There’s an old Zen Buddhist story that goes something like this:
One day a young Buddhist monk comes to the bank of a fast-moving, wide river while on his way home. He stands at the bank for hours pondering the best way to cross. Just as he’s about to give up, he sees a great teacher on the other side. The young Buddhist yells to the teacher, “Oh wise one, can you tell me how to get to the other side of this river?”
The teacher ponders this question for a moment as he looks up and down the river before finally yelling back, “my son, you are on the other side.”
What I love about this parable is that…well, it’s so Zen. I’m far from an expert on Zen Buddhism, but what I do know is that it’s not about providing an answer as it is providing a way (or not a way) to think. How you interpret the short little story is really up to you.
Is it a story about truth and perspective? Is it about what you desire is relative to where you are? The young monk wants to go somewhere, but from the perspective of the old master the young monk is already there.
Or, is it a story about mindfulness and living in the now? How we’re always searching for the next thing or place to be, when all we have to do is appreciate where we currently are.
The answer, from a Zen perspective, is up to you. It can even be both explanations when you think about it.
Which brings us to where we are now. A new year awaits – a time when many ponder resolutions for the coming year. A time when we aspire to do something better or be better. Not that there’s anything wrong with reflecting on the previous year and planning improvements for the next one. But sometimes we have a tendency to be a little too hard on ourselves. We make resolutions for the coming year doomed for failure because we never address the underlying reasons of why we even need to make resolutions to begin with.
Maybe it’s time to forgo resolutions altogether. Maybe it’s time to flip the whole concept on its head. Maybe it’s time instead to acknowledge all you’ve done and not dwell on what you haven’t.
So what I ask of you right now is to reflect on and celebrate all you’ve accomplished this past year. It doesn’t matter whether you believe you fell short of the goals you set for yourself a year ago. What you have accomplished is essential to the person you are today and it should be celebrated. You’ve put in the effort and you’ve come a long way. It’s okay to admit it.
As far as this coming year? Well, you can’t go wrong with the power of story to teach life lessons. Below are three more to help frame what’s ahead for you.
Ask the horse
A horse suddenly came galloping down the road. It seemed as though the man was in a rush and had somewhere important to go.
Another man, who was standing alongside the road, shouted, “Where are you going?” and the man on the horse replied, “I don’t know! Ask the horse!”
One of the more popular explanations of this story is the horse symbolizes our habits. They pull us in different directions. They are in control. All you do is go along for the ride. Well maybe it’s time to take back the reigns. It starts by telling yourself that you’re in charge and not your habits.
It will pass
A student went to his meditation teacher and said, “my meditation is horrible! I feel so distracted, or my legs ache, or I’m constantly falling asleep. It’s just horrible!”
“It will pass,” the teacher said matter-of-factly.
A week later, the student came back to his teacher. “My meditation is wonderful! I feel so aware, so peaceful, so alive! It’s just wonderful!
“It will pass,” the teacher replied matter-of-factly.
Highs and lows are a normal part of progress. The key is consistency. If your practice, your routine isn’t going as planned, don’t worry – know it will turn around. But at the same time don’t fear the possibility of it going south again. Don’t hide from trouble – expect it. And when it comes, know it won’t last.
“Suzuki Roshi, I’ve been listening to your lectures for years,” a student said during the question and answer time following a lecture, “but I just don’t understand. Could you just please put it in a nutshell? Can you reduce Buddhism to one phrase?”
Everyone laughed. Suzuki laughed.
“Everything changes,” he said. Then he asked for another question.
Accept it. For better or for worse, change is a natural progression of life. Don’t fear change. Embrace it.
These stories are provided to help you frame your own worldview. No one, especially me, has the right or is in the position to tell you what to think. But all four of these parables have been passed down from many generations. I’d like to believe they still exist because they’re still relevant no matter how life has changed over the centuries.
A new year awaits and I hope many good things lie ahead for you. You are a member of the TruTribe and TruFusion owes its success to people like you – a thoughtful and supportive community anyone would be proud to be a part of. We thank you for all you do. We celebrate what you’ve achieved. So let’s keep it going – with purpose – day by day.