I listened to a story once by Gil Fronsdel on the Insight Meditation Podcast.
Two Buddhist monks were on a journey when they came to a river. A woman stood at the river waiting for help to cross. It was forbidden for the monks to make physical contact with a woman but one of the monks offered to help and carried her across.
The two monks continued on their journey. After a while the other monk could not hold his tongue anymore and berated the first monk. “How could you do this?” he asked, “it is forbidden.”
“I put the woman down on the other side of the river,” the first monk replied. “You are still carrying her.”
We all carry burdens like this through our life. They weigh us down. So many burdens stacked on top of us. We can put them all down.
Recently Theresa and I were coming back to Kitsilano from West Vancouver. She was driving. Traffic was busy, it was a Sunday. Denman isn’t a good street for cyclists, it’s too busy but two people on Mobi rental bikes blocked our way so we slowed until we could pass.
The car behind us honked and the driver threw up his arms in frustration. He honked again aggressively. I could see him in the mirror. His aggression fed my aggression and I was about to get out to scream “do you want us to drive over the ******* cyclists?” Theresa sensed my intentions and asked me not to do this. It would have accomplished nothing but an argument.
The man may have been impatient and rude, but likely did not see the cyclists. That is me, reactive, aggressive. That is why I work on it. That is why I meditate. I don’t always see the error of my ways and I often explode, it is a work in progress.
All the way home, I wished I had gotten out. I felt he got away with something. I felt that had gotten one over me.
I did the right thing by not getting out, but even now, a week after, as I write this I still regret it. I wish I had confronted him. I wish I had shouted at him and said that there were two cyclists that he wanted us to drive over. I wish I did that and I still have angry thoughts about that man.
I am still carrying him, but he put me down once we were out of his line of vision. How long will I carry him? I remember incidents from years past that are still stored in my mind, still taking up space, memories that I carry. Grudges, wrong doings, whatever else.
It is a work in progress. Maybe I will never get there, but it is the journey that matters, not the destination. The work is done along the path, that’s where we find ourselves.
We must never stop the work. We must learn to put things down.