ducks and monks

May 9, 2008 at 2:45 pm Leave a comment

In The Power of Now, I mentioned my observation that after two ducks get into a fight, which never last long, they will separate and float off in opposite directions. Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened.

If the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking, by story-making. This would probably be the duck’s story:

” I don’t believe what he just did. He came to within five inches of me. He thinks he owns this pond. He has no consideration for my private space. I’ll never trust him again. Next time he’ll try something else just to annoy me. I’m sure he’s plotting something already. But I’m not going to stand for this. I’;ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget.”

And on and on the mind spins it tales, still thinking and talking about it days, months, or years later. As far as the body is concerned, the fight is still continuing, and the energy it generates in response to all those thoughts is emotion, which in turn generates more thinking. This becomes the emotional thinking of the ego. You can see how problematic the duck’s life would become if it had a human mind. But this is how most humans live all the time. No situation or event is ever really finished. The mind and the mind-made “me and my story” keep it going.

We are a species that has lost its way. Everything natural, every flower or tree, and ever animal have important lessons to teach us if we only stop, look, and listen. Our duck’s lesson is this: Flap your wings-which translates as “let go of the story”-and return to the only place of power: the present moment”

Holy buckets. Did this ever hit home for me today as I was reading A New Earth , by Eckhart Tolle this morning on the elliptical machine. The whole book has me constantly nodding my head, saying, “yep, that’s me”, “Mmm-hmm, I do that too.” But this part of the book just caught me red handed. It is time again to flap my wings!!! I have a situation in my life that I am feel like I am always taking a few steps forward and another few steps back. I make profound progress and then I start believing the “story” I tell myself, about things that have happened in the past and I get bitter and hateful. And I know it’s just my mind talking. Not me.

Another part of the same chapter (which will soon be glowing with highlighter streaks) that really resonated:

The inability or rather unwillingness of the human mind to let go of the past is beautifully illustrated in the story of two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, who were walking along a country road that had become extremely muddy after heavy rains. Near a village, they came upon a young woman who was trying to cross the road, but the mud was so deep it would have ruined the silk kimono she was wearing. Tanzan at once picked her up and carried her to the other side.

The monks walked on in silence. Five hours later, as they were approaching the lodging Temple, Ekido couldn’t restrain himself any longer. “Why did you carry that girl across the road?” he asked. “We monks are not supposed to do things like that.”

“I put the girl down hours ago, ” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

Wow. Need I say more?

Anyway, today has been a very pensive day for me. And it’s zapping my energy, too. I could fall asleep right now and I am trying my hardest to keep busy, but had to come here and get this all out on paper.


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The things we touch have no permanence. My master would say: there is nothing we can hold onto in this world. Only by letting go can we truly possess what is real. -Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

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