The value of dropping it, all of it!



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!


For Saima: it’s ALL you

Hello little sister, I get that you did not get our conversation today.  With that in mind I have found a parable that may better convey what I clearly was not able to convey to you today.  To make sense of the parable it is worth knowing that there is tradition in Japanese Zen which can be best described as ‘trading dialogue for shelter’.  If a wandering monk wishes to stay the night then he can do so provided he wins the dialogue.  And even if he does win the debate he can only stay for one night and then must move on. The monastery referred to in the parable is run by two monks who are brothers.  The older brother is highly educated.  The younger brother is not educated – he is simple and has only one eye.  Here is the parable:

“One evening a wandering monk came to ask for lodging (for the night). The elder brother was very tired as he had been studying for many hours….

So he told his younger brother to go and take the debate. “Request that the dialogue be in silence,” said the elder brother.

A little later the wandering monk (the traveller) came to the elder brother and said, “What a wonderful fellow your brother is.  He has won the debate very cleverly and so I must on. Good night.”

“Before you go,” said the elder brother, “please relate the dialogue to me.”

“Well,” said the wandering monk, “first I held up one finger to represent the Buddha.  Then your brother held up two to represent the Buddha and his teaching.  So I held up three fingers to represent Buddha, his teaching and his followers. Then your clever brother shook his clenched fist in my face to indicate that all three come from one realisation.”  With that the wandering monk left.

A little while later the younger brother came in looking distressed.  “I understand you won the debate,” said the elder brother.  “Won nothing,” said the younger brother, ‘that wandering monk is a very rude man!”

“Oh!” said the elder brother, “Tell me the subject of the debate.”

“Why,” said the younger brother, “the moment he saw me he held up one finger insulting me by indicating that I have only one eye.  But I thought as he is a stranger I’d be polite, so I held up two fingers to congratulate him on having two eyes.  At this the impolite wretch held up three fingers to indicate that between us we have only three eyes.  So I got mad and threatened to punch his nose – so he went.” 

The elder brother laughed.

Saima, there is immense wisdom in this parable and I do hope that you get it.  Great if you get it, great if you do not get it – all is whole, complete and perfect just as it is and just as it is not.

Everything is a reflection of self, everything is mind

In April, I throughly enjoyed each and every day.  In April I was carefree, lighthearted, relaxed and totally in the present. And so I was present to the sunshine, the warmth, the grass and the plants blossoming into flower.  Every day was a joy.

Then yesterday I started thinking about stuff and ended up in the land of fear, uncertainty, doubt, concern and worry.  The day was equally beautiful and yet I did not experience the beauty.

Today, I was in a much better mood and really appreciated my day.  I sat in my garden and enjoyed the sunshine.  I walked around, looked at and marvelled at the flowers: blue, purple, white, yellow, orange, red…..Then in the afternoon I got some news that I did not welcome into my life.  And almost immediately I fell out of love with this day even though the sunshine was still there and the flowers were just as beautiful.

In the midst of all this I got present to a truth that was presented at Landmark Education:  the future you are living into gives you your being in the present.  And I got present to the Zen saying that ‘everything is mind’!