A Little Sunday Zen

Cover of "Chop Wood, Carry Water"

Cover of Chop Wood, Carry Water

There is a famous story in the Zen world that Dinty W. Moore (every time I write his name I think of baked beans), author of the “Mindful Writer” includes in his book. On page 118 to be exact. It goes as follows:

The student, newly arrived at the monastery, asks the master, “What work will I do as I seek enlightenment?”

The master replies. “Chop wood, carry water.”

“And what work will I do once I achieve enlightenment?”

“Chop wood, carry water,” replies the master.

A simple bit of Zenism, and as with all in the Zen world, it needs an explanation in order to understand it. According to Moore, “writers write”. They may do a myriad of other things: walk their dog, go to work, take meetings, care for their family—but in the end he says, “…any writer, even a writer who has published….and won two dozen awards, gets up in the morning knowing what must be done. The words must be chopped and the sentences carried.”

Woods

Woods (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

I think the famous story in the Zen world has a larger meaning. It can apply to all things we do in life—we must “chop wood, carry water”—we must continue what we are doing; we must not be satisfied; we must carry on. Our job is really never done, and when we think it is, we have in essence, stopped living.

It is a story of purpose, and without purpose there is no need to “chop wood, carry water.”

My bliss today is to keep chopping wood and carrying water. What about you?