One thing I love and treasure about Zen are the meaningful and insightful stories. Here’s one of my favourites about two monks.
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.
The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.
Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.
The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.
Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself no longer, and blurted out: “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river. Why are you still carrying her?"
We all go through times in life that lead us to hold on to things better left “on the other side of the river” and yet we still carry them and only hurt ourselves.
The practice of mindfulness is all about letting go and experiencing this moment which has never happened before for the first time. It’s almost as if we are frightened of letting go and in some mysterious way we cherish pain. Perhaps like the monk, the pain is self-righteousness. What I have learned from my good teacher is, do I want to be right or do I want to be happy. Remember whatever you resist will persist. This is a mantra that I would recite many times during the day and I especially take time out, as we all should do from our busy lives, for twenty minutes to relax in the knowledge that we are letting go of our heavy and sometimes painful heavy baggage. In mindfulness this is called “rest and digest,” when we are able to drop down a gear or two from our fast pace and give ourselves permission to shift from doing to being.
This week as part of my role as an Aisling panelist, I had the honour and privilege to go along with other panelists to see the great work that our community activists do in alleviating suffering in our community. Each group that we visited was a beacon of hope in these dark and stressful times, with soaring prices, foodbanks and electricity and gas prices going through the roof.
These advocates who unselfishly give their time, coming from their own personal experiences, offer refuge to those who are suffering 24/7. These are the experts through experience who know what to do and above all how to do it.
The Aisling Awards, now in their twenty sixth year, recognise the work of our community. I was humbled by the resilience that only a Westie knows.