Relationships

Wise Words

Joanna and Anton

Toby and Anton have a book called Zen Shorts, which features a wise panda teaching kids life lessons. The first time I read it, I was sitting on the floor reading to the boys, and one part of the book really jumped out at me. Ever since then, I haven’t been able stop thinking about it…


Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.

The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk; she just shoved him out of the way and departed.

As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then, she didn’t even thank you!”

“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?”


How beautiful is that? Apparently it’s an ancient zen parable. And it’s true: When you’re mulling something over (a rude driver, an argument with your partner, a terse comment from a neighbor), you’re choosing to spend your time feeling upset. Those feelings could just disappear, if you let them. It’s such a good reminder that the narrative in your head is really important to your own well-being, and it’s something that I hope my children can learn — and myself, too!

This week, I saw that The New York Times had also mentioned it, and I wanted to share it.

Another thing that helps grudges disappear: My friend Gemma always says people are “grouchy,” which made me laugh. It makes people seem sort of hilariously cantankerous and keeps you from taking it personally (which 99% of the time, it isn’t!).

Zen Shorts is now my go-to gift for kids — probably best for ages 5 and up — but it’s a good book for adults, too. (My sister has a copy on her own bookshelf.)

zen-shorts

What will you let go?

P.S. How everyone is really just a baby, and this made me laugh.

  1. This really has opened my eyes knowing that sometimes we keep things bottled up in us yet we would let go and feel better its wise and will share with my kids to let go of any thing that can upset your mind.

  2. Jessica says...

    This is literally what I needed to read! I’ve been holding on to so much…Thank you for sharing.

  3. It’s beautiful. I would like to say that I’ve succeeded in life if i’m able to love others and let go of myself.

  4. I sent this post to my husband who has been carrying a bad attitude for a few days now, he read it and texted me back “I am putting my attitude down now”. His mood has noticeably improved! Sometimes we just need to be reminded to get over ourselves to really appreciate what is right in front of us. thank you for sharing this!

  5. Can’t believe I just came across this post- last night I began a new semester in school with a course in Children’s Literature and out of the 30-something books being passed around the class for presentation, I chose this one to discuss with the group! It was the story of the two monk’s that I found most compelling and decided to read aloud. Really powerful stuff. Love that you love it, too! Might need to get myself a copy…

  6. Redgater says...

    Lovely post and I will seek out that book for my grand daughters.
    It reminds me of a saying -not sure of the source- that to stay angry with someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die! -the only one hurt is ourselves

  7. Kate says...

    Is the illustration at the bottom from the book? It is beautiful!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! it’s so beautiful. it actually won a caldecott honor!

  8. Curlieq55 says...

    A conversation at our breakfast table last week prompted me to introduce my 13 year old stepdaughter to this parable (koan) and several others (“A Cup of Tea” for instance) through the book “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones”. I’ve had my copy since the mid-70s (college).

  9. Amazing Story, Babies are always the light of life. Thank You for Posting.

  10. Ange says...

    As a person who tends to Cary things around, this parable hit home!

  11. I’ve never heard about this book before, but I really love this parables!

  12. margaret says...

    love this book, for years. The farmer’s luck parable is the most impactful for me and might really have helped me be a better person! It’s my go to gift for new parents.

  13. Amy says...

    I would love to see a book for adults written and illustrated like a children’s book to explain different scenarios where this zen parable would apply and when you should say “F*** you, I will not abide, be accountable/own/apologize for your actions.” My mom could probably physically describe every single person down to the type of shoes/make&model of car who has EVER cut her in line or snaked her parking spot, but when it comes to important emotional/physical/financial needs in her life, she goes into doormat mode, or convinces herself that she’s taking the “higher road” when really it’s just the easier road because she’s scared to stand up for herself. Sometimes I feel like that rubbed off on me. Ugh. Still, thank you for this post though. It really helps.

  14. Shannon says...

    Thank you for this! I was exactly the inspiration I needed today after a rough day at work.

