Welcome to the archived web site of
Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. Psychologist (1950-2013)
California License No. PSY 10092
Specializing in Presence-Centered Therapy
balancing mind and heart, body and spirit
Now in memoriam - This website is no longer being updated
Articles by Dr. Friedman (except where noted otherwise)
Awakening Stories For Life 1
"Nasrudin, tell us about Zen!"
"Once Fa-yen was asked, "What is the first principle?
[Afterward: The healer already has, or is in the process of, picking his own peach. He doesn't need yours. The healer knows it is for you to pick your own peach to make your own growth.]
Nobody is Higher than God
A Sufi Tale
"Dervish Nasrudin entered a formal reception area and seated himself at the foremost elegant chair. The chief of the guard approached and said: "Sir, those places are reserved for the VIP's. are you a VIP?"
"Oh, I am more then a mere VIP" replied Nasrudin confidently.
"Oh, so are you a diplomat?"
"Far more than that!"
"Really? So you are, maybe, a minister?"
"Nah, bigger than that too"
"Oh, so you must be the main wizard, sir," said the chief ironically.
"Why, more than that!"
"What, are you the king himself?"
"Higher than that"
"Only god is higher than the king!"
"I am more than that, too!"
"What?! Are you higher than God?! Nobody is higher than God!"
"Now you got it. I am nobody!" said Nasrudin.
It's 4 a.m. Nasruddin leaves the tavern and walks town aimlessly. A policeman stops him. "Why are out wandering the streets in the middle of the night?
"Sir, replies Nasruddin, "if I knew the answer to that question, I would have been home hours ago!"
"A disciple complained about the Master's habit of knocking down all the disciple's beliefs.
Said the Master, 'I set fire to the temple of your beliefs, for when it is destroyed, you will have an unimpeded view of the vast, unbounded sky.'"
Anthony de Mello, S.J.
One day Mara, the Buddhist god of ignorance was traveling through the villages of India with his attendants. He saw a man doing walking meditation whose face was lit up in wonder. The man had just discovered something on the ground in front of him.
Mara's attendants asked what that was and Mara replied, "A piece of truth."
"Doesn't this bother you when someone finds a piece of truth?" his attendants asked.
"No," Mara replied ... "Right after this they usually make a belief out of it."
To eat or not to eat, that is the question
is an old Buddhist story. It is about a woman whose husband left her and
Enraged, she made her way to Siddhartha Gautama and gave him an ear-full, vented her anger and dumped her entire spleen in the most disrespectful way imaginable.
The Master heard her out, made no response, and she left.
The Buddha sat through her whole diatribe with such a visible lack of any emotion that his students later asked him, "Why?"
He answered, "Just because someone puts a mess of food on your plate, that doesn't force you to eat it."
A Grandfather from the Cherokee Nation was talking
with his grandson.
"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves."
"One wolf is evil and ugly: He is anger, envy, war, greed, self-pity, sorrow, regret, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, selfishness and arrogance."
"The other wolf is beautiful and good: He is friendly, joyful, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, justice, fairness, empathy, generosity, true, compassion, gratitude, and deep VISION."
"This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other human as well."
The grandson paused in deep reflection because of what his grandfather had just said. Then he finally cried out; "Oyee! Grandfather, which wolf will win?"
The elder Cherokee replied, "The wolf that you feed."
Things Aren't Always What They Seem
Someone once told me a story of two traveling angels who stop to spend the night at the home of a wealthy family. When they arrive and ask for lodging for the night, the family is rude and refuses to let the angels stay in one of the home's many guest rooms. Instead, the angels are given a small space in the cold basement. As the angels make their bed on the hard floor, the older angel sees a hole in the wall and repairs it. When the younger angel asks the older angel why he repaired the wall when their hosts have been so unkind, the older angel replies, "Things aren't always what they seem."
The next night, after a long day of travel, the angels come to rest at the house of a very poor but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they have, the couple insists that the angels sleep in their bed, where they can have a good night's rest. When the sun comes up the next morning, the angels find the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk has been their sole source of income, is lying dead in the field.
The younger angel is infuriated and asks the older angel: "How could you have let this happen? The first couple had everything but gave very little, yet you helped them. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let their cow die." With love and compassion the older angel replies, "Things aren't always what they seem. When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the couple was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share their good fortune, I sealed the wall so that they couldn't find it. Then last night, as we slept in the farmer's bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I asked for mercy and gave him the cow instead. Things aren't always what they seem."
