The Mullah and His Keys

In my last post we discussed how change is created. It’s an inside job. We become what we wish to see. The outer world is a mirror, projecting back what we carry with us on the inside.

One of my favorite spiritual writers is Alice O. Howell. I came across her work a decade ago. I was so inspired that I tracked her down and we spoke only weeks before she died. My favorite of her books is The Dove in the Stone: Finding the Sacred in the Commonplace. My well-worn copy rests in my bookcase at home, its pages filled with my handwritten notes. My favorite story from the book is titled “The Mullah and His Keys,” and it goes like this . . .

One day a friend found Mullah hunting for something outside his house. He was poking under bushes and stones, when the friend queried: “Hey, Mullah, what have you lost?”

“I’ve lost my keys!” cried Mullah.

Kindly the friend joined in what soon proved to be a fruitless scrabbling. “Can’t you remember at all where you lost them?”

Mullah looked up. “Sure,” he said. “I know exactly where I lost them. I lost them in the house.”

“Then, why on earth are you looking for them out here?”

“Because I can see better—it’s so much lighter out here!”

Don’t we all do that—look around outside for the keys we have lost inside us?

Quote bubble from the text

Change is created from within, and yet we often spend our time looking externally for solutions, lamenting over what we see. Seeking is the biggest step in finding, but we must look inward, where truth rests. The only people we are guaranteed to influence in this lifetime is ourselves, and for this reason it is within us that power dwells. This awareness, first realized, is scary. This recognition, first tested, is fraught with doubt. And this reality, consistently pursued, creates movement on the path of your choosing. The world becomes what we project and expect. We get what we seek.

It’s tempting to conclude that the peace we seek is “out there” somewhere, beyond our reach—in someone else’s hands. But the keys we pursue live within us, in a spot that only we can shine light on.

Mullah knew his keys were inside all along.