“Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water; After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.”
– Zen Buddhist saying
A man with a troubled mind went in search of a mystic master. After wandering around for several months, he finally found a mountain retreat where a teacher resided. The troubled man inquired, “Is there a special way to attain mental completeness?” The teacher replied, “Yes, a way exists.”
“Please tell me about it.”
“When you eat, simply eat. When you work, simply work. When you play, simply play.”
“But that is what all of us do!” protested the man. “Have I wasted my time in coming here? There is no difference in your way and the way of everyone else.”
“There is a tremendous difference, which you do not see.”
“What is the difference?”
“When you eat, you wonder whether your table companions like you or not. When you work, you hope to be promoted above others. When you play, you think it is necessary to play better than your friends. That is the big difference.”
Your mind will never be satisfied if it is busy chasing something outside of itself. It is satisfied only in the coming together with itself. The ideas of winning and losing have no meaning to a unified mind.
Sense the absurdity in trying to find completeness in worldly successes.
Whether you are eating, working or playing, always pay attention to your inner state. Since invisible inner forces, positive or negative, are always directing you, nothing could be more practical.
You can’t see the wind but you can see its impact.
Use the results you see in your life to work backward to the mind that caused them. Ask yourself, what was my inner state and true motivations when I:
- Said yes to that meeting?
- Got involved in that relationship?
- Burnt my hand on the stove?
- Picked a fight with a loved one?
These are practical questions because they point to the root causes of the effects you see in your life. To change the effects you must change the root cause, and the root cause is your inner nature.
Any worthwhile philosophy for living your life must be practical. It should show you where to go at every step of the journey. It should make you a better driver, change how you shop and improve the quality of your work.
Watch yourself in daily action. Observe without judgment. Work to understand why things happen as they do.
When you realize that your old ways can never take you to where you want to go, you will face both a challenge and an opportunity. The opportunity is to take a new path. If you do, you will feel that you are truly going somewhere – somewhere you have been longing to be, no matter how stumbling your first steps are. There will be new energy there, use it to carry you forward into the future you want.
“Your nature is your future. The simplest of logic reveals that your nature must repeat itself tomorrow. The one way to change your future is to change your nature.”
– Vernon Howard