One day, an old master had a vision of his next life. He immediately called in his favorite disciple and begged a favor of him.
“Anything for you master,” the disciple replied.
“In my next life, I will come back as a pig. Soon after I die, our sow will give birth and I will be the fourth pig of the litter. You will recognize me by a mark on my brow. When that happens, please take a sharp knife and end my life quickly.”
Within the year, the master passed away and the sow gave birth. The disciple sharpened his knife and found the small piglet. Suddenly the little pig screamed “Stop! Don't kill me!”
The disciple dropped his knife in surprise and stared at the little pig. “When I was like you, I didn't know what a pig's life would be like. It's great. Just let me go.”
There’s no guarantee we’ll be reborn, but it’s a comforting thought. Maybe there are do-overs after all? I wouldn’t bet on it, but one thing’s for sure: If we knew in advance what we’d come back as, we’d screw it up before it happens. Just like the old master.
The powerful lesson in this story is this:
Empathy is not our strongest trait as humans. It’s non-judgment.
Being able to imagine what it’s like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is astonishing. It makes us unique and it’s one of our best abilities. But we can never know for sure. After all, we’re still just imagining.
What we can do, however, is choose not to judge. We can return from our trip into someone else’s head, weigh the experience carefully and say: “I’m not so sure. Maybe I’ve missed something. Let me hold off for a bit longer.”
Who knows? They might live a pig’s life to you, but maybe to them it’s not dirty at all.
About Monday Zen: Most people hate Monday. Why? In a good life, it’s a day like any other. At the very least, it shouldn’t be worse by default. That’s what Monday Zen is for: To make sure you start the week with calm, poise, and determination.
Let’s not derail our trains of thought before they leave the station. Let’s enjoy the journey.
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