  15. Stephanie says...

    I needed to hear this today after the longest, last day at my job with a crazy boss. Practicing ‘setting her down’ so I can enjoy dinner with my lovely husband. This blog warms my heart and reminds me what’s important in life :-) Thank you!

  16. Cait says...

    This really happened to me with our neighbors, and I appreciate that that was in your little list of examples. First of all, I’m realizing that there are probably little personality quirks and the fleeting elevator moments don’t mean anything personal. But oh my goodness they’ve literally made me cry. This is such a beautiful picture of what not letting go is doing to yourself. (I’m pretty much over that particular situation but my heart rate goes up when I see them still!)

  17. This is such a beautiful parable!!! I love stories like this that teach such an awesome lesson. I added the book to my Amazon list! Always appreciate finding good ones!

  18. Anna says...

    My 4,5 year old loves that book!We have the book with a greek translation and the pandas name is Galinios which means tranguil,peaceful in greek!

  19. Kristen says...

    Have that book and loved it! My son is four and he goes “mic drop” after I read that line :)

  20. LaQuetha says...

    I love this story and I usually read it towards the middle of the school year. Its a great book. I needed this reminder today and I am letting things go.

  21. emilia says...

    I remember this story from college. It has always stayed with me. Although, in the version we studied, it was more about the fact that monks aren’t allowed to touch women, and so the other monk was upset because he “broke the rules.” It was told to us to remind us that sometimes we need to honor the “spirit” of the law, instead of the law itself. It is better, in my opinion, to help someone and break a rule, than leave them there to suffer. In our version the woman was kind, but the other monk was upset because the young monk broke the rules. It’s a story I use often when dealing with trying to get religious people to see a different side of things, and often times, it works ha ha! Zen Stories are fabulous. I recommend you read the story “Trading Dialogue for Lodging” It’s a great story about not looking inward, about not being self involved and thinking that the whole world revolves around you.

    • Curlieq55 says...

      Emilia, are you referring to “Zen Flesh, Zen Bones”? One of my all-time favorite books. Wealth of wisdom in a tiny volume.

  22. Ximena says...

    This is exactly what I needed to read today! thank you

    I don’t have kids yet but im thinking about getting that book 😄

  23. Bisbee says...

    This has always been my philosophy…I have my optimistic mother to thank for it. My father was a pessimist…and my first husband was as well. I remember always saying to him, “Why worry about it if you have no control…all it does is makes you feel worse”. Current DH is more like me…so much easier NOT to carry a burden if you can do nothing to fix it!

  24. Emily G. says...

    Something I do, or rather say to myself when people are rude or rushing, mostly when crazy drivers are zooming past on the roads, is “They must have to poop.” No one is happy or patient when they really gotta go.

  25. I cannot begin to express how profound this is to me…it came just at the right time so it has a deeper meaning to me. I feel enlightened and better already. Thank you for sharing :)

  26. Sharon says...

    I also do what Gemma does. I actually get away with calling people “cranky”, to their face! A friend or coworker might be a little snappy with me, unordinarily, and I’ll say “Oh, so-and-so, ya a little cranky today?”. The best part is that they usually reapond with something along the lines of: “Yeah, you know I’m just so tired! My kid kept me up all night.” I love these responses because you’re really able to empathize with the groucher, and understand that their momentary grouch is so not personal, and not directed at you.

  27. Kelly says...

    Love this book! Have read that parable to my kids yoga students more times than I can count. Stillwater the Panda is still a fixture in our house,sitting on my 16 year old’s bed now. Sun in My Belly is another one akin to Zen Shorts that I highly recommend – also a beautiful book.

  28. This is one of my favorite books on our shelves – we have all three of them, and read them often. A favorite book to gift as well. I frequently write about children’s literature and illustration – and Muth has such a gift for making the stories within the story distinctive – in words and illustration style. And in general, I just love how quiet, yet detailed, his paintings are.

    http://www.thirdstoryies.com/2012/10/31/storytime-zen-ghosts-by-jon-j-muth/

    If you love his illustrations, than I highly recommend Caroline Kennedy’s “A Family of Poems” – also mentioned in the post above.

  29. Becky says...

    I needed this post today! I am struggling with this lately. No need to go into the backstory about what has left me in this place mentally, but I know I didn’t used to be this way. I am most aware that this prevents me from living in the moment, and robs me of joy.

    Any advice on how to hit the “reset” button?

    And, thanks Joanna, for the scope of what you include in your blog!

    • Davis says...

      Hi Becky,
      Have you read “Daring Greatly” and “Rising Strong” by Dr. Brene Brown? I’ve learned specific strategies from her books that are gradually enabling me to recognize when I have been emotionally “hooked” by a hurtful comment, for example, and how to process the event and “get back up”.
      Best wishes!

  30. mel says...

    We also love Zen Shorts around here, but Zen Ghosts always wins out. Perfect non-scary Halloween “Ghost” story for kids. They are also beautifully illustrated. I think we have all of them :)

  31. Love this. I often run through something similar with my son “Is worrying going to change it?” “it is going to make it better?” “do things MOST OFTEN turn out much less bad than you imagined?” so lets talk about the worry and then put it in a box and not think about it again. Took me YEARS to get to this point, hope he picks it up sooner! :)

  32. B says...

    This is such a wonderful reminder. I have had a tumultuous time lately, job things, house things and family things. It put me in a bad mood constantly – however recently I have decided to let it go. It’s not worth ruining my husband and my children’s days over things I cannot change. I’m now more of a what will be will be philosophy and I finally am enjoying the last days of summer!

  33. Emily says...

    It is a sweet book! My husband overheard me reading it to my daughter the other night, and when I came back downstairs, he said he’d been stewing about something for a long while, and the book was a good reminder to him to let it go. (It’s a reminder he needs a lot, he knows how to hang onto a grudge – though we all do, to some extent).

  34. Lauren E. says...

    I think I’m just super emotional these days but that story brought tears to my eyes. I’m certainly the younger monk. I have such a hard time letting go of things that don’t matter (one time a man on the subway made fun of me for looking goofy and frantic while running to catch the train… I still think about it years later!!). I think I’ll buy this book for myself. :)

    • Laura C says...

      Dear Lauren, that man was an idiot and probably he is still an idiot. I’m super emotional these days too :-)
      Keep going on sis!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      lauren, your story reminds me of jessica williams’s awesome response to catcalling:

      http://www.cosmopolitan.co.uk/reports/news/a29390/jessica-williams-flawless-response-catcalling/

      you GET to look frantic running for a train! anyone would be frantic. you’re not required to run in a certain way for some random dude!

      (laura and lauren, your comment exchange, by the way, is why i love this community of women so much. big high fives and hugs to both of you.)

  35. I am have been upset for the last few hours about the relationship with my dissertation supervisor, mulling over it and all that. Reading this reminded me that I can forgive him, forgive myself, move on and be free. Thanks for sharing!

  36. I absolutely loved this read!! Such a simple way to deliver a very deep message! Thank you!

  37. Alison says...

    I read this same parable in a now out of print collection of comic strips called Zen Speaks: Shouts of Nothingness when I was maybe 13. It has stuck with me over the decades and I return to it again and again, especially when my challenge is with anger. I often couple it with that reminder that being angry is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die (or something like that). I’m so glad you’ve shared and that you are sharing with your kids- such a gift!

  38. I needed to read this this morning!!! Thank you for sharing.

  39. Ceridwen says...

    I love it! I couldn’t have read this at a more perfect time. I’ve had a hard time with someone lately and reading this has helped my ask “Why am I still carrying her?”. Thank you.

  40. Katie C says...

    Yes! We also have this book and it was that particular story that really struck a chord with me too. It’s been awhile since we’ve read it, but I think we might just have to pull it out tomorrow.

  41. Anne says...

    Thank you so much, Johanna, this made me think a lot… Holding grudges is slowing me down and I’m giving it too much of my time, I have to remind myself of that constantly. I noticed that it has become easier now that I’m a working mom : you just don’t have time for this ! So I just try to remember : enjoy your life and your wonderful boy, and that’s it !

