Two monks traveling together come to a raging river. As the monks were preparing to cross, a woman was also ready to make an attempt. The woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side. The problem was that the two monks had taken vows not to touch a woman. Without saying anything, the older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the river. Then continued on his way.
The younger monk was stunned by what had just happened. So much so, he was speechless, and let many hours pass without any words exchanged. Finally, the younger monk blurted out “We are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The older monk simply replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
I have also heard this parable told with a woman screaming at the monks and not saying thank you. Either way, the point still stands that our internal dialogue can be loud and take control of the driver’s seat. We have a false sense as to what is fair. But when we are wise, we can create new contexts based on the circumstances at hand. While the senior monk only carried the woman for a couple minutes, the padawan carried her for hours.
The image is powerful in the burdens we carry in a post-industrial economy. One bad interaction can indeed ruin an entire day unless we change the story we tell.
What burdens or hurt feelings can we let go to start the new year?