Thursday, May 7, 2009

what are you carrying?

There’s a Zen story about two monks, who are walking by a river. They come across a woman dressed in fine clothing. One monk offers to pick her up and carry her over the river, which she accepts. Once across the river, he puts her down, she thanks him and goes on her way.

Several hours later, the second monk just can’t stand it anymore — “Brother, our teaching tells us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked her up and carried her across the river!”

The other replies, “I put her down when we crossed the river. Why are you still carrying her?”

What haven’t you put down yet? Maybe it’s that dumb thing you said last week while talking to the cute girl in the bar who took your number but never called. ("I shouldn't have said that. I'm so stupid.") Maybe it’s what your mother told you when you were younger – that you were pretty but plain. ("I'm ugly.") Maybe it’s the fear of failure that you carry around after a risk you took tanked. ("I never should have done that. I'm such a loser.")

It doesn’t matter what it is, what matters is that you see your judgments, and you make an effort to put them down. (You're not stupid, you're not ugly, and you're not a loser!) Beliefs you have about how you should be or have to be… well, they’re just beliefs.

I'm not saying that makes them easy to put down. (Let’s not kid ourselves here.) But observing the nasty beliefs that you’re lugging around with you may keep you from picking up more like them, and you might be surprised to find that, once you identify a garbagey belief, it slips away all by itself.

The world gives you evidence of your goodness and worthiness. Collect that evidence, and put the other stuff down. Try this: keep a list of compliments people pay you. Doesn't matter if they're big or small, just collect them. The guy who catcalled while you were on your way to work? He totally counts! When your dad says he loves you, hear the truth of his love and accept it. Your boss just said you did a great job -- did you even hear that? People go out of their way to pay compliments, and accepting them is not only polite, it's the best way to collect your evidence.

So the next time someone offers you a compliment, put down the ugly judgments you're carrying, don't offer any mitigating circumstances (like how cheap your new dress was at TJ Maxx) and simply say "Thank you."

(Then run to your list and write it down!)

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