“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
― Gautama Buddha
Recently I read this article on the cost of holding on.
The article started with a story from Jon Muth’s children’s book Zen Shorts:
Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.
The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk; she just shoved him out of the way and departed.
As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then, she didn’t even thank you!”
“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”
It’s so wise and on point.
This parable has stuck with me for two weeks and has seeped into my thoughts several times each day.
“Why are you still carrying her?,” I ask myself if I start stewing or harboring.
I am all for speaking up to invoke change, but saying what is needed to be said is one thing. Holding on is another thing.
Harboring. Stewing. Rehashing again and again mostly creates anxiety. These emotions are unhealthy and need to be tossed aside like the poison they are.
This story is a reminder to mind shift if I start feeling the pull of negativity. The question is an instant check to switch gears and let go of what I cannot control, cannot change, cannot undo.
The Times’ author states,”We have only so much bandwidth. We have only so much time. We only have so much energy. Do we really want to invest any of our precious resources – financial or otherwise – into something that will return nothing but misery?”
My goodness, no. I certainly do not.
The author encourages the reader to “set down” the little things we’re sweating and invest that energy into something more positive and productive.
“Why am I still carrying her?,” is the question you can ask yourself when you start sweating the small stuff.
And the second question is: What can I set down today and pick up in its’ place?
Go for a bike ride, chat with friends or family, and perhaps your answer will surface.
I’m looking forward to our family copy of Zen Shorts to arrive next week – just in time for the start of the school year.
Here’s to hoping we can keep life a little more Zen this school year.