  42. Whitney says...

    Thank you for posting this. It was just what I needed today!

  43. abbey says...

    I love this. I studied Eastern Religion in college and hearing this story somewhat early in life had a huge impact on how I think about thoughts and the power we give them.

    Somewhere along the way I created a habit of thinking of a pesky worry or hang-up as an actual physical object (I picture something like a rubix cube) and my brain as a hand. And then I kindly ask my brain/hand to Put It Down. I.e. “Let’s just take a break and set this thing aside, shall we?” I watch my brain hand set the thing aside and that’s that.

    Zen Shorts is a fantastic kids book too. As a career nanny I never tire of reading it to little ones :)

  44. Kim says...

    I’m going through a really rough family emergency and have been crying every night. This is just the therapy I needed to hear.

    • Kate says...

      This too shall pass, Kim. I hope things start looking brighter.

  45. This is lovely. (and I so agree)

  46. I used this exact scenario from the book to let go of feeling frustrated with a man on a flight who refused to trade seats with my husband so that we could sit together. I pictured the monk letting go:) it works every time! Love these books!

  47. Jean says...

    Thank you for this write up. As a SAHM with a 3 yr and 16 month old, this book sounds like it will help me stay focused on being more “zen” and forgiving with my children, and what a better reminder than to be given it while reading with eager eared children. So enjoy your posts and always appreciate the children and adult book reviews and suggestions.

  48. Wendy says...

    I’ve chosen to let go of the judgement I received from someone who is of position when I chose a different school for my child today.

  49. What a beautiful story. And so, so true!

    I went for a jog last night and a man rudely jumped in my way. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but it made me angry. I thought that was so rude, and all of these thoughts were running through my mind. And then I realized I’m getting upset over someone I’ll never see again, and it’s affecting my run. I let it go and I was happy again. We control our emotions. They shouldn’t control us.

    • Julia says...

      A few days ago while jogging I met another man running. Our eyes met a few metres before he passed me and I smiled at him. Yet he decided to look away and didn’t seem to hear my “Hi” when he passed me. He had earplugs in, but I thought it really rude to first meet my gaze and then ignoring me. I have to add that I live in a village in Switzerland and it is the norm to greet people. The whole run I imagined passing him again and telling him how unpolite I think he was. Then…finally I decided to forget about it and enjoy my precious time. ;-)

  50. Anna says...

    I love this! What a beautiful metaphor.

  51. Like many others I really needed to hear this today. I have been stressed over a few ethical decisions by a company my company associates with. Their behavior is making me crazy. I have lost sleep over these issues, but I bet you money they have not!!!
    ( and I even own this book, as a gift I gave my daughter from China)

  52. Ramona says...

    Such a good reminder especially during election season when people get so worked up during political discussions (or political skirmishes online). Politics are very important, but getting nasty and heated probably isn’t going to change the other person’s mind!

  53. Jen says...

    Another way I’ve heard carrying around anger described as is it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die from it. It only really hurts you.

    • That saying is a bit dark, but I really think it rings true! Thank you for that, I will need to remind myself of that every so often!

  54. Val says...

    It’s funny that I just read about this story in Tracks by Robyn Davidson yesterday. Love the moral of it. I should look for this book for my daughter.

  55. Katie says...

    Oh, wow! What a great share. I really needed that story today!

    I’m really looking forward to purchasing and sharing this book when my little guy is just a bit older (or at least talking :)

  56. Ashley F. says...

    If you love Zen Shorts then you must get Zen Ties as well as Hi Koo! Also Three Questions which is a powerful book related to perspective that children and adults can relate to. All are by Jon J. Muth. I read them with my Montessori class throughout the year. Thank you for sharing this gem!

    • Rachel C. says...

      Thank you for the suggestion! I am also a Montessori teacher. My favorite thing about being a Montessorian is the focus on peace and personal development.

    • Briana says...

      Was just coming down here to recommend his other books, too! My toddler looooves Hi Koo!

      Zen Socks is great, too. Jon J. Muth is something special. :)

  57. My son turns two on Saturday. This book was given to us for his baby shower, and he has recently decided his LOVES it! (So much so that we bought it’s companions Zen socks and Zen ties to add a little variety to the rotation.) I’m not sure he understands it, but I am so grateful he loves a book Momma and Daddy can enjoy as well! Thanks for sharing!

  58. Meghan says...

    Such a great book – I’ve been reading it to my son for years and it still gives me chills every time.

  59. Claire Johnson says...

    Thanks for this post- it was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. It can be hard to drop the “small” injustices.

  60. Dj says...

    I think a favorite saying of mine is ‘Why resent a fire for burning’?
    It has saved me from a lot of inner turmoil.

  61. Meredith says...

    This is so hard for me, even when I actively try to let things go. My husband is so good at it, and I’m jealous. He says, “why would i stress out about it, there is nothing I can do to change it.” What a healthy attitude! It’s a work in progress for me, and there is still much progress to be had, but this is one of the things about my mind that I’m working on actively changing.

  62. Louise says...

    We have that book and also the next one by the same author. We read them to our son when he was small. He’s now 13 and still has the book on his ‘never give away’ pile’. Such beautiful stories.

  63. Pam says...

    Wonderful, I will get this for my daughter (And myself). This makes me think of a favorite quote “Hating someone is like burning down your house to get rid of a rat.”

    • Jessica says...

      Or “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die” — that’s another version I’ve heard!

  64. Abbie says...

    I picked up Zen Shorts randomly at the library and ended up buying it–our two-year-old loves this book! I always laugh when Stillwater’s “slight panda accent” gets a mention.

  65. Gayatri says...

    Do you feel like maybe sometimes this attitude encourages people who SHOULD be angry, resentful, etc. because of truly unjust situations to let slights slide? Obviously no one is helped by walking through life with a chip on their shoulder, but sometimes life treats you badly and you can remember it and mobilize people to do something about it. Anger can be the fuel of change, and I worry that an emphasis on destressing and zen can sometimes ignore those in positions of less privilege, who are bitter because life really does screw them. Telling them let it go perpetuates systemic inequality.

    • Ali says...

      One of the most important aspects of Buddhism is the notion that suffering is an integral part of life. Without suffering, there is no compassion. While I agree that injustice should be rectified and people should take a stand, there are peaceful ways to do so with amazing impact (I’m thinking Ghandi, Dr. MLK Jr.). In fact, I believe that anger, distrust, and those who have that “chip on their shoulder” leads more often to more suffering, fear and inequality because we can’t see how we are all interdependent. I would take a look at work by Thich Naht Hahn, who writes so eloquently on this issue.

    • MMA says...

      Yes!! I know too many women who are always letting things slide when they should be recognizing that they are right to be angry, and right to want to do something about it.

    • This is an interesting point, Gayatri (beautiful name!) and one certainly worth wrestling with. I do believe there is a sort of righteous anger: that when we see unjust treatment of those who are marginalized and unfairly treated we are incited to act on their behalf.

      That being said – there’s a subtle nuance to the difference in righteous anger and undignified anger. Far too many people are walking around harboring things that could be let go for their own well being. We could do better at showing a bit more grace. Don’t ya think?

  66. Joanna Cendrowski says...

    I have read that book a gazillion times when I was a nanny, and didn’t appreciate that line until you just pointed it out now.

  67. Samantha says...

    We have this saying in DR, “suéltalo en banda”, which is a very casual version of “let it go”. And if something’s bothering you, or someone is being rude, people are like “suéltalo en banda”. Or you could literally tell someone “te solté en banda”, like “I let you go”. Take into consideration that this is an extremely casual way of talking, like street talk, lol. But the zen message is there :)

  68. We love Zen Shorts as well! At first I though it would be too deep for Luna (3.5) but she really likes it.

    Xo Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  69. Jessie says...

    I love this! It reminds me this quote that I came across the other day (and immediately wrote down in like five different places)…

    These mountains that you are
    carrying, you were only supposed to climb. – Najwa Zebian

    • Cait says...

