One day the Buddha was sitting in the forest with a number of monks when a peasant came by. He had just lost his cows; they had run away. He asked the monks whether they had seen his cows passing by. The Buddha said, “No, we haven’t seen your cows passing through here; you may want to look for them in another direction.” When the farmer had gone, the Buddha turned to his monks, smiled, and said, “Dear friends, you should be very happy. You don’t have any cows to lose.” One practice we can do is to take a piece of paper and write down the names of our cows. Then we can look deeply to see whether we’re capable of releasing some of them. We may have thought these things were crucial to our well-being, but if we look deeply, we may realize that they are the obstacle to our true joy and happiness. I remember a businessman in Germany who came to a retreat and laughed so much when he listened to the story of releasing the cows. I invited him to come back, but he said he was too busy. He was a businessman and had to go to Italy for business and had many things to do, so he said good-bye. The next day, I saw him sitting in the audience. I was surprised. He told me he was halfway to Italy when he made a U-turn. He was able to release a cow he’d thought he had to hold on to. He was quite happy.
– Thich Nhat Hanh from ‘Reconciliation: Healing the Inner Child’