Monday Zen: The Man Who Can't Be Moved

A foreigner came to the monastery. He asked for an audience with the master. The man had traveled far, and so the master granted him one question.

The man asked:

“How can I find peace?”

The master said:

“I can’t answer your question, but if you meditate atop the mountain nearby, maybe, tomorrow I can.”

The man did as he was told. He climbed the mountain, sat at the peak, and meditated. The next morning, he returned to the master, but he received the same answer.

“Meditate on the mountain and come back to me tomorrow.”

Once again, the man did as he was told. The next morning, he returned - and still got the same answer. The man became angry, but he went to the mountain regardless. On the next day, he thought to himself:

“The master won’t to tell me anything new today. I will just stay on the mountain.”

So he stayed on the mountain and meditated. The next morning, the man didn’t feel as if anything about the master had changed, so he stayed on the mountain that day too. The next day came and went. So did the one after that.

After a week, a villager came to the top of the mountain and said:

“I heard you’ve been here all week, are you okay?”

The man nodded and continued to meditate.

After a month, the whole village was talking. Six months passed, then 12, then 18. In the second year, a reporter came by. She interviewed all the villagers and wrote a story about “the man who can’t be moved.” Now, the man was world-famous. But he kept meditating.

Another year later, everyone had forgotten the man on the mountain. One morning, he got up and made his way down. As he reached the foot of the mountain, he passed the villager who had come to see him after the first week.

The villager greeted him with big eyes.

“You’re back!”

The man said:

“I am.”

Curious, the villager asked:

“What did you learn?”

The man said:

“That it was time to get up.”

With those words, he turned to the road and walked away. None of the villagers saw him again.

Last summer, my friends invited me to play volleyball one day. I hadn’t played volleyball in ages. I’m not exercising much as it is. So I decided to go.

There was only one problem: For the past four years, I had been wearing a wristband from a special event. It was a symbol, a memory, but it also would’ve hurt me while playing. So I cut it off and went to play volleyball and that was that.

My friend Zat Rana wrote that, “sometimes the answer isn’t a solution. Rather, it’s a punchline.”

I don’t know if the man ever realized that the master had sent him in the right direction. But he did learn that peace is nothing you can ask for. Not even the wisest man can give it to you.

Peace is something we choose to give to ourselves.

As soon as you do, everything else falls away. You still won’t have perfect answers to all your questions, but you can stop meditating, stop searching, and move on with your day.

Sometimes, you’re on a mission. When you are, have your principles. Be the man who can’t be moved. But when the mission’s over, stop sitting. Don’t hold on just because.

Cut the wristband. Go play volleyball. You just learned something. You deserve peace.


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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