Debbie Ford, Spiritual Divorce
Truth Listens to Parable
Silverman Weinreich (Editor, Yiddish Folktales, Pantheon Books)
One day when Truth was sadly wandering about, he came upon Parable. Now, Parable was dressed in splendid clothes of beautiful colors. And Parable, seeing Truth, said, "Tell me, neighbor, what makes you look so sad?"
Truth replied bitterly, "Ah, brother, things are bad. Very bad. I'm old, very old, and no one wants to acknowledge me. No one wants anything to do with me."
Hearing that, Parable said, "People don't run away from you because you're old. I too am old. Very old. But the older I get, the better people like me. I'll tell you a secret: Everyone likes things disguised and prettied up a bit. Let me lend you some splendid clothes like mine, and you'll see that the very people who pushed you aside will invite you into their homes and be glad of your company."
Truth took Parable's advice and put on the borrowed clothes. And from that time on, Truth and Parable have gone hand in hand together and everyone loves them. They make a happy pair.
How Do You Say 'Sucker' In Norwegian?
A married couple was returning home from Spain or some other country in the South. I guess they had been away for quite a while. They were glad to be back in Norway. They drove their heavily loaded car through Oslo to their villa, somewhere in Holmenkollen or some other fashionable place a little ways beyond the city.
They unloaded their bags and blankets and soon had taken possession of the old homestead once again. They tried the red wine they had smuggled across the border, and I imagine that the wife fried some eggs Norwegian-style and unwrapped the goat cheese she had bought on the way home. The husband happened to be looking out the window, when suddenly he gasped. Their car was gone!
He rushed into the street and asked children and neighbors whether anybody had seen the thieves. No one could help him, and he raced back into the house, cursing this miserable country of thieves and crooks. He called the police, and they said they were sorry, very sorry. If they got the chance, they would happily arrest the crooks.
But the next morning, the man gasped once more. While he was sitting at the breakfast table, he looked out the window and saw that the car had been returned! The couple rushed outside and unlocked their beloved car. The thieves had left a note on the steering wheel. And there they read these lines:
"We are terribly sorry that we stole your car. Can you forgive us! We filled up the gas tank. And we enclose two tickets to the Chat Noir for tonight. [The Chat Noir is a popular music hall and vaudeville theatre in Oslo] Please use them! Then we'll know that you are not angry anymore."
The couple was very moved. There were still sweet and honest people in this country after all! And those theatre tickets, what a great idea!
They decided to celebrate by dressing up in tux and evening dress. A half an hour before show time, they drove off, and three hours later, they returned and found their house-stripped. Everything had been taken from the villa. The neighbors had seen the moving van to be sure, but they had assumed that the "foreigners" had decided to leave the place for good!
[While the couple would appear to be highly trusting, the crooks seem far lower on the scale of trustworthiness. -WJF]
Reimund Kvideland, & Henning K. Sehmsdorf (Eds.), Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1988; "Free Tickets," pages 391-392; Renamed title from Utne Reader, May/June, 1989, page 100.
Monk: "What is mind?"
Monk: "I do not understand."
Master: "Neither do I."
When Hui-hai was asked, "What is the way?" he answered, "It is right in front of your nose."
"Then how come I can't see it?
"Your 'Me' is in the way."
is a man who eats sparingly, but is never hungry.
One day someone asked Layman P'ang: "Is Zen difficult or is it easy?"
"It is like trying to hit the moon with a stick," Layman P'ang answered. "Very difficult."
So Zen is very difficult, the man thought. He went to Layman P'ang's wife and said, "Your husband told me that Zen is very difficult. Let me ask you-is Zen difficult or easy?"
She laughed and said: "Oh no, Zen is very easy, like touching your nose when you wash your face in the morning."
Still not satisfied, the man went to Layman P'ang's son and repeated what the husband and wife told him. The son replied, "If you think Zen is difficult, it's difficult. If you think it's easy, it's easy."
Now more confused than ever, the man went Layman P'ang's daughter and asked if Zen was difficult or easy or neither. Her enlightened answer: "Go drink tea."
skeptic walks up to a Zen master and asks: "Is there life after death?"
One day Chao-chou fell down in the snow, and called out, "Help me up! Help me up!"
A monk came and lay down beside him. Chao-chou got up and went away.
The Buddha asked Subhuti: "When I got supreme unexcelled enlightenment, what did I get? Did I get supreme unexcelled enlightenment?"
"No, Teacher," Subhuti answered. "You did not get anything when you got supreme unexcelled enlightenment."
