Once upon a time an elder monk and a young novice monk were traveling together. They came to the bank of a river and found the bridge was damaged. They had to wade across the river. There was a pretty lady who was stuck at the damaged bridge and couldn’t cross the river. The senior monk offered to carry her across the river on his back to which the lady accepted.

The young monk was shocked by the move of the elder monk and was thinking “How can the elder brother carry a lady when we are supposed to avoid all intimacy with females?” But he kept quiet. The senior monk carried the lady across the river and the novice monk followed unhappily. When they crossed the river, the senior monk let the lady down and they parted ways with her.

Image courtesy - Intrepid Travels

All along the way for several miles, the young monk was very unhappy with the act of the elder monk. He was making up all kinds of accusations about the elder monk in his head. This got him madder and madder. But he still kept quiet. And the elder monk had no inclination to explain his situation. Finally, at a rest point many hours later, the young monk could not stand it any further, he burst out angrily at the senior monk. “How can you claim yourself a devout monk, when you seize the first opportunity to touch a female, especially when she is very pretty?” All your teachings to me make you a big hypocrite. The elder monk looked surprised and said, “I had put down the lady at the river bank many hours ago, how come you are still carrying her along?”

LESSON: This very old Chinese Zen story reflects the thinking of many people today.

We encounter many unpleasant things in our life, they irritate us and they make us angry. But like the young novice monk, we are not willing to let them go away. There is no point in remaining hurt by the unpleasant event after it is over. The mind has a tendency to dwell in the past or wander into the future. The mind forges a chain to bind itself to the dead past, because it is fixed, while the present is in a state of flux, therefore constantly avoiding the present.

Life is neither lived in the tomb of the dead moments of the past nor in the womb of the unborn moments of the future. Life is not a continuous procession of past regrets and future anxieties. Life is lived in the dynamic present. The present moment is all that we have at our disposal. The mind should be freed from the past (which exists but as memory) and the future (which exists but as worry, a mixture of fear and hope). Only the present is. It is a present from God.

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7 Responses to LEARN TO MOVE ON IN LIFE…..

  1. Lori says:

    Fabulous story! It is so true, I find if we take the focus off of ourselves and put it into others, it really helps us to live in the present. Why worry about what we can’t change and what might happen in the future? Live life for today, look around and count the many presents God has blessed us with 🙂

  2. jesus Christ says:


  3. MEEE says:

    I am the worst when it comes to holding on to every little thing! I actually make myself sick in the end over stupid grudges. The story of the monk is a great example of holding on to something that isn’t positive to you at all. Wow because of this I am going to try harder to let go and live NOW not yesterday.
    Great Story!!

  4. FindingJoy says:

    I love your site. I am currently struggling with some decisions I made over the past two years. All involve finances. In one case the decision went completely against my core values but I felt trapped. Now I’m dealing with the extreme consequences. At a time when many of my friends are enjoying empty nests and preparing for their last 10 years of their careers, I am letting go of my home and my expensive car because I can’t afford them. I am cashing out my 401k to pay off the rest of my debts. I will be at ground zero. But in a way it feels very freeing, to have nothing, to owe nobody. Perhaps my decisions were really to get me here. To get me to connect with God. I have me. I have my adult children. I have a tight circle of amazing friends. I am learning to go back to basics – what do I really need and want in life.

    • Anonymous says:

      Dear Finding Joy – your story happens to many people nowadays. I went through the same thing almost a year ago. we lost the house, and about 3/4 of our things. We are living on the little savings that I have left. I had no idea I would be at so much peace while having so little in this material world. I have 2 lists: A ‘need’ list and ‘want’ list. My want list is almost empty. My need list is short. I have come to realize that I did not have to have the best of everything after all. All I need is to make the best of anything I have left. It is liberating to detach from consumerism, materialism, and things of this earth. It’s back to basics and it feels light and right!

      • MAC says:

        Dear Finding Joy – I too have been struggling with financial decisions over the past year. I made the mistake of helping a family member with housing. Needless to say they let the house go and had no care in the world on how it would affect me. I worked hard to be in good standing with all of my own debtors and now all has gone to waste as I can’t afford it all. I realize it’s materialistic but it’s disappointing to me. I’m learning to accept the fact and as you, it somehow brings me closer to God and where I want to be in life. Most importantly I’m learning to appreciate my parents for always being there for me through thick and thin.

  5. caren says:

    It’s amazing. Lately I’ve had huge regrets of the recent past. Choices that I made that cost me money. I’ve been crippled by regrets. Stupid. But honestly the past is over, it doesn’t exist. To dwell in the past is paralyzing it accomplishes nothing. The present is all there is. It does not recognize the past: live in today

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