Today I am thankful for an insightful story from an unexpected source.
There’s been a story that’s popped into my brain on a couple of occasions since I first heard it last week. It’s one that I hadn’t heard before, and was very powerful in getting a point across. To make it even more awesomely serendipitous, it came as the result of an almost random conversation with someone I’d only spoken very briefly with prior to the conversation that led to this story.
We’ve had a few issues with the heating control system in our building and I went to the office of one of our tenants to give them an update. The person I meant to speak with was out, so I engaged in friendly conversation with Wayne, one of the massage therapists. Wayne and I have exchanged pleasantries several times, but have never really gotten into a real conversation. One thing led to another and BANG! we were in the middle of a pretty deep conversation on presence. He shared a story with me that has really stuck in my head and has had me re-thinking many things. Here it is (special thanks to the person that wrote it at this page – I purely copied and pasted the story below from that site):
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. The young woman asked if they could help her cross to the other side.
The two monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows not to touch a woman.
Then, without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and carried on his journey.
The younger monk couldn’t believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless, and an hour passed without a word between them.
Two more hours passed, then three, finally the younger monk could contain himself any longer, and blurted out “As monks, we are not permitted a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The older monk looked at him and replied, “Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river, why are you still carrying her?”
This is a great reminder to me of many things. First, to be present. Not just as in the case of the story, but in conversations with others. I will never know if a random conversation can lead to incredible insight. As the old saying goes, the teacher will appear when the student is ready… The funny thing is that I’ve been trying to focus on being more present recently. Second, engage in conversation with others and listen more than you speak. If I’d taken the lead in the conversation I could have pushed it in another direction and never heard this beautifully simple story. Third, stories have incredible power. Throughout time our history has been passed along by story telling. I need to remember this when I’m trying to teach, motivate and explain. The more I can put it into a story the more likely it is to be remembered. Last, simplicity is beautiful. The story doesn’t need to be long or overly detailed, the more simple the more memorable.
Thanks again to Wayne for sharing this story at the right time, it was greatly appreciated!