There is an expression, which says, “where there is ego, there is stress.” That’s why sages throughout the ages have offered the same advice to deal with ego-produced stress: to detach, release, and surrender the ego. Most of us, however, hang on, and cling to stress-producing thoughts, which, in fact, no longer serve our purpose. Prejudice, guilt,
grief and doubt, to name a few, have a heavy gravitational pull on the human soul. Hanging on to old thoughts, attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs stunt our mental, emotional, and spiritual growth. While at first they may be useful to get through a given situation, old perceptions gather weight as we attempt to move forward with our lives. Some perceptions act like roadblocks, disrupting the journey altogether. To break the cycle, we must constantly remind ourselves to let go of the perception, and hence let go of the stress.
To remind myself, I always like to keep this story in mind. Two monks were walking from one town to the next on a humid summer day. In silence, they walked for miles under the hot sun along a graveled path. Late in the afternoon, they sat down on the grass and listened to the sounds of water cascading over stones in a shallow riverbed. If the monks kept their pace, they would reach their destination before sunset. After a short while they got up and resumed their trek. Soon they came upon the remains of a washed-out bridge. Built several years previously, it had been destroyed in the spring floods. Without thought, the first monk stepped into the water and proceeded to make his way across the river, careful of his footing; the second monk followed ever so cautiously.
Upon reaching the far bank, the first monk looked up to see a woman approach him. “The bridge is washed out and I cannot make it across and I must get to my village before dark. What am I to do?” she cried.
The first monk offered to carry her back across the shallow moving water. Picking her up, he carefully secured his step with each foot until he placed her down safely on dry land. Then he turned around and forded the stream once more to join his fellow traveler.
The two again walked for miles in silence until the first monk paused for a moment and then sat down. The second monk joined him by his side and began to talk.
“Brother, we have taken vows of chastity. How could you pick up that woman and carry her as you did? You have forsaken your vows,” he admonished.
The first monk answered, “Remember, we have also taken vows of service.” Then he paused for a moment and then said, “Brother, I placed that woman on the banks of the river several miles ago. It is you who still carries her.”
Carrying around useless stress is a heavy burden to both body and soul. Remember to travel light on your journey of life.