Chop Wood, Carry Water

chop wood carry waterThere’s a Zen proverb that says, “Before enlightenment chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment chop wood, carry water.”

I’ve always thought of this as a reminder that no matter how “enlightened” I am, or spiritually important I am (or self-important I may feel), I still have to do my part. It is still important to be of service – to my family as well as to my community.

For example, a few months ago, I was visiting the Mother Church for a celebration. We arrived early, and enjoyed some time with the heads of the Church, who reminded me that I was acting Arch Priestess of Canada. (I get to give that title back next week, thank goodness!)

The next day, people were getting ready for the celebration that was happening that day. I was there, so I helped clean. I vacuumed the floor, because it needed to be done. I could maybe have passed that job off to someone of lower “rank”, but why? I’m a capable woman. Chop wood. Carry water. Vacuum carpet.

The Zen proverb can also be a reminder for humility. When it comes down to it, we are all people. Sure, we have different experiences and training, and some of us have fancy titles and more or less money. And we are all still humans, with our own talents and shortcomings. None of us is inherently better than anyone else.

Yesterday, as I was actually stacking wood, another meaning of this proverb occurred to me.

Before I can focus on my spiritual needs, I have to make sure my physical needs are taken care of. I have to stack the wood to keep it dry so I can heat the house. I have to prepare the food to keep me going (and keep my children fed!). When those basic needs are not taken care of, I can’t even begin to focus on, or sustain, my spirituality. No matter how enlightened I become, no matter how high I raise my vibration, that alone will not put food in my belly.

Sometimes I get really tired of chopping wood and carrying water. I would much rather read, or meditate, or escape into a movie. Or catch up on homework and grading papers. And I know it needs to get done. I can delegate a certain amount of the work, and some of I just have to suck it up and get it done. Chop wood. Carry water. And smile.



PS. Does this sound challenging? The Balance guided meditation will keep you in alignment as you chop wood and carry water.


My Body is My Temple

I’ve noticed a shift in myself in the last few weeks.

I was in a car accident when I was 8 years old.  I’m not telling you this to get sympathy, because I really don’t want to identify with it any longer. I tell you this so you know what a big deal this shift is. After the car accident, I was told not to run or jump, because it would hurt my back. At eight years old, it was a great excuse to get out of my least favorite class – gym.

I still danced for many years – up until the rest of my class went on pointe, and I was the only one who didn’t. Ballet was really the last time I remember physical activity being enjoyable, other than swimming.

Love My ShapeFast forward to the last two years. In various books, card readings and from other sources, I’ve been receiving the message that to raise my vibration higher, I need to improve the health of my body. By comparison with much of North American society, I am pretty healthy. I rarely get sick, and I eat a mostly healthy diet. And yet, I am still overweight, according to my body mass index, and I feel pain more often than I like to admit.

Up until the last few weeks, exercise has been a means to an end. It’s something I have to do because I want to raise my vibration. I don’t really enjoy it. And I haven’t been able to stick with it for too long.

The last month, though, something has shifted. I already wrote that I have cut back on sugar. And now, I am wanting to exercise. It’s very strange for me!

And also, for the first time in…I have no idea how long, I really appreciate my body.  It’s not easy to explain. There are still things I want to change about my body, and I find it more beautiful than I ever have. I want to exercise because it serves my body. I want to eat well because my body really is my temple, and not just the flesh that contains my spirit.

My Body is My TempleI’m aware for the first time that enlightenment is not just a mental or spiritual feat. It encompasses all aspects of life – physical, mental, emotional AND spiritual. It is really a simple discovery, and so profound! I am grateful I understand this now, before any major illnesses struck me.  I serve my body, that my body may continue to serve me.