Once two Zen monks were walking together along a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend they met an attractive young girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection because of a big puddle of mud in her way. The girl asked if one of them could lift her across.
The younger one said “Certainly not, my vows preclude my touching a woman.” The older monk simply picked her up and carried her across the river. The two monks walked on in silence for some time. Finally, the younger one spoke: “I cannot get over the fact that you carried that woman across the river. Have you no sense of propriety, no self discipline?”
The older one asked: “What did I do when I reached the other side?”
The younger one answered: “You put her down.”
“Exactly,” said the older monk, “And you are still carrying her!”
We spend our lives carrying excess baggage of memories, regrets, thoughts and general burdens. We wake every morning and walk around carrying the burdens of things don’t really matter. We may have had a disagreement with some one and we keep thinking about that and replaying that issue or conversation in our minds. Perhaps we think of the things we should have said. Or we may have anxiety or stress about finances or challenges at our job and do on.
We carry around a lot of burden that is frankly nothing but our thoughts and illusions created by our mind.
Think about it. When we are regretting about something, we are just replaying a memory and our mind suggests alternatives we should have done or said or handled. But how does that help? How is it going to change the past? The past is just a memory. It is only good for being grateful for an experience you may have had.
Or we may be worrying about the future. May be your finances are poor and there is an indication that your job may be in jeopardy. But being beaten down by that and getting worried about it would not solve anything. In fact you just have to remember that the future is just an illusion and that there is only this moment. The future when it comes will be the present moment and till that moment comes you are just in the present.
We have little use for the past except for the purpose of learning from our experiences, good and bad. Just like in the Buddhist monk story, we need to let go of any burden the past may place on us. It’s happened, it’s over, it cannot be changed, we can only move forward and create a compelling future.
So practice mindfulness. Meditate every day so that you may focus on the present moment and not replay the past or worry about the future. It only takes a few seconds to just focus on you in-breath and your out-breath and bingo! – you are in the present moment.
Ps: the above story could also be interpreted about desires but I chose to relate it to burdens instead.