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, a grouchy shopkeeper, a terse comment from a neighbor), you’re choosing, in a way, to spend your time feeling upset. It’s such a good reminder that the narrative in your head is really important to your own well-being, and you can work to just let things go. 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.

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.)


What will you let go?

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