Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.
– a Zen proverb
It took a lot of soul searching before I could finally understand what that ancient Zen proverb meant. To me, enlightenment was something to be achieved, a state of being that maybe I would be lucky enough to touch, but really believed was only available to highly exalted Masters of any given spiritual path – not a common person such as myself. I looked at the “light” part of that word only, thinking that if I did touch any part of enlightenment, it would be a glorious path free from any pain or discomfort. How wrong I was in that assumption! Being enlightened does not equate to perfection, as we may think of it in our limited human way of thinking. We are in a place of duality here on this earth, and realizing that and experiencing the “bad” along with the “good” is the only way on the path to enlightenment. Now I don’t particularly enjoy the meltdowns; the box of tissues nearby, curled up in a ball, trying to figure out what precipitated the flow of tears and emptiness this time. More times than not, I find it is something seemingly trivial, something that bruised the fragile peach-skin of my ego. But once I recover and step back to assess the situation, my soul comes through loud and clear to remind me how strong I really am. Enlightenment is not a goal to reach and then sit back and bask in – it is a constant way of being. It is a state of grace that we still have when we stumble, it is finding love in all situations, it is respect for all people – remembering that we are all here to learn, and to learn from one another. And I find that the more I can touch my soul, the more I realize how blessedly imperfect I am! What a glorious revelation…
Success and failure are seen as part of a seamless, joyful whole.
Each is accepted and fully lived.
– Lao-Tzu from the Tao Te Ching