I recently finished a book called Chop Wood, Carry Water by Joshua Medcalf. It’s a short book, read by the author. Unfortunately, he was a terrible narrator and the story, at times, seemed contrived and a little cheesy. But maybe that was the point? That said, there are some nuggets that have caused me to reflect quite a bit over the past week. And it was probably worth my time given those insights.

In traditional Zen Buddhist monasteries, basic chores are often assigned to monks as a part of their training. Before they can seek to transcend this life, they have to engage and become present with it – in even the most mundane tasks. Zen Buddhism teaches:

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

No matter where one stands in life: positive or negative; happiness or sorrow; success or failure; enlightenment or confusion; we must return to the basics of building a good life. No matter where you are on your path in life, chop wood, carry water.

Be deliberate and consistent with the essential things. Focus on the present moment and find peace and tranquility in simplicity of everyday life.

Doing the small and simple things well, gives us a foundation on which to build a great life. These principles keep us grounded and focused on what’s most important: stillness, patience, kindness, being present, relationships, health, compassion, gratitude.

What are the core basic principles in your life that keep you grounded? What if you had to narrow it down to just two? 

When life gets overwhelming, just remember the phrase, “Chop wood, carry water.” It may have the power to focus you back to what is most important.