A friend, who also happens to be my meditation guide, mentioned this zen expression in a conversation recently.  It has always resonated with me, and this time even more so. 

The full expression says: “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment,  chop wood, carry water.”

I love the simplicity of it; that elegant way it has of reducing us all.  Chop wood, carry water – we all do it, baby!

Now recently, I have come to a realization about myself spiritually.  For a very long time, I have felt like I was on some sort of quest:  a search for the truth, a place where I belonged.  A recent set of coincidences has given me a direction, and shown me that I’m not alone; it has given a label to my spiritual leanings which, although it may not fit perfectly, is a much better match than any others I’d been sporting in the past.

I was thrilled!  I immediately set about learning this new path.  I wanted to shout it out to the world.  And I also expected something…a trumpet fanfare, or unicorns, or rainbows.  Some conscious acknowledgement by the universe at large that I Have Discovered Something of Import!  I envisioned my entire life changing for the better.  The sun would be brighter, gloomy days less gloomy.  I would skip and trip along my newfound path with forest animals at my feet and birds darting about my head.

None of this happened.

You know what did happen?  C’mon, I’ll bet  you can guess.  That’s right:  chop wood, carry water.

At first, I was heartily disappointed.  What, not even a party, oh great vast universe?  Not one break from the wood and water??

But then I accepted, and realized that there is a certain comfort that comes from our daily rituals and routines.  It bonds us all together, as human beings:  whether you are the king of an oil-rich nation, a gorgeous and wealthy A-list celebrity, a poor person who has just lost his home in a natural catastrophe, or a middle-class mom trying to figure it all out, we are all human beings.  Together, we all chop wood and carry water.

Now, chopping my wood, I take comfort in that.

Advertisements