Imagine you are burdened with carrying a 50 pound awkwardly shaped steel box everywhere you went. Even while you slept, you were forced to lay this uncomfortable hunk of metal on your chest. With every movement you make, this object irritates your skin and drains your muscles. How relieved would you be if one day you were freed from this terrible task? Many of us carry similar mental burdens with the ability to free ourselves without even realizing it.
In a Zen story, two monks approaching a river see a young woman who has no means of getting across. One of the monks carries her over and gently puts her down on the other side. On the way to the monastery, the other monk is so obsessed by what his friend has done that he can talk of nothing else. “A monk is not even supposed to touch a women,” he keeps saying, “let alone carry her around in his arms. What have you done?” Finally the friend puts and end to it. “I left that women on the riverbank,” her retorts. “You’re still carrying her.”
Years ago I heard the phrase, “your perception is your reality.” When I heard it, I brushed it off as some pseudo-intellectual mumbo jumbo. It wasn’t until I was consoling an inconsolable friend that I realized that her suffering was completely self inflected due to her unwillingness to let go of an unpleasant moment. I sympathized and tried to convince her to learn from the moment and move on but she kept retelling, reliving, and becoming physically stressed by the past.
Another phrase I’ve heard is “personality is a process.” I believe this to mean that our thoughts and behaviors make us who are currently and altering how we think and behave makes us who we become. Dwellers have become so by choosing to dwell just as a drug addict becomes so by continuing to do drugs. Don’t you want to be a recovering dweller?