There's a zen koan that states "Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood carry water." I think of this often, whether I am getting my daughter dressed for the day, or carrying buckets of local barley to our hogs. There is something healing in the monotonous rhythm of it all, the heartbeat of farming.
I do not consider myself to be *enlightened*. To the contrary, I am often made aware of all the ways I am still growing, still reaching. When I feel far away from where I'd like to be, or the farm I'd like to have, I remember that the realization of peace and presence awaits me in every task, especially the most mundane. To be *enlightened* is not to be transported into some other realm. Instead, it is to realize the hidden potential in the smallest, most menial detail.
There has been a lot of 'chopping wood and carrying water' of late. As we prepare for longer days, pigs farrowing and ewes lambing, and the beginning of seed-starting for the year, I center myself in daily rituals. After all, the key difference between ritual and routine is intention.
And so, if I intend for each email I send to be a blessing, it can be a rich experience. And if I intend for each bale of straw we heave over fences to clean stalls to be an offering of love and gratitude to our animals, it can be. And if I intend each day, even the ones filled with grief or frustration or rapid growth to be enriching and contributing to larger goals on the ranch, they can be as well.
These routines cum rituals form anchors in the flow. They ground and center us when things go awry, or when we encounter the inescapable "messiness" (physical and philosophical) of life on a working ranch. They keep us in motion, without sacrificing awareness, and thus enmesh us with the moment at hand.
The simplest tasks, the wood and the water of it all, are often more than they seem.
Did this strike a chord with you? If so, I invite you to join our February Meditation Challenge. Every day, for the month of February, our employees will have the option to participate in a daily meditation. This meditation is intended to create a space for silence and contemplation, so that each participant can notice their true nature, beyond thought. In my view, no one can be "bad" at meditation, as there is no goal other than to notice what is. I am personally thrilled to engage with my team as they embark on this exciting journey! Would you all like to join in? Just drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org. Reading this long past February? Reach out anyway, we'd be happy to practice meditation with you. Meditation is for everyone.
Also, a special "Thank You" to Julie Ellison for the photo.