Chop Wood, Carry Water
I came across this proverb recently that reads:
“Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”
The words resonated with me, and I decided to search deeper into what is the true and honest meaning of the statement. I found that the proverb is both profoundly complex and beautifully simple. There exist several interpretations, yet there was one that struck a chord with me on a personal level. It rang true to me not only as I reflect on my current life but also in my daily practice in the arts.
To paraphrase, it remarked on how each day as we wake, we are presented with countless chores, tasks, routines, and rituals. Often mindless and mundane in their nature, yet they are essential to the productive progress of the day. It expounded on how it is often during these same tasks that ‘enlightenment’ can occur. Peace and joy happen internally and are not fabricated from any external source. “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. “
I wish to implement the essence of this statement in my personal life and also during my creative practice. My art is a routine that is so deeply woven into my days that I consider it part of my persona and what defines me as an individual. It is habitual and necessary and remains one of the aspects of my life that supports a healthy mental state. It takes up space in the day as a time when my mind and body often work separate and other times are closely bonded. I find great comfort and security in my habitual creative practice because I have come to discover all it provides for me.
As I create, I find focus. I problem solve, find purpose, and achieve a sense of calm. Art allows me to continue to be curious, active, current and above all it is a constant source of healing. Rituals, routines, and daily chores are essential to the rhythm of the human spirit. My art provides me with this daily assurance, and I certainly wake up each day ready to create again and again. Chop wood, carry water.