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  • Thomas Bien

Chopping Wood, Carrying Water

Zen is said to be about doing ordinary things, such as chopping wood and carrying water. We don’t need to be doing anything extraordinary. If we can be happy, mindful, and content while doing ordinary things, then our practice is good practice. Most of us don’t spend a lot of time anymore chopping wood or carrying water any more. So a problem emerges: this already sounds like something special, something kind of romantic, rather than something ordinary. What would our list look like then? Perhaps: paying bills. Responding to emails. Driving to and from work. Work. Interacting with the postal clerk. Talking to a friend. Taking a shower. Going to the bathroom. Getting the mail. Making the bed. Getting a haircut. The point is to learn the art of doing normal, everyday things with mindfulness, care, and a willing spirit. That is good practice.

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