Two Drops Of Oil

Paulo Coelho

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A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.

However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.

The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.

The Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.

He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.

“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”

The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.

“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls.

He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.

Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.

“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages.
“The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”

From the world-reknowned book The Alchemist.

Seed questions for reflection: What do the 'two drops of oil in the spoon' mean to you? Can you share a personal story of a time you were able to enjoy the world around without forgetting your essence? What helps you appreciate the world without forgetting your essence?

Add Your Reflection:

12 Previous Reflections:

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    On Mar 27, 2021 Elaine Gotfryd noonan wrote:
    This is a beautiful story which talks about life. It is important to be aware of all the goodness in your life while experiencing the world around you. In the case of this story, to treasure the 2 drops of oil while exploring the palace .

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    On Mar 18, 2021 Helen C. Gennari wrote:
    The two drops of oil that I must never forget remind me to never forget who I am, especially when I am feeling alone. It reminds me to remember that I am connected with ALL of creation

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    On Mar 17, 2021 Jitjai wrote:
    What a great story!
    All our learning and growth in any dimension, intellectual, spiritual, and perhaps more..., requires the balance of both Inquiry and Advocacy modes throughout our lives. These are my personal two drops.

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    On Mar 16, 2021 Nilesh Thali wrote:
    for me personally, the two drops of oil are my worldly duties. I must do them well (karma yoga), while not forgetting to experience the awe of this incredible world and human life.

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    On Mar 16, 2021 Patrick wrote:
    Always observing yet never forgetting. This is The Journey we call life. }:- a.m.

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    On Mar 16, 2021 Derek wrote:
    This story reminded me to "chop wood, carry water." The seeker came to the master with eyes that scanned everything but observed little. The master asked the seeker to focus, and the seeker observed everything (in his spoon and hand) yet missed everything. The master then asked the seeker to focus his observations on everything(s), and the seeker saw the beauty of the world but neglected to care for the beauty within his reach - in his hand. The master did not ask the seeker to do many things, he asked the seeker to do one thing, hold your center while observing the world around you for what it is - the burdens and blessings it holds.

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    On Mar 16, 2021 Anilkumar Pandit wrote:
    To be aware of being part of the existence,and the ways it can support my current goal (two drops of oil in the spoon) !

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    On Mar 16, 2021 Katie wrote:
    Yes, I agree,
    He is carrying the oil on the spoon in his hand, so it's an extension of his body. I have definitely had times in my life where I got so wrapped up in what was going on in the outside world that I have forgotten what was truly important for me, my health, my growth. And there are times when I have been so focused on what I want to do, that I fail to see what the world outside is telling me.
    Both are necessary. Focus on the self and recognizing one self in connection with the outside world. Not always easy... 

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    On Mar 15, 2021 David Matta wrote:
    I did not understand the story. What did the young learn at the end of the day juggling between two useless acts: Watching tapestry and gardens and being careful, if not obsessed, with a useless activity of not spilling two drops of oil? Isn't this kind of multi-tasking the source of our problems? When I eat, I know I am eating; when I walk, I know I am walking, etc., is the way things should be done and attended to. There is no need to think or watch something else.
    The young man will spend his life balancing between two contradicting demands without fully succeeding in either and realizing the secret of happiness.

    1 reply: Mcw | Post Your Reply
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    On Mar 14, 2021 David Doane wrote:
    The two drops of oil in the spoon mean to me having a goal on which your focus is so locked that you miss out on other things. The challenge, sometimes very difficult, is to accomplish the goal without being so goal focused that you miss out on what is going on all around you. I've gotten on my computer having a goal to accomplishand yet being free to investigate related interests that add to my goal and not forget my goal. We have many goals. Most of my goals aren't my essence. The goal that is my essence is becoming all that I am. What helps me appreciate the world without forgetting my essence is keeping my vision open and not limiting it by focusing so intently on a particular goal that everything else is unseen. .

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    On Mar 12, 2021 Jagdish P Dave wrote:
    This short storyTwo Drops of Oilauthored by Paulo Coelhomakes me aware of enjoying the wonders of the world without losing the core of my being, the essence of my being, the Two Drops Oil in my spoon. When I get caught up in the outer world by losing the center of myself I deprivemyselfof the fullness and richness of my experience. Then I am not fully present with myself. Half lived life is not worth living. When I meditate I tastethe fullness of the present moment. Innerand outer distractions fade away and I am in the flow of the present. When I am fully present with someone close to me, I feeldeep connectednessbetween both of us. Such experiences are enriching and fulfilling.When I walk in nature mindfully I am fully present. I get deeply connected with nature. In this busy world it is hard to find alone time, a time in which I can be myself without distractions and demands. I carve my own time to be with myself fully. This way I fill the cup of my life and gladly share it with oth... [View Full Comment] This short storyTwo Drops of Oilauthored by Paulo Coelhomakes me aware of enjoying the wonders of the world without losing the core of my being, the essence of my being, the Two Drops Oil in my spoon. When I get caught up in the outer world by losing the center of myself I deprivemyselfof the fullness and richness of my experience. Then I am not fully present with myself. Half lived life is not worth living.

    When I meditate I tastethe fullness of the present moment. Innerand outer distractions fade away and I am in the flow of the present. When I am fully present with someone close to me, I feeldeep connectednessbetween both of us. Such experiences are enriching and fulfilling.When I walk in nature mindfully I am fully present. I get deeply connected with nature.

    In this busy world it is hard to find alone time, a time in which I can be myself without distractions and demands. I carve my own time to be with myself fully. This way I fill the cup of my life and gladly share it with others without expecting anything in return. Loving someone unconditionally fills my heart with joy.
    Namaste!
    Jagdish P Dave'


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