26 Jul The Myth of Being on The Path to Enlightenment
By Cindy Harley
Hello Fellow Travelers,
I’ve been thinking about the Zen Koan and fable below that address the myth of being on the path to enlightenment:
“Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”
I have been searching for a particular Zen fable that I remembered reading or hearing at some point (sorry, I didn’t find the original source). It was about a person who was on the path to find “enlightenment.” The seeker searched, read, studied, and went looking for a “Master” to teach them the secret to enlightenment.
During his travels, the person heard of two monks who had achieved enlightenment. The two monks were living on the edge of a large body of water. He made the long, difficult journey and arrived at their home by boat.
The monks were happily washing dishes.
He prostrated himself and begged them to teach him the secret to achieving enlightenment. They just continued to joyfully clean their house and wash the dishes.
Our seeker again bowed and told them how grateful he would be if they would share the secret to enlightenment. And the monks just continued their daily chores.
The seeker grew very impatient and threw his book on the floor and stormed out of the hut. He mumbled to himself, “These monks are not enlightened, they are just simple minded.” He boarded his boat and stared back across the water. He heard one of the monks exclaiming, “Wait! You forgot your book!” Our seeker turned around and saw the monk running across the top of the water to his boat. A miracle?
What does this fable seek to teach us? First, you could say you should not judge a book by its cover. Or, I would say it could also illustrate “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”
Finding Enlightenment Through Mindfulness
As humans, we naturally look outside of ourselves to find what we consider to be a higher form of wisdom. When we hear someone speak and their message lights us up with enthusiasm, we will try to learn and emulate this person, often giving this person the title “Master.” We are always searching for a way to ascend or become enlightened.
But what if enlightenment is truly becoming mindful and enjoying what is directly in front of us?
As I sit here writing this blog post, I have to admit I have a multitude of other thoughts going through my mind. For example, what am I going to have for dinner? Will people think this post is too simple? Who am I to question? And so forth…
But if I were to simply put my entire attention on writing this post, feeling the keys as I type, being amazed that the words show up on the screen, taking deep breaths and allowing the words to flow… What would happen?
Honestly, in this world with noises, sights, smells, and different things begging for my attention, it is hard to mindfully write a blog post.
I wonder if the times when I felt most connected with the world are when I am the most focused—or even the least focused and just observing—are when I feel the most like myself and joy sneaks in. Remember from my earlier post, Embracing Multiple Perspectives in Your Spiritual Journey, it does not have to be only one way. I can be focused and in the flow at the same time.
Notice and Let Go—Just BE
I recently had a Birchlight Energy Angel Healing session with Nerissa. During the session, she was guiding me to just notice the thoughts that might be going through my mind; notice and then let them go. (If you would like more information about sessions please contact Nerissa at firstname.lastname@example.org). It is very hard to just notice and let go. It is hard to just BE.
It’s about being mindful of what is going on with ourselves. Enjoy washing the dishes or doing the laundry or vacuuming or reading a book. Don’t let your unrelated thoughts take away from the moment. Each moment is precious.
Can you remember a time in childhood when you experienced total joy? Was it when you were on a swing? Or maybe when you cuddled a pet? Or when you were hugged? Maybe you are an artist, and it was when you were being creative?
I have a memory of helping my mom do the laundry. This was when we had a washing machine you connected to the kitchen sink and we hung the clothes out to dry. I think it looked like work to my older siblings, but to me (at that time) it was fun and a time to be with my mom. I admit I still like doing laundry.
Mindfulness is a way to have your life be more filled with light. Take the time to really focus on what you are doing and notice all the things you are feeling while you are doing them. But try not to let your thoughts take you away from the moment or the task. Try, even if for only 30 seconds, to be totally present.
Life is meant to be a gift, and that is why this very moment is called the present.
Affirmations and Inspiration for Everyday Mindfulness
An affirmation for you:
I treat each moment as a gift and savor it.
I dance through my chores and see the wonder in each.
I connect fully with each person who I am with and see the splendor within them.
“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” —Forrest Gump
And here is just a little something to contemplate: In the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh, “Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
So remember: it isn’t a journey to enlightenment, it is the awakening to what is LIGHT right before and within you.
One of my favorite songs is “I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack. The first three lines go like this:
“I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted.”
Give the full song a listen here.
Or in other words, “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”
And instead of FOMO (fear of missing out), live with JOMO (joy of missing out).
Enjoy this 2 minute meditation “Feel the Glow” from Birchlight Energy:
And, if given the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope we dance.
Birchlight Energy | BE–Shine Bright