between the two, (a way or method to reach happiness).

Now let us focus on the application of this method that we would have to use in order to reach happiness. Notice we did not say focus on the method. We would have to, as we indicated earlier, make an act of will to apply the method. Is this act of will a one time action, or is it to be a continuous action? Let us look closer. The author states that, "If I keep a green bough in my heart,". So we see that the word "keep" is not a static, or one time action. It indicates a continuous action. Also, the bough has to be kept green. So we understand that the green bough, or whatever it represents, must be kept alive in our hearts. It cannot be left uncared for. It must be nourished. It must be nourished by the person who put it there. It must be nourished by the person who is applying this magnificent formula for happiness. It must be nourished by us.

the power of observation

How do we keep the bough in our heart green? It will have to be observed in order to see if it is doing well, (staying green), just as a gardener would observe the condition of his or her garden. Is it showing signs of not enough water, or perhaps too much water? Is it showing signs of not enough sun light, or too much sun light? Is it showing signs of being under attack by insects, fungus, or anything which thrives on consuming green boughs? We are beginning to see that the successful application of our formula will require accurate observation on our part, for accurate observation leads to accurate information. In order to nourish the green bough in our heart, we will have to know its condition. But how often will we have to observe this green bough in our heart?

Obviously we will have to observe it as often as it is required and make the necessary adjustments for our successful application of the method. Since happiness is our goal, we will surely keep an eye on the health of our method in order to achieve happiness. In other words, if we are sincere about attaining happiness, we will be on vigil to assure that our method will succeed.

Since the green of our bough represents for us some kind of aspiration or hope, we may consider that this aspiration is a delicate condition. How often does a person consciously maintain a positive feeling of aspiration or hope for any noticeable length of time? How long will the feeling have to be maintained -- a moment, an hour, a month, a year? Obviously it will have to be maintained until the singing bird comes into our heart. So we now have a situation where we must keep a constant vigil, or watch, on our green bough of aspiration over an indefinite, or undetermined, period of time.

Let us now ask the question, Is it possible to keep a constant vigil over an indefinite period of time? If we are convinced that the answer is no, then the investigation stops here. If we desire happiness as we desire our next breath, then we will not abandon our method, but will look closer to find ways of making our method work. In other words, we will have to discover how to keep a constant vigil.
Like the head waters of a river are the source of that river, so too our thoughts give rise to our feelings. If we are thinking about remorse, or sadness from a past incident, then we are producing the feeling of remorse. Naturally, since we have free will, we have the right to produce any feeling we desire; however, our goal is to produce happiness not remorse. Well then, what kind of thoughts produce happy feelings? Will angry thoughts produce feelings of happiness? Will jealous thoughts produce feelings of happiness?


It is becoming obvious that in order to keep our bough green in our hearts, we must keep a high quality of thought in our minds. How is this done? How do we keep a high quality of thought? How do we keep out negative thoughts and only allow positive thoughts? Specifically, how do we keep thoughts of happiness in order to produce feelings of happiness? To attain any goal we must increase to a maximum in ourselves a quality called striving. We must strive for constant vigilance in order to keep our bough green so that it will be ready whenever the singing bird comes. But what is this quality of striving? What does it mean to strive?

Webster's New World Dictionary, (2nd collegiate edition), informs us of three definitions of the word strive. The first definition is, "To make great effort, to try very hard.". The second definition is, "To be in conflict, struggle, contend, fight against oppression". The third definition is, "To compete". Used in sentences, they would sound something like this. To strive for a goal we must make a great effort to attain that goal. To strive for a goal we must struggle to attain that goal. To strive for a goal we must compete to attain that goal. So we see that it is not enough to know that a goal exists and to have a burning desire to attain that goal, as well as a method to approach that goal. There is something else we must do. We must strive for our goal.

So where are we now in our investigation to find a way to apply our method to attain happiness? We have found that we must strive to maintain a constant vigilance of our thoughts and feelings in order to attain our goal. Let us ask yet another question. Must our striving be consistent in order to maintain a consistent vigil of our thoughts and feelings? Could we maintain a consistent watch if we only made a great effort every once in a while? of course not, we must have consistent striving. Let us now ask the question, Can an impatient person constantly strive towards a benevolent goal? A wise phrase from Agni Yoga will assist us here.

"Patience overcomes any irritation. Patience is a conscious tension and an opposition to darkness. Yet patience is the source of bliss. Nothing so tests the heart as conscious patience."

Certainly this answers our question. Consistent striving cannot be maintained by an impatient person. So we now add another quality for the successful application of our method to find happiness-- patience. Consistent striving requires patience and patience is the source of bliss. Here we have yet anther formula for happiness. The perfection of patience leads to bliss. Still the application of this new formula would require consistent striving. Let us see what Agni Yoga has to say about striving from the book HEART (#216).

"Right strivings annihilate the manifestations of contamination. A striving man verily is full of immunity. So it is with those who cross on the rim of the precipice. The best wings are woven by strivings. Even the best antidote will also be striving. The fire born of impetuous tension is the best shield. The ancients have explained how arrows never reach those who are striving. Contemporary physicians could point out the development of a special substance during spiritual striving. Apply it to life as a life counsel. I point out how the striving spirit, with the velocity of light, changes its position and becomes elusive. Thus one can train oneself to strive. Manifesting it physically as well as spiritually. The teaching that is devoid of striving is like a sack with holes. One must assimilate the essence of what is said, because a study of the words will remain only upon the tongue. But beware of the striving tongue with a dead heart. Thus let us not forget about the antidote of pure striving."
Looking further in the book of HEART, (#205), we find the following confirmation of vigilance and striving.

"Just as it is impossible for a man to dispense with food, so must he cling to Hierarchy. Not like a timber leaning for support, but as a vigilant guard let him be prepared to take the defense each moment and thereby multiply his strength."

So we now have additional information that constant vigilance multiplies our strength. We have investigated whether or not it was possible to maintain the application of the formula:

"If I keep a green bough in my heart,
then the singing bird will come."

More Essays