Two monks were making a pilgrimage to venerate the relics of a great Saint. During the course of their journey, they came to a river where they met a beautiful young woman — an apparently worldly creature, dressed in expensive finery and with her hair done up in the latest fashion. She was afraid of the current and afraid of ruining her lovely clothing, so asked the brothers if they might carry her across the river.
The younger and more exacting of the brothers was offended at the very idea and turned away with an attitude of disgust. The older brother didn’t hesitate, and quickly picked the woman up on his shoulders, carried her across the river, and set her down on the other side. She thanked him and went on her way, and the brother waded back through the waters.
The monks resumed their walk, the older one in perfect equanimity and enjoying the beautiful countryside, while the younger one grew more and more brooding and distracted, so much so that he could keep his silence no longer and suddenly burst out, “Brother, we are taught to avoid contact with women, and there you were, not just touching a woman, but carrying her on your shoulders!”
The older monk looked at the younger with a loving, pitiful smile and said, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river; you are still carrying her.”*
We’ve all been guilty of hanging onto something long after the time it should have been dropped. Thoughts swirl through our minds causing chaos, unhappiness, doubts, anger – any number of distressing emotions – of which we simply can’t seem to let go. When feeling stuck in a thought pattern like this, which is what yogis refer to as samskaras, coming back to a mindfulness meditation is very helpful. Ask yourself what is actually happening right now, at this moment in time. Focus your mind on what is and remember that the past is gone; it no longer exists in reality, but only in your mind.
* Story as told on http://www.fisheaters.com/twomonks.html