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Things to Think About: A classic Zen story about letting go

Things to Think About

By Pepper de Callier

For today’s column I would like to share with you a classic Zen story about letting go.

Two traveling monks reached a town where there was a young woman waiting to step out of her sedan chair. The rains had made deep puddles and she couldn’t step across without spoiling her silken robes. She stood there, looking very cross and impatient. She was scolding her attendants. They had nowhere to place the packages they held for her, so they couldn’t help her across the puddle.

The younger monk noticed the woman, said nothing, and walked by. The older monk quickly picked her up and put her on his back, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other side. She didn’t thank the older monk, she just shoved him out of the way and departed.

As they continued on their way, the young monk was brooding and preoccupied. After several hours, unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “That woman back there was very selfish and rude, but you picked her up on your back and carried her! Then she didn’t even thank you!

“I set the woman down hours ago,” the older monk replied. “Why are you still carrying her?” 

Are you carrying something you should have set down a while ago?

Till next time…

About the Author: Founder and Executive Director of Prague Leadership Institute, which was named “Best Corporate Leadership Coach Europe—2015”, by U.K. based Corporate Vision, Pepper de Callier, is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at