"That is right, because if I had gotten anything," the Buddha said, "then it would not be supreme unexcelled enlightenment."
Anthony de Mello
"How does one seek union with God?"
"The harder you seek, the more distance you create between Him and you."
"So what does one do about the distance?"
"Understand that it isn't there."
"Does that mean that God and I are one?"
"Not one. Not two."
"How is that possible?"
"The sun and its light, the ocean and the wave, the singer and his song not one. Not two."
The Scorpion and the Frog
A scorpion needed to get to the other side of a pond, but could not swim. He spotted a bullfrog sitting on a lily pad and asked for a ride to the other side.
"I'm not giving you a ride," the bullfrog said. "You'll sting me with your tail, and I'll die."
But the scorpion convinced the bullfrog he would never do such a thing. He hopped on the frog's back, and off they went. Of course, halfway across the pond, the scorpion stung the bullfrog in the back.
As the bullfrog was dying, he said, "Why would you sting me? Now we are both going to die!"
The scorpion sneered, "Because I must be true to my nature," as it snuck away.
A King and a sage died at the same time and ended up facing God together.
"When you said, 'I am God,' it angered me," God said to the King. "I cannot allow you the highest place in the afterlife."
"When you said, 'I am God,' I felt loved," God said to the sage. "I'm granting you the highest place in the afterlife."
"Why are you treating us differently if we both said the same thing?" asked the King.
"When you said 'I am God,' you were talking about you," sighed God. "When the sage said, 'I am God,' he was talking about me."
The Optimist and the Pessimist
Author UnknownRetold and adapted by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D.
In a time much like our own, in a place much like this place, a story is told of a great experiment. A curious researcher in the social sciences found two boys, one was a died-in-the-wool pessimist whose every waking moment was empty of spirit, joy and wonder, and another who was a wide-eyed optimist whose every waking moment was filled with sunshine, enthusiasm and opportunity.
The researcher invited some colleagues to witness the great experiment. He guided the pessimist into a room filled with every conceivable brand-new toy any boy would desire, closed the door and left. Similarly, he walked the optimist into another room filled with mountains of horse manure, closed the door and left. Then the researcher with his colleagues waited thirty minutes.
Upon returning to the room with the pessimist, they found a great number of toys broken and the pessimist crying and screaming in the middle of the mess. They all just shook their heads in dismay.
Upon returning to the room with the optimist, they only saw lots of flying manure. So they dug a tunnel to the optimist who was eagerly digging through the piles. When the researcher inquired about his activity, the optimist brightly replied, without missing a beat in his continued digging, "With all this manure, I know there's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"
The scientists just looked at each other for a sustained moment. Then they smiled knowingly and helped the optimist dig.
The House of 1000 Mirrors
A Japanese Folktale
Long ago in a small far-away village was a place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced eagerly up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging merrily. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at 1000 other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with 1000 great smiles just as warm and friendly. As he left the house, he thought to himself, "This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often."
In this same village, another little dog, who was not as happy as the first, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw the 1000 unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see 1000 little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, "That is a horrible place, and I will never go back again."
A Mule Called Hiney
An old farmer and his grandson owned a mule called Hiney. Things weren't going very well on the farm and the bills were mounting. They decided it would be best to take Hiney to the city to be sold.
The old farmer and his grandson started to walk Hiney down the road. A woman saw them and shouted, "You foolish people! Why are you walking when you have a mule you could ride?" They decided she had a point and climbed on the mule.
Down the road a way another woman called to them, "What fools you are! With both of you riding that mule, he will become exhausted and drop dead!" So the old man climbed off.
A little farther down the road a farmer
shouted, "You foolish lad, making your old
A short time later an old woman called out, "You foolish man! That poor mule looks as if he is going to drop dead. Get off and carry him a while!"
Thinking that she had a point, the grandfather dismounted, hoisted the mule onto his back and headed toward the city. When he came to a bridge he lost his footing and dropped the mule into the river. Of course, the poor animal drowned.
The moral of this story is this: If you try to please everyone, you will lose your Hiney.
An adapted Zen Story
Several monks were meditating when the wind started flapping the temple flag on top of the monastery. Noticing this movement, one asks, "What moves?"
The youngest monk who had been meditating only for merely 20 years uttered in a most profound voice, "It is the flag which moves".
The second youngest monk, who had been meditating for only 30 years, uttered scornfully, "Not the flag. It's the wind that moves." Arguing ensued for a time without any agreement being reached.
