Two Monks and a Woman: Forgiveness. Breath and Meditation for Turbulent Times Week 2

Note from Tracy: Recent news articles and social media threads inspired me to create and teach a yoga series at Whole Life Yoga called Yoga for Turbulent TimesFor those of you not near Seattle, I’ve decided to share the breath practices and meditations from this class as I teach them. I hope you find them useful.  The practice below is from week 2 of the series.

There is a story of two monks who were traveling on foot to an inn.  They had taken a vow of celibacy and were not supposed to interact with or touch women.  They came to a muddy stream  and encountered a well-dressed young woman crying at the stream’s edge. She was on her way to a wedding, and she couldn’t cross the stream without ruining her dress.

Without hesitation, the elder monk picked up the woman and carried her to the other side. The young woman rushed on her way without saying thank you.

The younger monk stewed for the rest of their journey.  Hours passed, but he couldn’t stop replaying the scene in his mind. How could his elder have broken their vows by touching a woman?  Finally, he couldn’t hold himself back any longer. He turned to his elder and asked, “How could you break our vows by touching that woman? She didn’t even say thank you!”

“What woman?” The elder asked.

“The one back at the stream.”

The elder smiled and replied. “I put that woman down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”

There are many variations of the above parable, and it is rooted in many traditions.  Regardless of where it originated, the story is a powerful metaphor for anger and its cousin, resentment. May the breath practice and meditation below help lighten your burden.

Breath practice:

  1. Lengthen your inhale and exhale, making them approximately equal.
  2. After 6 breaths at that lengthened breath, lengthen the exhale portion of your breath until the exhale is approximately 2 – 3 seconds longer than the inhale.  Imagine yourself letting go of anger and resentment with every breath out. Remain at this breath for several minutes.
  3. When you are ready, shorten your exhale until it is equal to your inhale again. Remain at that breath length for 6 or more breaths.
  4. Return your breath to a normal rhythm. Carry the energy of this breath practice to meditation.

Note: If you experience breathlessness, anxiety, or strain at any time, reduce the length of the exhale or go back to the lengthened breath in step 1.


Forgiveness is the act of consciously letting go of resentments so that they no longer hold us back. Forgiveness is not trying to get someone else to change. If the mantra “I forgive you.” feels insincere, delete those words and simply use the mantra “I wish you joy and peace.”

  1. Sit comfortably with your spine erect and the crown of your head floating up toward the ceiling. Sitting either in a chair or on the floor is fine, as long as you are physically comfortable.
  2. Allow your eyes to close, or if this is too challenging, keep your eyes at “half mast” gazing quietly at a place below and in front of you.
  3. Notice your breath without intentionally trying to change it. First notice the warmth and coolness of the breath as it enters your nostrils. Notice the movement of your rib cage and belly. How does your spine move with each breath? What other sensations can you feel?
  4. After you feel comfortable and relaxed, bring to mind someone who’s harmed you, knowingly or unknowingly.  It’s best to start with someone from whom the harm was minor or not too painful. If seeing their face is too challenging, think of their name instead.  With each exhale, repeat the following mantra: “I forgive you. I wish you joy and peace.”
  5. If your attention wanders at any time during the meditation (and it will!) simply notice it, then invite your attention back to the sensation of the breath. When you feel ready, ask yourself the question again.
  6. Continue this meditation for 10 – 15 minutes.

May you offer forgiveness to anyone who has harmed you, including yourself!

Tracy Weber

My newest Downward Dog Mystery, Pre-Meditated Murder is available now  in e-book and paper back copies everywhere! Check this link for some local ideas.

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