      Love that!

  70. You should read my favorite book of all time….A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. You would appreciate it I think.

    • Laura C says...

      Jessica, just last night I started with The Power of Now. I’m still decicing whether I like it or not.
      I feel like I need it, but every time I read a self-help book, anxiety comes and overwhelms me.
      Anyway I have to tel that this short tale is beautiful and I just needed it.
      Sometimes I watch my hubby or some friends, they are “simple minds”, their minds are lighter than mine and they are able to let things go. I am not sure anymore if I will be able to change my mind and be like E. Tolle or something and live without this mind of mine that keeps rumminating most of time.
      Thank you Jessica for your recommendation.

  71. Cate says...

    How about this, which I read somewhere today: trouble will come to visit, but you don’t have to invite it in and give it a chair.

  72. Rachel says...

    Thank you for sharing the story and book idea =) I’m having the roughest day today and I’m ready to set some burdens down.

    xo

  73. Jo says...

    My old yoga teacher and mentor used to tell this story a lot during savasana (in the middle of a Bikram class) to inspire us to let go of our expectations for ourselves. I always loved it!

  74. That saying about the two monks is very wise, much more so than such a little story has any right to be. I will remember it and try to put it into practice.
    Thank you

  75. What a beautiful story and a great illustration too.

  76. Sullivan says...

    I like the flip side of the story too – last night I was leaving our local county fair, which was packed with cars coming and going. I witnessed a near fight as one lady was standing alone guarding a parking spot while a car with a handicap placard was looking for a close space as all the designated spots were taken. The van drivers were shouting profanity at the lady guarding the spot and threatening all kinds of things. The lady wouldn’t budge, even for a wheelchair passenger. I was one row over, leaving, and offered my spot to them. I was able to carry away the good feeling of having helped meet a significant need! I was happy to have been in the right place at the right time and carrying away the good feeling was light and rejuvenating.

  77. Liz says...

    wow what a beautiful story. thanks for sharing.

  78. Shannon Schnurr says...

    We just bought that book a few weeks ago (found it at the local thrift store along with these gems: https://www.instagram.com/p/BIlsQIjDDd_/?taken-by=sschnurr). My 3.5 year old and I both love it! I actually like the middle story about how there is no good luck or bad luck. Profound stuff. Wonderful for kids. And great illustrations :)

  79. Abbie says...

    Thank you. So timely for me today.

  80. Hunter says...

    It is amazing what we can learn from children – love this post so much!

  81. I love that story, but I can totally relate to the young monk. I struggle with finding the sweet spot between being a generous, forgiving and thoughtful person and being TOO forgiving and generous–and getting walked all over as a result.

    I used to never say “no” whenever asked for a favor. Now, I have a 6-month old baby and since her birth I have realized what a precious a commodity energy is. As in, I don’t have very much of it to spare these days. I have become very aware of where my energy goes. Certain people in my life are big energy “takers”, and others are energy “givers”. I have begun to avoid the people who take my energy without ever giving back. I’ve gotten better at saying “no”. And I’m working on letting go of things that I used to spend a lot of energy on–like worrying over what other people think of me–but that don’t really matter.

    It has been freeing experience for the most part. Babies are a great excuse to once and for all evaluate and prioritize how you spend your time and energy.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! good for you, tonia. i totally agree that you want to stand up for yourself and look out for your own needs, for sure. i agree that saying “no” to something is often the same as saying “yes” to yourself, and that is a good thing!

      in terms of being upset, i try to figure out whether it’s an occasion where i’ll want to continue standing up for my point of view (like in an argument with alex, for example) or whether it’s something random and inconsequential that i should let slide off my shoulders (like if a passerby is grumpy on the street).

  82. Jenna says...

    You are so full of wisdom. Just ordered this! My four year old is starting to be more aware of the world and how other people’s actions impact her. I think this could be a really good book to teach her about how she responds to others.

  83. I love this parable and whenever one of us can’t let a rude person’s behavior go we say to each other “stop carrying them around!” I love that this emphasizes that it’s your choice!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, emily!

