a short story ~ thoughts on staying present

Sometimes it is easier to stay centered in the present moment and sometimes it is more challenging. I slip into the moment almost effortlessly when I am engaged in activities that I am passionate about like painting, drumming, and being around animals. In everyday life (especially city life) it is easy to get caught up in the rush and hectic energy of the environment and the people in it. Little stories or synchronystic experiences often serve as reminders of my goal to experience the moment more fully.
Two Zen monks, Tanzan and Ekido, traveling on pilgrimage, came to a muddy river crossing. There they saw a lovely young woman dressed in her kimono and finery, obviously not knowing how to cross the river without ruining her clothes. Without further ado, Tanzan graciously picked her up, held her close to him, and carried her across the muddy river, placing her onto the dry ground. Then he and Ekido continued on their way. Hours later they found themselves at a lodging temple. And here Ekido could no longer restrain himself and gushed forth his complaints: “Surely, it is against the rules what you did back there…. Touching a woman is simply not allowed…. How could you have done that? … And to have such close contact with her! … This is a violation of all monastic protocol…” Thus he went on with his verbiage. Tanzan listened patiently to the accusations. Finally, during a pause, he said, “Look, I set that girl down back at the crossing. Are you still carrying her?” (Based on an autobiographical story by Japanese master Tanzan, 1819-1892) and found here: