A favourite zen story
It goes something like this:
One day an elderly monk and a young monk left the monastery and headed for the village. After buying supplies, they headed back. As it had been raining hard a stream had become swollen. On the edge of it stood a young women in her fine clothes; she was reluctant to cross the stream. The elderly monk set his load on the ground and offered to carry the women across the stream. She hopped on his back and he carried over and then came back, picked up his load and headed for the monastery.
An hour or so later the young monk could no longer contain his his disappointment, his upset, his anger. He told off the monk for breaking the rules by touching the young woman and carrying her across the stream. The elderly monk listened calmly and said “I left her by the stream over an hour ago. Are you still carrying her?”
Ordinary living: you and I are still carrying her!
It occurs to me that you and I are rather like the young monk: we are still carrying her.
What are you and I carrying from the past? Hurt. Grudges. Resentment. Anger. Myths. Beliefs. Injunctions. Must. Should . Should’nt…… These make a heavy load and this load is constantly strapped to our backs. Worse, as we get older this load gets heavier and heavier. And we can never really be present in the present: we are worn out from carrying this load around even if we have got so used to this that we no longer notice it.
‘Extraordinary living’: drop it, leave the past in the past!
Want ease, grace, joy present in your living? Then stop carrying her! Drop it, leave the past in the past.
Feeling like a failure as a mother/father? Then drop the myth that there is a way to be a perfect mother/father. Drop the myth that you should be a perfect mother/father. Drop the baggage! Just be a mother/father.
Carrying hurt? Did someone hurt you? Drop it! You are hurting yourself today by carrying/clinging to the hurt of yesterday. Have you never hurt anyone? Really? Take a good look: can you be sure, absolutely sure, that you have never intentionally or unintentionally hurt someone? Go further and question the myth of hurt. Who promised you that you would not be hurt or that you would not hurt? Does life, real life, come with that guarantee?
Didn’t live up to expectations? Drop the expectations! Notice that expectations are not an inherent feature of the world. You can drop the expectation that you will live up to expectations! Yes, you can drop it! Just live.
Carrying guilt? What good is that? Who benefits? What difference does it make? Drop the guilt. Act! Pick up the phone and apologise. Write a letter and apologise. Meet up face to face and apologise. Are you experience existential guilt in the sense of not living an authentic life? Then act: live that authentic life!
If I / you choose to stop carrying her, to put the past in the past, then I say that our experience of our lives, our living, will be transformed. Life will show up as being light, lighter. And you and I will show up light, lighter. Lightness comes with being at peace with ourselves and the world. When we stop carrying her we can be present: just walk back to the monastery!