  84. Kate says...

    A colleague told me a variation on that story once: The woman was young and very beautiful. The older monk carried her across and put her down and then the two monks went on their way. The younger monk continued to talk about the young woman and how the older monk shouldn’t have carried such a beautiful woman. The older monk said that he had put the woman down, but asked the younger monk why he was still carrying her.

  85. Yes, that’s very similar to the concept of the Second Arrow!

    “I often use the metaphor of the second arrow because I find it just so helpful. The Buddha told a parable and the teaching was:

    “If you get struck by an arrow, do you then shoot another arrow into yourself?”

    If we look at the way we move through the day, when something happens, when we have pain in our body, when somebody treats us in a way that feels disrespectful, when something goes wrong for someone we love, that’s the first arrow. Our mind and body go into a reactivity that does not help to bring healing. We blame others, we blame ourselves. That’s the second arrow.”
    http://blog.tarabrach.com/2011/08/learning-to-respond-not-react.html

    • Kate says...

      While not exactly the same, this second arrow reminds me of this quote:
      “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      yes! love that quote.

    • Ali says...

      I have a book with a quotation every day from the beautiful teacher Thich Naht Hahn and the Second Arrow was today’s selection! So wonderful. I love Tara Brach, as well. Buddhism has changed my life and I am so grateful for teachers like these.

  86. Natalie Brennan says...

    This is a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing it. I’m going to remember it the next time I get in some dumb argument!

  87. My father repeated this story to us often throughout our childhood. He used its inverse meaning for material goods, too. When you give something away, with great care and meaning, you carry it for much longer than if you had kept it. Cool, right?

  88. Rebecca says...

    My three-year-old loves the story in that book about bad luck / good luck (what seems like bad can turn out being good, and vice versa). Something will happen – water spills on a school project, say – and I’ll exclaim “such bad luck!” The cutest thing is his response: he makes this funny sly smile and whispers “maybe.”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my goodness, that is so, so cute.

    • Lena says...

      Wonderful!

    • freya says...

      THAT is adorable.

  89. Colleen says...

    My younger sister is the younger monk. She literally cannot let anything go. We recently took a trip to Santa Cruz, and we were passed by a jerk in an SUV that used the shoulder to bypass dozens of cars that were going too slow. She spent the last half hour of the trip harping about that car, and then again the whole three hour trip home. I’ll bet she will even bring that guy up again at some point around Christmas.

    • Eliza says...

      I hope you don’t become a younger monk by being upset that your sister is a younger monk! The older monk was once the younger monk until he gained some life experience and probably some legitimate heartache, and hopefully guided by another older monk. We need to have patience with our silly younger monks! Maybe you should share this story with your sister ;)

  90. Marcy says...

    We have Zen Shorts and also Hi, Koo by Jon J. Muth. Love them both and in the standing rotation at our house for nighttime reading. Hi, Koo is a book about the seasons all written in hikus and it is beautiful. “King!/ my crown a gift/ from a snowy branch”

  91. Hi Joanna,

    We have this book and my 3 1/2 year old daughter loves it. I always feel a great reset in my thinking and the way I see things after reading it to her.

    xoxo
    Emily

    • Shannon Schnurr says...

      Hi Emily! Looks like we like the same bloggers :) And the same children’s books!

  92. Clara says...

    I JUST read this in a book I love (and re-read often) “Zen Flesh Zen Bones” I think you would love it! It really stuck with me, too.
    https://amzn.com/0804831866

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      thank you so much, clara!

  93. May says...

    Beautiful story. I’ll pass it on, and get the book for gifts.
    It takes a serious wrong for me to not let go of hurtful things. Its not uncommon for me to forget I had words with someone. There’s been times when the other person was upset that I was being nice as if nothing happened. I get that what’s wrong with you look. My mind remembers the good about people more than the bad. Its a shame more people can’t or don’t want to do the same. Holding to small hurt is a burden the soul doesn’t need to carry. I believe the big hurts walk alongside us on their own (in a stay out of my way capacity).