I laughed out loud when I realized I had been unnecessarily berating myself for months now... since last Thanksgiving... re-hashing the old story of what my family member had said to me again and again. His body-shaming comment was unconscious and hurtful, and in the moment that he said it, I shape-shifted back into a little girl, unable to speak on my own behalf and to advocate for myself. Had I been able to in the moment, I would have told him, "Those words sting. I don't understand why you would say something like that to me. It's taken me a long time to get to this place, but I now love the way that I look. Regardless, I don't appreciate being spoken to like that."
In the unexpected shock of the moment, I said nothing, and he re-entered the world free to speak to women as he wishes, without consequence. The memory of that moment has resurfaced again and again, and each time I punish myself for not having had the courage or the presence of mind to speak up. I have had multiple, what I like to call "air conversations" with him, where I give him a piece of my mind while staring into the empty space before me. Those have been some of my most Academy Award-winning speeches, those air conversations with phantom opponents.
Just today I picked at that old wound, circling back on the memory, experiencing the flood of nearly 8-month-old emotions. While indulging in this automatic thought pattern, a bubble of sanity fluttered to the forefront... the Zen story of the Two Monks.
Later, while making breakfast I turned on Eckhart Tolle's audio book, "A New Earth," randomly picking a chapter to listen to. Within moments he was speaking of the Two Monks, reminding me again of the simple propensity toward insanity that resides within me and all people. I laughed at the innocent yet detrimental folly of it all, so blindingly simple.
The Two Monks...
A senior monk and a junior monk were traveling together. At one point, they came to a river with a strong current, and as the monks were preparing to cross the river, they saw a very young and beautiful woman also attempting to cross. She asked if they could help her cross to the other side so as to not soil her beautiful silk kimono. The monks glanced at one another because they had taken vows to never touch a woman.
Without a word, the older monk picked up the woman, carried her across the river, placed her gently on the other side, and continued on his journey. The younger monk could not believe what had just happened. After rejoining his companion, he was speechless and hours passed without a word between them.
Finally, the younger monk could contain himself no longer. Incredulous, he blurted out, “As monks, we are not permitted to touch a woman. How could you then carry that woman on your shoulders?”
The older monk looked at him and replied,
“Brother, I set her down on the other side of the river hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”