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#43 Chop Wood, Carry Water

The Buddha said.

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

I’m listening to a book about developing the Samurai Mind on Audible. He describes tenets of the Samurai mindset and strategy by listing a number of famous Samurai and their contributions to warfare, meditation, honor, the warrior life, etc.

One of the Samurai he discusses in the book, whose name I cannot remember because it was an audible book, and the name was obviously Japanese, focused so intently upon the Zen koans that he had a mental and physical breakdown. When he later taught what he had learned, he was not satisfied until his students experienced the same.

Zen koans are parables or riddles that have no real answer and only designed to expand the mind.

According to

The Zen koan serves as a scalpel used to cut into the mind of the meditator. It’s a hammer used to shatter fixed thinking, a Rubik’s Cube of words for the mind to unravel. Koans are not merely black and white riddles that our minds figure out suddenly and proclaim, “Aha! I’ve got the answer!”

They are ambiguous and paradoxical, waiting for our minds to open up enough to allow the space for deep intuition to emerge —beyond knowing and into no-minding, through the use of imaginative mindfulness.

The 1999 film “The Matrix” follows our protagonist Neo as he is ripped from what he held to so strongly, his idea of the “real world” and thrust into enlightenment in an instant. Upon discovering that all he once knew was a false holographic image propagated by unseen forces, and that his desire to play the good part in the cog of a great machine is only meant to keep him subservient to those same forces, his mind cracks and he has a mental and physical breakdown.

That same year, “The Sixth Sense” follows Dr. Malcom Crowe on his journey of discovery when his mind is shattered upon learning that all in life is not what he had been led to believe. He also learns that psychology cannot come to terms with those with special gifts like his patient Cole.

The Buddha meditated 49 days under a fig tree after years of begging, asceticism, and poverty and finally reached enlightenment. He spent the rest of his days walking and teaching others to let go of their lives and see the truth.

Enlightenment is an elusive mystery, wrapped in an enigma, surrounded by a puzzle, hidden in an illusion.

The first chapter on Tao De Ching sums it all up.

The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.

It was said that those who go around the world claiming they are enlightened have much more enlightenment to achieve.

I, myself, do not claim to be enlightened, for I do not seek it.

This gets to the topic of my letter to you, my friend.

Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.

The brightest masters, the most brilliant scholars, the greatest minds of any time, still must eat and poop. Einstein was a brilliant man, but kept five identical suits in his closet so he wouldn’t have to decide what to wear each day. He didn’t want to trouble his mind or fill it with thoughts that might deter him from his task of solving the riddle of the nature of the universe itself.

When I started martial arts in 1987, one of my teachers was talking about the head of the Korean organization we were training under. She said the man was refined and precise in his practice of the arts, but likely couldn’t hang a picture.

We still must live our lives each day. We must perform our daily tasks without fail. Me must also remember that a job is not our purpose, but a task. We sell our time and skills for money.

The trick is to prevent ourselves from being so caught up in the minutiae of our daily tasks that we forget what the world really is, or that we get so caught up in contemplating the reality of the matrix of this dimension of the universe and all it entails that we don’t show up for work, or that we wear our house slippers to the office.

Life is a mixture of work, play, learning, and socializing. Our food and exercise sustain us, but it should not be all that we are. It took me a while to figure that one out. I was obsessed for years on food and fitness and powerlifting and martial arts. I forgot to live. During this time, I worked an average of 70 hours a week. I forgot to live.

Don’t forget to live.

Yes, seek out the nature of the universe. Contemplate the meaning of life itself and your place within it. Read and discuss philosophical works and topics with others further along than you.

But live.

There are many photos of Einstein sticking out his tongue for the camera, or sitting with celebrities. He cracked the concept of the universe, destroying the foundation of Newtonian physics. Yet, he lived.

Live a life worth living.

I’ve said for years I don’t want to look back on my life and think of all the parties I got drunk at, or how many sports games I watched on television, (I've not done any of those) or how I was the best at my job, only to be replaced moments after I retired. I prefer to think of the lives I've touched, the things I've learned and passed on to others, the adventures I've had.

I keep thinking of the scene at the end of “Saving Private Ryan” where he asks his wife if he was a good man, if he had led a good life. I lose it every time I see that. Because I've asked myself those questions every day.

I have done a lot in my few years in this matrix. I’ve got more to do. My “good life” isn’t finished yet by far. There is so much more life left for me, and in me.

And there is more life left for you. SO much more. How could you spend it? What could you learn? What could you do for others?

Sure, you could meditate and reach enlightenment. But you would still have to chop wood and carry water. On your way back from the well with your bucket, who could you meet? What could you discuss? What could you share with them? Don’t get so caught up in the bucket of water that you forget to have a life. Don’t get so caught up in the nature of water, it’s molecular makeup, it molding to the shape of the bucket, that you miss the stranger on your path, or walk off the path itself. But don’t focus so intently on talking with your neighbor that you spill your water.

Work, play, learning, doing, being. Life is best lived in the understanding that each of these must be exercised in equal measure, not giving greater effort to one.

Live a life you can recall to others in your dotage.

Live life. All of it.


I have been informed that Unity of Evansville has sold their building on Pollack Ave. They are planning to hold services at the Universalist Unitarian Church at 2910 E Morgan. My last Tai Chi class held at Unity will be April 22.

If weather permits, the Tai Chi class April 29th will be held at "The Big Tree" at the State Hospital Grounds on East Lincoln.

I have been informed that my class will continue at the Universalist Unitarian "UU" Church, but the detail have not yet been ironed out. When I know, you'll know.

Joe “Weeg” Weigant is an empowerment coach who specializes in combining different bodywork and energy work modalities (Reiki, Acupressure, Tuning Forks, Massage, Reflexology, Sound/Vibration Therapy) to release trauma, reset the autonomic nervous system, and balance the energy systems of the body. This begins the healing process in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of our lives. Weeg sells herbal products by Nature’s Sunshine and Pure Herbs Ltd. and is a Representative for Juice Plus. Weeg teaches Karate and Tai Chi, Reiki Certification, as well as seminars and workshops in metaphysical and spiritual matters. Weeg is available for sessions at Tri State Holistic Wellness by appointment only.

Contact by text 812.568.5356, or Facebook Messenger to set an appointment.

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