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Chop Wood, Carry Water

Melli O'Brien



Melli O'Brien



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Chop Wood, Carry Water

Personalized support for learning how to integrate mindfulness into your life. Delivered fresh everyday by our world renowned experts. Choose meditation duration:

Hi, and welcome to your Daily Mindfulness.

Today, we're going to talk about

the possibility of changing

our quality of life without

changing our outer circumstances.

So there's a Zen proverb

that goes like this, "Before

enlightenment, chop wood carry water.

After enlightenment, chop

wood and carry water."

What this proverb is pointing to, what it

attempts to remind us is that changing all

of our external life circumstances is not

the most effective way to bring about true

fulfillment, inner peace or awakening.

So achieving something great, finding

the perfect partner, having kids,

getting a big house, being popular

or famous, none of these brings

lasting fulfillment or completeness.

The fulfillment that we seek

is inside us the whole time.

Now this is ancient wisdom.

This is not a new idea.

But now modern science and

psychology concur with this message.

For instance, Matt Killingsworth

from Harvard University conducted

the largest study ever on the

source of human happiness.

And what he found is that internal

happiness did not depend much at

all on external circumstances,

but rather it depended mostly on

how present we are in the moment.

The more present we are in

the moment, he's research

suggested, the happier we are.

Conversely, he found that the more

our mind wanders away from the

moment, the more unhappy we are.

Want to be happy, he said in his

Ted talk, then be the moment.

So if we can hold this Zen proverb

in mind, we start to see wood and

water all around us as a metaphor

for the life all around you.

The daily tasks that we have to do

that we may often think of as mundane,

you know, the steps in a project,

the little routine moments that we

have each day, like drinking tea,

petting a pet, talking to a friend.

What this proverb reminds us is to

slow down and be present with a steady

awareness on each step of the way,

rather than focusing on an end result.

So we can focus on giving our full

attention to each action, each task,

and each moment, one at a time.

So today, if you find yourself rushing,

stressed, caught up in your head, maybe

taking a breath and bring to mind the

sentiment of chop wood, carry water.

See what it feels like to

deliberately slow down.

Just do one thing at a time, rather

than focusing on the end result,

savour that each step and each task.

As you do so, just noticing what it

actually feels like in your body and in

your mind to be more present in your life.

The more connected you are to

the moment, the more happiness

and enjoyment you tend to feel.

I hope this practice offers you

some insight, some inner peace.

As always, thank you for your practice

and let's settle in for the meditation.

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