Sunday, January 8, 2017


Zen is a branch of Buddhism that came about in China during the 6th century. So it has been around for a little while. Many of the teachings and quotes find their way into things, but they sometimes come across as nonsensical phrases meant to sound obscure. There is meaning behind the quotes, however, and many of the lessons are still useful today.
"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water."
Many of us get caught up in the end results of what we're working toward or the way things will be when we finally achieve something. But the truth is that getting to where you want to go or being successful doesn't mean that the work that leads you there goes away. Achieving your version of "enlightenment" is not an endpoint in and of itself. You'll need to do the same things after in order to keep moving forward. There's a Zen philosophy that says the way a person does one thing is the way they do everything, and whether you agree with it or not, the message is clear. If you can't take on the simple tasks as best as you can, how could you conquer the big things? As Tom Barrett explains on his blog Interlude Retreat, it's all about being in the moment:
When we are able to be in the moment, we no longer feel compelled to watch the clock. Whatever your work might be, bring all of yourself to it. When you are fully present, you may find that your labor is no longer a burden. Wood is chopped. Water is carried. Life happens.
No matter how menial the task may seem, practicing mindfulness and focusing on the present work at hand will help you develop a habit of always doing your best. And once you finally achieve "enlightenment" you still must chop wood and carry water. Do your work, do it well, and when you find success, do it again.

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