How Heavy Is the Burden on Your Shoulders

Only as heavy as you let it be

Photo by Lahiru Supunchandra on Unsplash

In an interview with Tim Ferriss, Jack Kornfield, author and Buddhist practitioner, told this story:

We were out wandering in the rice paddies on our way to a village to collect alms food one day with my teacher, Ajahn Chah, and some monks. And out across the rice paddies was this great big rock, a boulder.

And Ajahn Chah said, “Is that boulder heavy?”

He asked the question, kind of the way a zen master would, and being intelligent young monks we said:

“Yes, it is, master.”

And he smiled and he said, “Not if you don’t pick it up.”


Boulders are everywhere around you. They take the form of work stress, family discussions, or money worries.

Without even realizing it, you are drawn to them and instinctively pick them up. Then you start walking, carrying a heavy stone on your back. When you see another boulder, you stop, put it on top of the first one, and resume your journey.

Each step is harder as you are constantly pulled down by all the weight on your shoulders.

But what if you stopped again and, this time, took the boulders off your back? What if you left them on the side of the road and continued your journey without them?

Picking up boulders is not something you must do; it is a decision you make every day. A decision that prevents you from having a light, happy, and free life.

But you can change this. The first step is to catch yourself picking up boulders. The next is to stop doing so. Look at them, acknowledge they exist, and let them be.

Easy and straightforward, as are most of the tricks that make life better.

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