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The Zen Of Doing

“Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”—Zen proverb


In the chaos of the modern world, there is a beauty in simply doing.

We’re buffeted wildly by whatever emails, conversations, news, events, demands, that are going on around us. Our minds become a constant deluge of thoughts dwelling in the past, worries of the future, distractions pulling us in every direction.

But all of that melts away when we focus on just doing.

It doesn’t matter what the doing is: sitting, walking, writing, reading, eating, washing, talking, snuggling, playing. By focusing on the doing, we drop our worries and anxieties, jealousies and anger, grieving and distraction.

There is something profound in that simplicity—something ultimately heart-rending-ly breathtakingly gorgeous.

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”—Zen proverb

You are in the middle of your day today, and you’re caught up in the sandstorm of thoughts, feelings, to-dos, meetings, readings, and communications of this day.

Pause. Breathe. Let all of that fade.

Now focus on doing one thing, right now. Just choose one thing, and clear away all other distractions. Seriously, clear it all away. Turn off your Internet. Stop reading this article (OK, read a couple more sentences, then close your browser!).

Let all thoughts about anything, other than the doing, also fade away. They’ll come up, but gently make note of them, and then let them go. And return to the doing.

If you’re washing a dish, do it slowly, and feel every sensation. If you’re eating a fruit, taste it, feel the textures, be mindful of your hunger or lack of it. If you’re writing something, pour your heart into that writing, become the writing, inhabit the words.

Just do.

The rest of the world becomes meaningless distraction. It’s just you, and your doing.

And you realize: this is all that matters. In this, there is everything.



“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.”—Shunryu Suzuki


Cover image and top image from Shutterstock


This is a cross-post from zenhabits.



Leo Babauta is a simplicity blogger & author. He created Zen Habits, a Top 25 blog (according to TIME magazine) with 200,000 subscribers, mnmlist.com,, and the best-selling books focus, The Power of Less, and Zen To Done. Babauta is a former journalist of 18 years, a husband, father of six children, and in 2010 moved from Guam to San Francisco, where he leads a simple life. He started Zen Habits to chronicle and share what he's learned while changing a number of habits.

 
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