Friday, November 14, 2014

The Story of Two Monks

Written by  Ava Barron-Shasho, MSW

A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current. As the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. In her struggle to cross the river, she asked the two monks if they would assist her.

The senior monk lifted the woman on to his shoulder and waded his way across the river. Once safely on the other side the the senior monk let her down and continued along the path. The junior monk was very upset, but said nothing.


They both were walking along when the senior monk noticed that his junior was suddenly silent and enquired “Is something the matter, you seem very upset?”

The junior monk replied, “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman, how could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”

The senior monk replied, “I left the woman a long time ago at the river bank, however, you seem to be carrying her still.”

Forgiveness is not an easy to topic to discuss. Take for example the individual that hasn’t spoken to their parent for years or maybe someone who has been holding a grudge. Some may say “Why are you still so upset/angry/fearful about something that happened so long ago?” Clients ask me “why am I so upset/angry/scared about this? Why can’t I forget about it and move on?”

First let me address a very important point, scars of all types can keep us rooted in the emotions of our past. Childhood traumas are hard to navigate.

That being said, we know that while releasing anger is hard, holding on to anger can be even harder.

Bottled up anger can;

• cause emotional damage (anxiety and depression)

• cause spiritual damage

• cause psychological damage (low self-confidence and self esteem)

• keep us rooted in the past

• prevent us from living in the present

• decrease our body’s ability to fight illness

• cause chronic pain

• damage our relationships with others

• prevent us from seeing opportunities and possibilities

Forgiveness is the “process of releasing feelings of resentment, hurt or anger for past wrongs.” Note that this definition does not mention that you need to forgive the person who wronged you or condone what that person did. For example, yes it does suck that your partner cheated on you with your best friend, but the process of forgiveness is about you releasing your resentment, not about mending your relationship with others. You see long after the shouting is over and the tears have been shed, you still live in your own mind and wouldn’t it be better to live in your mind without the static of anger and resentment?

Here are some Zen techniques to try if you have been holding on to the past and need to work on forgiveness.

• Think of a situation you have been holding onto emotionally. On a piece of paper write down a one sentence description of the situation. “Pat cheated on me with Joe.” Then turn the paper over and list all you have accomplished despite the situation. “Even though Pat cheated on me, I have still managed to increase my sales at work, move into a new apartment and adopt a cat.” Congratulate yourself often for not wallowing in the past! Simple reminders help improve our mood even if it’s just for a few minutes.

• Tell yourself just for today, you will practice saying only kind things to yourself and if you think of “the situation” you will remind yourself of your strengths. “Even if I’m not feeling it right this very minute, I am strong and capable.” Meditate using affirmations of love and forgiveness for yourself.

• Practice being in the moment. Take a bubble bath or go out into nature and take a walk. Be in touch with your body and senses rather than thoughts of the past.

So give this a try, besides what do you have to loose... only your resentment and anger?

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it,” said Mark Twain.

Ava Barron-Shasho, MSW, is a life and relationship coach, certifed by the International Coach Federation, and welcomes your feedback ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ).


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