A Zen story tells of two monks walking down a muddy, rain-logged road on the way back to their monastery after a morning of begging who saw a beautiful young girl standing beside a large deep puddle unable to get across without ruining her clothes. The first monk, seeing the situation, offered to carry the girl to the other side, though monks had nothing whatsoever to do with women. The second monk was astonished by the act but said nothing about it for hours. Finally, at the end of the day, he said to his companion, "I want to talk to you about that girl." And the first monk said, "Dear brother, are you still carrying that girl. I put her down hours ago."
The things we ruminate on, the things we insist on carrying in our minds and heart, the things we refuse to put down are really the things that poison us and erode our souls. We dull our senses with television and wonder why we cannot see the beauty that is around us. We hold on to things outside of us instead of concentrating on what is within that keeps us noisy and agitated. We run from experience to experience like children in a candy store and wonder how serenity has eluded us. It is walking through life with a relaxed grasp and a focused eye that gets us to where we're going. Dwelling on unessentials and, worse, filling the minds of others with them distracts from the great theme of our lives. We must learn to distinguish between what is real and what is not.
Excerpted from The Rule of Benedict: Insights for the Ages by Joan Chittister, OSB