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Soulful Sundays: Freedom in Surrender

An old Buddhist parable goes something like this:

Two monks, one elder, one younger, were chatting quietly as they walked the old road from the temple into town when they came upon a creek that was flowing swiftly with recent rain water. On their side of the creek was a young maiden who looked distraught. She could not safely cross on her own, so she asked the monks if one of them could carry her across. The older monk agreed, picked her up, and carried her to the other side. She thanked them gleefully and the two monks carried on their way, this time in silence. The younger monk could not believe that his senior had broken the code of their order and touched a woman. He had finally built up enough frustration, that he stopped the older monk to ask him about it directly. The elder said, 'I see you are upset, but consider this. I set that woman down on the banks of the stream, yet you have been carrying her ever since.'

I love this story because it speaks to the wisdom of being in the moment, rather than being constrained by expectations. The older monk saw the need to act and did so decisively, whereas the younger monk hesitated and then dwelled on the contradiction he witnessed. The elder could more freely engage with the world and be helpful because of his ability to observe, assess, and then fully act. He had not given the limitations of his order too much weight and instead adopted a 'beginner's mind' when it came to addressing the situation.

The concept of 'beginner's mind' exists across all major philosophies. When we voluntarily become a 'beginner' we are more observant of our surroundings and more open to unforeseen possibilities. We accept that we do not know everything and allow ourselves to be filled by reality. And by surrendering to reality, we actually become more powerful. By clearly seeing the forces that are acting upon us, we gain the freedom to decide how to use them. We must first understand the rules, before we can choose when and how to break them. However, humbling ourselves enough to be 'beginners' is inherently uncomfortable. We like upholding rules and judgements because they provide us with comfort and stability. Freeing ourselves and surrendering to possibility can be hugely stressful, which is why most of the time we avoid doing it.

If we are to grow as aware human beings, we must learn to accept our tendency to embrace comfort. But, we must also learn the necessity of embracing discomfort. The more clearly we can see our own realities, the more effectively we can act when we need to, and be at peace when we don't need to act. Each day take the time to look for the things that you've been overlooking, to identify the weight that you no longer have to carry, and to act where necessary. It is never too late to begin.

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