A Patriarch, who had been meditating for 40 years, smiling indulgently at such foolishness, gently says, "Gentlemen! It is not the flag that moves. It is not the wind that moves. It is your mind which moves." Both monks sat thunderstruck in absolute awe.
[Although some renditions end here, another one continues of course .]
A fourth monk, who had been meditating for 60 years, snapped, "Not the $#&^% flag, not the $#&^% wind, not the $#&^% mind, ... it's tongues which move."
A passing mystic, observing all these profound utterances, lovingly grabbed the last "truth-teller" to timelessly hug him. With pristine equanimity, the mystic then silently departed into the mist.
I Believe You Can
There was a rising young executive who suddenly found himself unemployed when his company went through a downsizing. He asked his company's vice-president, "Why me?"
The vice-president, who was the young man's superior, explained that he was too conservative in the way he did his job. "Things have gotten more competitive," the VP explained. "Our people have to look at things from different angles and they have to take risks. And when they take risks, they have to believe they'll succeed. That's where you come up short."
For six months the young man tried to get a job and failed. Then one day he met a retired circus tightrope walker. The two had something in common--time on their hands. Before long, the unemployed executive became an accomplished tightrope walker.
He became so good that he and his circus mentor were asked to participate in a televised charity event at Niagara Falls, and the young man invited his former boss to attend. "I'll show him who can take risks."
All went well at the event. The young man successfully crossed the falls on the tightrope, followed by his circus mentor, who also pushed a wheelbarrow across. The vice president congratulated the young man and then dared him to cross over the falls again, this time pushing the wheelbarrow. "You can do it if you believe you can," said the vice president.
"Do you believe I can?" the young man asked his former boss.
"Yes, I do," the vice president replied.
"Okay," said the young man, "get in the wheelbarrow."
A teacher addressed her class of middle-school children and stated, "I am an atheist. How many of you children are atheists too?"
Not really knowing what an atheist was, but wanting to be like their teacher, a wave of hands shot up like so many exploding fleshy fireworks.
Yet one student, a beautiful girl named Sara, refused to raise her hand. With annoyance the teacher asked Sara, "Why don't you raise your hand as well?"
The girl forthrightly spoke up, "I'm not an atheist. I know God. My mother knows God and my father knows God, so I know God."
The teacher now become noticeably irritated and asked, "Well, what if your mother was a moron and your father was a moron, then what would you be?"
Sara thought a moment, and snapped, "Then I'd be an atheist!"
Socrates' Test of Three: Is it True? Is it Good? Is it Useful?
Adapted by Will Joel Friedman from Author Unknown
One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?"
"Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Test of Three."
"That's right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my student let's take a moment to test what you're going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"
"Oh no," the man said, "actually I just heard about it."
"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"
"No, on the contrary..."
"So," Socrates interrupted, "you want to tell me something bad about him even though you're not certain it's true?"
The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.
Socrates continued. "You may still pass though, because there is a third test-the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"
"Well it....no, not really..."
"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?"
The man was defeated and ashamed.
This is how Socrates handled listening to gossip or speaking any gossip. This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high esteem.
One day Tesshu, the famous swordsman and Zen devotee, went to Dokuon and told him triumphantly he believed all that exists is empty, there is no you or me, and so on. The master, who had listened in silence, suddenly snatched up his long tobacco pipe and struck Tesshu's head.
The infuriated swordsman would have killed the master there and then, but Dokuon said calmly, "Emptiness is quick to show its anger, isn't it?"
Forcing a smile, Tesshu left the room.
The Rice Monkey of South China
Adapted by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. from Author Unknown
© 2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
After several very expensive and time consuming trips to China, the zoo officials were beyond frustrated-they were beside themselves. How could they catch the rice monkey of South China who was so fast and agile that it had eluded all means of capture.
Finally on one trip the zoo officials decided to ask the locals. The natives replied that it was nothing special and that they would help. So the natives hollowed out a coconut or guard, made a hole just big enough to fit his hand in, fastened it securely to the ground and place a generous portion of rice within in. Then they simply waited.
Sure enough, a rice monkey came by and put his hand in the guard, grabbed the rice, but wasn't able to remove his clenched hand or fist! The zoo officials frantically wanted to rush to the monkey, but the natives said it was necessary to rush since the rice monkey was going nowhere. Walking up to the monkey, the natives threw a large net over the monkey, took a hammer and cracked the gourd.
