I Quit

There once was a monastery that was very strict. Following a vow of silence, no one was allowed to speak at all. But there was one exception to this rule. Every ten years, the monks were permitted to speak just two words.

After spending his first ten years at the monastery, one monk went to the head monk. “It has been ten years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Bed… hard…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Ten years later, the monk returned to the head monk’s office. “It has been ten more years,” said the head monk. “What are the two words you would like to speak?”

“Food… stinks…” said the monk.

“I see,” replied the head monk.

Yet another ten years passed and the monk once again met with the head monk who asked, “What are your two words now, after these ten years?”

“I… quit!” said the monk.

“Well, I can see why,” replied the head monk. “All you ever do is complain.”

http://users.rider.edu/~suler/zenstory/zenframe.html

I love this zen story.  The monk could only speak two words every ten years and those two words were complaints.  He spent his time thinking thoughts that kept him stuck in that cycle of angst without movement or transcendence.  Thirty years dwelling on what was wrong without taking the turn to see what is…where the road opens up and eventually becomes road-less. It also took him thirty years and six words to finally say, “I quit!”  He stayed stuck, following the rules, until he decided to make a change.

How often do we do this?  How often do we stay stuck in complaints, almost delighting in our chance to point out what’s wrong with everything?  How often do we stay stuck for years before making a change, deciding on a choice that was always there?

I have said before that it took me twenty years to write, “Inside the River.” I complained about my lack of discipline, time, inspiration, talent.  I quit, deleted, ignored, complained. The monk realized after thirty years that he could make a choice to quit rather than complain and rather than transcend into the spiritual realm that his silence could offer. I, too, decided another way.  Each draft, restart, and new choice veered away from the complaining.  Each misstep, rewrite, and finishing touch was a step forward.  Each time I acted upon instead of complaining about was a spiritual awakening.  If I only had two words every ten years for those twenty years (regarding my book), my words would be similar to the complaining monk.

My first two words now would be, “Thank you.”

What would your two words be?

 

5 Comments

I would love to know your thoughts...thanks for sharing!

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