There is an old saying, “a bird in hand is better than two in the bush.” Leaving aside for a moment the implication that one is hunting birds which is not a very Buddhist thing to do, there is much to be learned from this saying. The idea is that what you already have is much more valuable than what you might get in the future because it’s easier to enjoy what you have than it is to acquire more. That is why our teacher, Ajahn Tong, always says, “fix the old car first.”
I would like to expand on this idea a little bit not just in relation to things that we have and our relationships in a worldly sense but also to the state of our lives in a spiritual sense.
Traditionally we search for happiness in what Buddhists refer to as the eight worldly conditions which are wealth & poverty, praise & blame, fame & infamy and pleasure & pain. Once we have attained a particular status in one of the conditions, we lose interest in it and search for more. That is the worldly paradox that we call suffering or the unsatisfactory nature of the world.
Insight meditation is not a call on us to shun the world entirely or to stop working towards these worldly conditions. Instead, it calls on us to observe life as a process from moment to moment. Rather than shunning the world, we are called to embrace it but, this time, with our eyes open.
If we look at things from a spiritual sense all that we have in hand is our present moment awareness and that is our most valuable asset. When we invest time and energy into this asset it repays us in happiness considerably more than other investments simply because the present moment can be experienced at any time and in any place independent of any conditions whatsoever.