I was reminded when digging up Lilian Bridges’ annual Lunar calendar forecast for this Year of the Golden Rat (or Metal or White rat, all are same) of an important message, often echoed in Chinese Medicine, of finding our true nature. Lonnie Jarrett also took a deep dive on this in his book, Nourishing Destiny; the idea that finding our true form, becoming our most natural self, this is when we are living in accordance with the Dao. This doesn’t mean we are all an Adonis or Buddha, it means we are our true selves, therefore our highest selves and can serve our best or most ideal purpose. Just like some pieces of leather will make a great boot and some would be best suited to make e a football, or a canteen. We shouldn’t go through life as a terrible boot when we would make a really great hand-bag.
The words Lilian Bridges wrote seemed to tidy this message: “The Purpose of Life is to be yourself as much as you can be, by combining your innate talents and abilities with the wisdom from your life experience and merging them with your intrinsic spirit. Then give yourself back to the world as a gift.” You can find her Year of the Rat forecast at the bottom of her home page: https://lotusinstitute.com/
I love this statement and it gives me some peace. When we are living or acting in accordance with the Dao, in accordance with the weft and wane of the universe, not counter to it, there is less noise; then we can truly observe and not just react. Then this leads me to think of the old Zen Buddhist story, “Chop wood, carry water.” There are many versions, of course. If you have not heard it… basically, it is:
The Student climbs to the monastery at the top of the mountain and says to the master, “Master, please teach me, I want to know the secrets of the universe, I want to be at peace like you. The Master turns to the Student, and says, “Chop wood. Carry Water”. ” And so, the Student goes and chops the wood needed for the fires that day and then carries the water from the well for cooking and washing. The Student is exhausted by nightfall and rests. The next day, the Student does the same. A couple of weeks go by, and the Student grows weary. Their muscles ache and their hands are cracked. The fires stay lit and the water basins or full, there is nourishing food.
The student returns to the master and says, “Master, I have chopped so much wood, and carried so much water. Please, will you teach me what I seek to learn?” The Master turns to the student and simply says, “Chop wood, carry water.” This goes on for some time, the Student dutiful in their tasks and every so often returning with questions; the Master consistent in their direction.
Spring turns to summer and the Master looks up one day to see the student sitting nearby, looking out upon the world. The Master knows the Student has found what they had sought. The student says, “Master, I believe I have found enlightenment.” The Master nods, as he knows this. “Now, what do I do?” the Student asks. And the Master nods again, as he knows this too, and replies, “Chop wood. Carry water.”