Anything in life that we don't accept will simply make trouble for us until we make peace with it.
-Shakti Gawain

From "Love Dharma: Relationship Wisdom from Enlightened Buddhist Women" by Geri Larkin:

There is a wonderful story about a young monk who begs a Zen master to let him become one of his students. The Zen master responds that he will let him stay in his temple if the young monk can cook rice well.

"No problem."

The young monk, graduate of the best culinary institute in China, quickly makes the master a pot of rice.

"Too hard!"

The master throws it to the ground and tells the monk to try again. A little bit disconcerted but willing to write the experience off as a bad day, the monk makes a second pot of rice.

"'Too soft!"

Dumped on the ground again. The young monk heads back to the temple kitchen determined to show the master that he knows how to cook rice. The next batch will be the best rice he's ever had.

"Too watery!"

By the fourth round the young monk is a little desperate. He can't believe the rice isn't perfect, can't understand the rejection.

"Too dry!"

By now the young monk is in tears. Completely desperate, he does everything in slow motion to make certain that the rice is made according to the master's own recipe.

"Too soft!"

Nine times the master rejects the young monk's rice. Going back for the tenth time, pot in hand, the young monk tells himself that this time the master's response doesn't matter. No big deal. He'll just keep making rice for the old man until he gets it right. If it takes a hundred times, okay. A thousand times. O.K.

Taking the pot to the master he starts to throw it onto the ground himself to save the master the trouble. Suddenly he feels a gentle pressure on his arm, stopping his movement.


The trick to facing loneliness is to decide that loneliness is no big deal. We all get lonely sometimes. It's just a part of life. Our only job is to name it, lean into it, and then let it go. What does it take to let go? I vote that we let ourselves get so miserable that we are willing to try just about anything to get through it. In that space we'll find a spiritual energy that will take us to the next step. Maybe we just need to train our puppy minds not to wallow in the loneliness. Whenever the obsessing starts, we can literally say to ourselves "Let go."

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Also on Beliefnet:

  • Prayers for Loneliness

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