Zen monks were walking along a river when they came upon a
beautiful young woman. The bridge was out, she tearfully explained,
and she needed to cross the river right away. "Don't worry," said
one of the monks," just climb on my back and I'll carry
girl climbed on the monk's back and he took her across.
The monks then continued on their journey, but the second monk
Finally he couldn't stand it anymore and said, "How
could you, a virtuous monk, allow an attractive young lady
first monk said, "Are you still carrying
that lady? I put her down when we crossed the river."
seems to be a natural tendency of the human mind to cling
to old habits long after they have served their purpose.
I had a patient who came from a family where the parents
were tremendously self-absorbed. As a child, he learned
that the only way to get
people to listen to him was to scream and throw tantrums.
got him the parental attention he needed. The trouble was,
he was using the same strategy as an adult — and
the results were not
trouble with clinging to our old defensive strategies is that
they keep us from fully engaging with the fresh new experiences
that are coming to us moment after moment. The vitality of life
present in this moment, not in responding to the moment
with a knee-jerk reaction from our past. The more automatic
we are living fully, and the more we resemble those Pavlovian
dogs who were trained to salivate at the sound of a bell.
our minds function normally, they have a way of letting experience
drift into the past. For example,
will clearly remember
reading this article. A week from now, you may still
remember it, but it will be kind of hazy. Thirty years
won't remember it at all. This is the natural cleansing
process of the mind.
It allows old experience to fade away to make way for
fresher, newer experiences of life.
when we are hurt or made to suffer, this natural cleansing process
interrupted. We may keep replaying
over and over in our minds without being able to
let it go.
we may keep it alive by nursing a grudge or becoming overly suspicious
or feeling an unjustified sense
of entitlement, as if the world owed
us something to "make up for" what happened
we may distort our behavior or our character in an attempt to
keep ourselves one hundred percent
never be hurt like that again, and in so doing
out on the adventure
and fun of life.
of the wonderful things about being human is that we need not
be slaves to habit, conditioning
of coping with situations
that no longer exist. We can claim for ourselves
a wide territory of autonomy and freedom in
our lives. Our ability
to do so
depends on our ability to reflect upon our
see where we are sticking
to old worn-out ways of doing things and tired
ideas that don't have any validity in our current
can be an excellent way to begin this process of reflection.
It is sometimes
best, it allows us to shed the useless baggage
of the past, and to open ourselves to the
new life we