Retelling The Story of The Monk & The Scorpion
by Frankie Pérez, LMFT
The monk walked along the river’s edge. Each mindful step was an opportunity to breathe in deeply and remind his heart to be grateful for the beauty of this moment. He wanted to get lost, but this had little to do with the direction he was going. He wanted to get lost in the morning light and the reflection of the sun dancing on the rippling water. He wanted to get lost in the vibrant colors, smells, and sounds of the living canvas before him. His crimson robes flowed gently in the morning breeze as he opened his arms wide in an attempt to open his heart even wider and take in as much of this reverie as possible.
The sudden sound of a plop in the water distracted him from his meditation. He glanced to his right and barely three steps away he noticed that something had fallen into the river from a low hanging branch that hovered right above the river’s waters. He saw a small reddish-brown creature splashing and thrashing in a frantic attempt to remain afloat. Without hesitation he rushed over and, while holding onto the same betraying branch, leaned over the water and gently tried to scoop up the drowning creature.
A sharp and painful sting took him by surprise. He had been trying to rescue a scorpion! Undaunted, the monk attempted once more to save the drowning scorpion, only to be met with the same result. Again and again the monk attempted to help the drowning creature, but the scorpion would strike, the monk would loose its grip on the scorpion, and the creature would fall back in the water. With his reaching hand now swollen, and feeling weak from the venom, the monk tried again, and yet again.
A beautiful young woman who was passing by, witnessed the scene and ran over to the monk pleading: “Please stop”, she said. “If you keep trying to rescue the scorpion you will both drown.”
The monk looked at her with peaceful and determined eyes. “Dear lady”, he said, “just because it is the scorpion’s nature to strike when it feels threatened, does not mean that I need to give up my nature, which is to be loving.”
Like the scorpion, we too have learned to strike when we feel threatened. While we were once open, trusting, and loving children, the hurts of our past have taught us that in order to survive we needed to toughen our hearts and strike at the first sign of danger, whether real or imagined. We learned that we could not afford to be vulnerable, to be loving, lest others would use this openness to hurt us even more deeply.
Unfortunately, this way of being in the world – irritable, suspicious, hard, shut down, and even angry – becomes the only way we know how to be, and we struggle to learn how to react differently. In our relationships as lovers, as parents, as sons or daughters, we often react with stinging words even as a part of us is watching and wishing we could stop ourselves from striking back at the people we love. We wish we knew another way. We wish fear and irritability were not our baseline. Unlike the monk who refused to do so, we’ve forgotten and given up on our true nature, which is to be loving.
But we have a choice. Every moment brings with it the gift of a new beginning. Every moment is an opportunity to choose again. While we have no control over anything that happens to us or how people treat us, we do have control over how we choose to react. So when someone has, as Dr. Howard Thurman says, “done violence to my self-respect and decent regard”, we have the choice of hardening our hearts even more, or take the risk of keeping it open and vulnerable. We have the choice to choose fear or to choose love; to be the scorpion or to be the monk.
Ultimately, this is the lesson inherent in every relationship. We are here to perfect our loving. We are here to get better at love. We are here to learn how to love more deeply, more purely, more passionately, and with more abandon.
Our reward for giving love is getting love, since to receive something we must first give it.
It all begins with a singular intention – to perfect our loving.
May loving become your baseline.
Frankie Pérez, LMFT
©MindGym, LLC; 2008
You can contact Frankie Pérez, LMFT at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Frankie Pérez, LMFT, is a relationship specialist, soul-centered psychotherapist, and Franklin Covey Certified Personal Life Coach. He is the founder of MindGym, LLC, a psycho-educational service offering counseling and/or coaching to individuals, couples, and groups.
Frankie also presents workshops on Couples Communication, Dating, Mindfulness Meditation & Soul-Centered Psychotherapy, Sports Related Communication Excellence, and Peak Performance using Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Time Line Therapy. He may be reached by phone at:(214) 289-7995 or by email at: email@example.com .