I remember my Zen teacher Ryushin Paul Haller telling a story about two zen monks who were out walking and came to a river that they would have to cross over.

At the bank of the river there stood a beautiful young woman who was in distress as she didn’t want her feet or dress to get wet. When the two monks arrived, she asked if one of them could carry her across. One of the monks lifted her and carried her safely across the river and set her down on the river bank.

She thanked them and they continued their walk.

Later along their walk the monk who didn’t carry the woman said to his friend: "As monks you know that we are not to be in contact with women, but you carried that woman across the river."

The other monk replied: "Yes, but I left her at the rive. You are still carrying her in your mind."

I love this story as it always reminds me to let go of the past and not to judge ourselves or others but to live and experience this moment for the first time. Many times I have been like both monks – the one who carried and the one who didn’t. I have come to learn that’s what what it’s all about: Neither this nor that but a bit of both.

Back in the seventies, one of my watering holes was the Club Bar near Queen’s University. One night a friend and I visited the Club, which was frequented by Catholics, Protestants, hippies and students. On the night that we visited, my friend didn’t feel too good and asked that we head home.

I agreed and we left. As we turned in to University Street, there was an almighty explosion—we both ran back to University Road to see what happened. When we turned the corner, we discovered it the Club Bar had been bombed.

I ran into the bar to rescue people. My friend remained outside until I returned. I remember the carnage and devastation and as soon as the rescue services arrived I left.

That was my baptism in trauma and I remember how I always used to berate myself for not staying outside like my friend. My thoughts were that if I hadn’t have gone in that I would be the same as my friend and not find myself beating myself up for going into the bar. Later down the line a few years later in fact, my friend and I spoke about that night.

He told me how he beats himself up for not going into the bar that night and felt that I was hero and he was a coward. I remember at that moment saying to him: "It’s not about, heroes and cowards, nor this or that, it’s just is as it is and we are all doing the best that we can at any time."

I remember how he told me that what I had said had comforted him. I suppose I felt that way when I heard the story of the two monks.

I’m learning to leave the past alone and to build on the this moment, this miraculous moment that has never happened before. Remembering that each and every one of us is doing our best all the time.