Guarding against Excessive Desire

"One day a rich merchant visited Rabi'a
And saw that she was living in a ruin:
So he gave her a thousand pieces of gold
And told her to buy a new house —

"But the day she moved in, she became so fascinated
With the beautiful paintings that covered the walls
That she gave the rich man back his money
And went back to live in her ruin — why?

" 'Because I was mortally afraid
I might fall in love with that house,' said Rabi'a."
— Rabi'a in Doorkeeper of the Heart (Charles Upton, translator)

Flower Arrangements and Not Overdoing

"But why is there so much temptation to overdo? I think it sometimes results from too little appreciation of appropriate forms, of elegance and beauty. We are buried in a mountain of material goods with little sense of how to enjoy what we consume, because we have never been taught etiquette and elegance, because we do not have practices and forms that would allow us to enjoy phenomena without being tempted to overindulge. As a result, we always want more. With real understanding of how to work with the phenomenal world, one knows when enough is enough and knows how to enjoy what is enough.

"One potent example is that of a flower arrangement. If one tries to put in one extra flower, the whole arrangement can be ruined. Likewise, an arrangement may need one more branch or flower. To enjoy it, to have the flower arrangement work to promote peace and contentment, it must be just right, just enough. But more important, unless one understands the form or guidelines for making a flower arrangement, one will probably not arrive in the middle of the Middle Path. Too little appreciation of beauty and elegance is counterproductive, and, in a situation in which material goods are abundant, underappreciation actually encourages consumerism and overconsumption. Thus, counterintuitively, one of the ways of discouraging consumerism may well be to encourage love of beauty, elegance, and dignity, so that we know how to enjoy the right amount. And I suspect that in many ways such a strategy is more effective than urging people to consume less out of guilt about the effects of their consumption on the rest of the world."
— Rita Gross in Hooked! (Stephanie Kaza, editor)

Jesus at the Seed Store

"There was a woman who wanted peace in the world and peace in her heart and all sorts of good things, but she was very frustrated. The world seemed to be falling apart. She would read the newspapers and get depressed. One day she decided to go shopping, and she went into a mall and picked a store at random. She walked in and was surprised to see Jesus behind the counter. She knew it was Jesus because he looked just like the pictures she'd seen on holy cards and devotional pictures. She looked again and again at him, and finally she got up enough nerve and asked, 'Excuse me, are you Jesus?' 'I am.' 'Do you work here?' 'No,' Jesus said, 'I own the store.' 'Oh, what do you sell in here?' 'Oh, just about anything!' 'Anything?' 'Yeah, anything you want. What do you want?' She said, 'I don't know.' Well,' Jesus said, 'feel free, walk up and down the aisles, make a list, see what it is that you want, and then come back and we'll see what we can do for you.'

"She did just that, walked up and down the aisles. There was peace on earth, no more war, no hunger or poverty, peace in families, no more drugs, harmony, clean air, careful use of resources. She wrote furiously. By the time she got back to the counter, she had a long list. Jesus took the list, skimmed through it, looked up and smiled, 'No problem.' And then he bent down behind the counter and picked out all sorts of things, stood up, and laid out the packets. She asked, 'What are these?' Jesus replied, 'Seed packets. This is a catalog store.' She said, 'You mean I don't get the finished product?' 'No, this is a place of dreams. You come and see what it looks like, and I give you the seeds. You plant the seeds. You go home and nurture them and help them to grow and someone else reaps the benefits.' 'Oh,' she said. And she left the store without buying anything."
— Megan McKenna in The Arrows of God