Life Isn’t The Problem; I am The Problem

There is an old Zen expression that goes something like this; “before enlightenment chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment chop wood and carry water”. When we entered the rooms of AA, NA or OA we had made a decision to put down our drug of choice. Many of us assumed that by doing so our problems would be solved. We were partially correct. When we didn’t take that first drink or drug the problems associated with alcohol and drugs no longer arose. “Great,we thought to ourselves. From now on it will be smooth sailing”. This conclusion of ours was shortly thereafter disproven. All of life’s challenges came rushing back in. Life didn’t magically change because we had put down our drug of choice. As we looked around the rooms we saw and heard others who were facing the same problems as us. Yet, many of them seemed far more happy and serene than us. Then it hit us. The adversities of life would continue until our last dying breath.. Our power lay in the decisions we made which affected how events would be played out. We realized that in the past we had on some level “set ourselves up” for problems. This we did have control over. Our power also lay in how we responded to these problems once they had materialized. We had uncovered the beginnings of emotional sobriety.

Personal Reflection: Do I still believe that life is the problem?

Two Zen Monks

The following story was told to me by another member of the fellowship. Though not specifically from the program, it is in total alignment with 12 step thinking.

Two zen monks were walking in the forest and came to a fast flowing deep stream. At the bank of the water was a beautiful women who said, ” kind monks, can you help me across the stream for the water is too fast and deep”. The older of the 2 monks carried her across the stream on his back and deposited her on the other side. As the two monks continued walking together, the younger one became very agitated. Over the next few hours his upset increased until he blurted out, “how could you carry that woman across the stream? We have taken a vow of chastity. Yet you had her climb onto your back”. The older monk replied, “I dropped her onto the bank of the stream hours ago. You’re still carrying her”.
We all face upsets and challenges in life. They are unavoidable. The deeper question is how quickly are we willing to let go of these events? We can be like the older monk who was totally in the moment. When he finished carrying the women he moved onto the next life event. Or we can be like the younger monk who continued to “carry” the woman long after she had been dropped off.

Personal Reflection: Which of the 2 monks do I most resemble?