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The beggar, the thief and the precious gem

How changing the world starts from within 

‘Once upon a time a thief running away from guards noted a beggar sleeping in a dark alley. He secretly put the small but priceless piece of jewellery he had just stolen into the pocket of the beggar. He then run away, intending to come back and steal from the beggar after he had outrun the guards. Overnight, the thief was accidentally killed during a struggle with the guards. The beggar was now a rich man. In his pocket he had enough wealth to live comfortably for life, but he never once checked inside, so he never knew. He lived the rest of his life as a beggar’.

Effective and appropriate change comes from within. Nobody can do it for us. Individuals change because the pull comes from within, and so do other systems: from families, to organisations, from small communities to society as a whole.

'It always seems impossible until it's done.' ― Nelson Mandela

Any liberation movement is an example of this: the source of strength and resilience lies within. External forces do facilitate or impede change by influencing the system, but often they are not the ones determining transformation.

When outside agents manage to impose change, generally it doesn’t stick because it’s not internalised. What happens then? As soon as no-one is watching we revert to old ways. Think of the last time someone tried to ’empower you’. Unless the drive to change came from within yourself, chances are that you felt rather ‘dis-empowered’.

We never know what we’ll find when we look within. Don’t be afraid to be a ‘liberation movement’ within yourself, within your organisation, within your community. This is how the world is changed!


The story of the beggar is adapted from Chade-Meng Tan, Search Inside Yourself, Kindle edition, 2012.

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Mindfulnext by Alessandra Pigni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.