Yes, This Means You
A new monk went to the Master and said, “I have just entered the monastery: please give me some guidance.”
The master asked, “Have you eaten your rice gruel?”
“Yes, I have eaten”, the novice answered.
“Then go wash your bowl,” the master advised.
– Zen saying
Really? Wash the bowl? That’s the entire spiritual guidance offered? Can it really be that simple? Why is it that our tendency is to over-complicate things, especially on the spiritual path? Maybe this practice of being present can be as simple as breathing and relaxing into the next, best thing to do.
In meditation, we identify loving and gentle tethers, anchors to bring our awareness back into the moment. The tether might be the breath, a mantra, or perhaps the sensations in the body, like on the yoga mat. As the master advises above, couldn’t the stabilizing anchor be the next right action to take, with gentle and loving presence?
I talk myself into overwhelm with such frequency—do you identify with this pattern? Just today, sitting at my desk, twelve different projects seemed to call my name, all at once. Different folders were open, both on my computer and on my desk, all vying for my attention. I felt as if I was sinking into the abyss of over-thinking and overwhelm. Fortunately, I remembered to take a good breath. I got up, took a seven minute walk through the building. I allowed my breath to move me forward. I got some water, made my way back to that slippery slope called my office. As I sat down, I picked up the most time-sensitive project. Putting the others away and out of sight, I was able to do one piece at a time on this most current project, working my way forward and through it. The breath carried me.
What about you? How can you simplify your day—today, just this day? What’s the next, best thing to do right now? Imagine you could take just one step at a time. Where would this lead you today? Give yourself permission to practice keeping it simple, right in this moment.