The rice monkey did get his rice, but paid for it with his freedom for the rest of his life. The moral: what you hold tight to like an attachment robs you of your freedom; by letting it go, you claim the freedom that was always yours.
(Aka, "The Crocodile and the Gingerbread Man" & "The Scorpion and the Frog")
A young girl was trudging along a mountain path, trying to reach her grandmother's house. It was bitter cold, and the wind cut like a knife. When she was within sight of her destination, she heard a rustle at her feet. Looking down, she saw a snake. Before she could move, the snake spoke:
"I am about to die," he said. "It is too cold for me up here and I am freezing. There is no food in these mountains and I am starving. Please put me under your coat and take me with you."
"No," replied the girl. "I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite me and your bite is poisonous."
"No, no," said the snake. "If you help me, you will be my best friend. I will treat you differently."
The little girl sat down on a rock for a moment to rest and think things over. She looked at the beautiful markings on the snake and had to admit that it was the most beautiful snake she had ever seen.
Suddenly she said, "I believe you. I will save you. All living things deserve to be treated with kindness."
The little girl reached over, put the snake gently under her coat and proceeded toward her grandmother's house.
Within a moment she felt a sharp pain in her side. The snake had bitten her. "How could you do this to me?" she cried. "You promised and I trusted you!"
"You knew what I was when you picked me up. I know that, but I must stay true to my nature," hissed the snake as he slithered away.
Everyone, Anyone, Someone and No One (Aka, "Too Many Assumptions")
Once upon a time, there was a big job to do and Everyone was responsible for completing it. But Everyone figured that since Someone was bound to do it (Someone always did), Everyone didn't have to. Of course, Anyone could have done the job, but as it turned out, No One did.
This made Someone quite angry because it had been made clear that it was Everyone's responsibility, not just Anyone's. Yet No One had envisioned that Everyone would skip out on the assignment.
When an explanation was asked for, Everyone pointed a finger at Someone only to be told that No One had managed to do what Anyone could have done.
Good Luck? Bad Luck? Who Knows?
Anthony De Mello, A Way To God
A week later the horse returned with a herd of wild horses from the hills and this time the neighbors congratulated the farmer on his good luck. His reply again was, "Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?"
Then when the farmer's son was attempting to tame one of the wild horses, he fell off its back and broke his leg. Everyone thought this was very bad luck. Not the farmer, whose only reaction was, "Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?"
Some weeks later the army marched into the village and conscripted every able-bodied youth they found there. When they saw the farmer's son with his broken leg, they let him off. Now was that good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?
Weather and the Proper PerspectiveA True Story
Will Joel Friedman
2011 by Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.
The wife of an eminent physician related that her husband had been in the habit of railing against the weather, no mater what it was. A near fatal, massive heart attack struck him and he hovered between life and death for several months before he was safely out of danger.
She reported that upon returning home he was a changed man. Every morning he would arise and exclaim something to the effect, "What extraordinary weather we have! Isn't it wonderful!" and apparently meant it. After kissing death, he was happy as a clam in brine to have any weather.
Two pilots went up in an airplane. The plane had a good motor.
"No, that's bad. The motor didn't work."
"Oh, that's bad."
"No, that was good. They had a parachute."
"Oh, that's good."
"No, that was bad. It didn't open."
"Oh, that's bad."
"No, that was good. There was a haystack under them."
"No, that was bad. There was a pitchfork in the haystack."
"No, that was good. They missed the pitchfork."
"No, that was bad. They missed the haystack."
Are you Looking for the Right Things?
John Wooden, Wooden (1997) by Coach John Wooden & Steve Jamison
There's an old story about a fellow who went to a small town in Indiana with the thought of possibly moving his family there. "What kind of people live around here?" he asked the attendant at the local filling station.
"Well," the attendant replied as he checked the oil, "what kind of people live back where you're from?"
The visitor took a swallow of his cherry soda and replied, "They're ornery, mean and dishonest."
The attendant looked up and answered, "Mister, you'll find them about like that around here, too."
A few week later, another gentleman stopped by the gas station on a muggy July afternoon with the same question. "Excuse me," he said as he mopped off his brow. "I'm thinking of moving to your town with my family. What kind of people live around these parts?"
Again the attendant asked, "Well, what kind of people live back where you're from?
The stranger thought for a moment and replied, "I find them to be kind, decent, and honest folks."
The gas station attendant looked up and said, "Mister, you'll find them about like that around here, too."
. . . It's so true. You often find what you're looking for.
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