Chop Wood, Carry Water

I was expecting to write on a different topic tonight. The physical action of chopping wood in preparation for the winter put my mind to this. It’s also very appropriate for where I am today.

There is this saying that I have heard in two different ways. There are probably more. But this is what I know.  I first heard it in my shaman community, and then in my Native American community. In both places it was simply: “Chop wood, carry water.”  I heard it again from Buddhists: “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”

It is a metaphor. Ok that may be obvious. I still think it is worth spelling out. It’s about doing. Do the things you need to sustain your life. Your spiritual state has no bearing on the necessities of life. No one is above or below your basic human needs. Take action. It is caring for yourself, even when it isn’t what you want to do.

Now I’m not telling you what your wood and water really is. For those living off the grid, it’s probably literal. But it also might be doing the laundry. Or the dishes. Clean that toilet!  Vacuum!! Good stuff, huh? Ok, fine. Yeah, it sucks.

What I’ve noticed recently is that there is a physical-spirit benefit to doing physical tasks. The act of doing gets your heart pumping and blood flowing.  It is necessary movement in our all-too sedentary lifestyles. It creates a better space for us to live and do our spiritual practices. Doing inspires.

And if you’re depressed or don’t have a spiritual practice, the act of doing raises you up just a bit. Do, people. Hopefully doing inspires you to create. And if you don’t have a chore to do, perhaps you should take Mark Manson’s advice: “Do something. Anything. Action isn’t just the effect of motivation, but also the cause of it.”

Here’s a link for Mark’s writing on the subject:

I’m betting Mark will be so grateful for the link that he’ll want to sent me lots of money. Mark, just send me a message for my PayPal info.


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