As the year draws to a close I look forward to spending time with family and celebrating New Year’s Eve in meditation with friends.
On this last occasion of the year we will all write vows for the next year: what practices and activities we want to start or deepen, and what we might like to leave behind and not carry forward into the new day.
An old Zen story that I love, and share with every student I’ve ever had, speaks to the burdens that so many of us carry and how easy it could be to just put them down.
I hope this parable will inspire some of us to start the year fresh and be mindful every day of the new year to ask ourselves the question posed at the end of this story, so that we don’t end next year carrying more than we can handle.
Tanzan and Ekido were once traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling.
Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection.
“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud.
Ekido did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. “We monks don’t go near females,” he told Tanzan, “especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?”
“I left the girl there,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”
(from Zen Flesh Zen Bones)