There is an old Zen saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” What does this ancient wisdom have to do with our day-to-day life?
Chopping wood and carrying water represent the daily, repetitive tasks of work and life. We all have our modern version of menial or unpleasant tasks – and we struggle to appreciate or to approach these burdens with our best effort: the dirty dishes, the email replies, the laundry, the lawn, even that weekly work meeting. It can be easy to justify bringing less than our self to these tasks. But leaving the focus, clarity, and peace of our meditation practice on the cushion or our Reiki session shortchanges the power of the practice, and, lessens the beauty and power of our lives.
Enlightenment means “we lighten.” We let go of our burdens and have more freedom of mind and energy. We already are Reiki or true self, but if not cultivated in our daily life, our awareness of peace and healing does not get uncovered.
We can wash the dirty dishes with thoughts of the drudgery or thoughts of everything other than the task at hand. Or, we can bring our whole self to the simplicity and importance of the present moment. If we begin to look at our daily life as a chance to “lighten” up, then we are truly practicing being Whole.
Wash the dishes. Be focused: the feel of the sponge, the warmth of the water, the heaviness of the dish, your hands as they complete the task, the peacefulness of a clean space. Do not let your mind wander; bring it to this moment, these actions. Be Grateful: feel gratitude for abundance of clean water. Contemplate the people and moving parts that are in place for you to receive that gift. Your home, the plumbing, the water treatment plant, the people who work there, the rain, the clouds, the rivers and ocean, the water in you. Because of them you have water. Let gratitude for the people and the many blessings enter into your tasks and into this meditation. Or just wash the dishes and smile. Keep it simple.
Make space for peace and recovery in these moments. It can be a moving meditation as you dance with the dishes in oneness. When we surrender to the sacredness of our day our menial tasks and daily struggles become softer. We lighten up our judgment and have increased energy and awareness. Everything becomes an opportunity heal, be whole, to be at peace.
Bring your practice of Reiki and meditation to every moment. Life is beautiful, sacred, right in front of you, in every moment and everything you do.