Chop Wood, Carry Water: Zen and Artificial Intelligence

 

Many of the computer pioneers at MITs Lisp artificial intelligence lab in the 1950s had a fascination with Zen Buddhism and Zen Koans. One of the most popular ideas was “Chop Wood, Carry Water”.  What does this mean?”  It means doing what needs to be done with joy and detachment.

 

On a daily level I am a student of what I like to call the “Wisdom Path” and which is known in Zen as “Chop Wood, Carry Water.” I have been influenced by many teachers and many traditions but I am drawn to one  of the most commonly stated ideas in Zen, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” This is a reminder that there is nothing that one must do in life other than the joyous experience of doing what must be done.  With an open awareness of the tasks in our lives they cease to be tasks.  Work is no longer a burden it is simply what needs to be done. What’s the difference between a job and a burden? The tasks may be the same. The need is the same. What about the frame of mind? Who is chopping? Who is carrying water? Who is in joy? Who is bored?

 

“On the Wisdom Path there is no great benefit to thinking about being disciplined just for the sake of being disciplined.”  You Chop Wood, Carry Water because that is what needs to be done, not because you convince yourself that it needs to be done or that you “should” be joyous while doing it.

 

The best discipline is not to think about being disciplined. The idea of self control is wonderful but it is seldom something that can be sustained over the time without a deep sense of what “Is.”

 

This self awareness comes in time through regular meditation practice. When one becomes self aware one begins to become more conscious of what one does, how one acts and how one interacts with other people and environments. For there to be sustainable change from a life of regret, expectation, psychological agony, and short term gratification requires a life where want and need have merged to create an authentic sense of meaning.

 

This is the key to knowing what needs to be done and doing it.  Here one embraces “discipline” in the service of joy and love. This is what is commonly known in Zen as “Chop Wood, Carry Water.” There is no manual on how to “Chop Wood, Carry Water”. Each person has their own lifestyle, their own unique emotional, physical and spiritual needs. In the early stages of the Wisdom Path we will struggle to do the right thing at the right time all in the service of getting somewhere. However over time Chop Wood, Carry Water will show us the way to do things by doing nothing, and get somewhere by going nowhere. In time, want and need, expectation and regret, who we are and what we do all shift for us as our own sense of self shifts.

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Lewis Harrison is a best selling author, radio talk show host, success coach, life strategies mentor and contemporary spiritual teacher specializing in human potential and personal development.  He is creating the “Ask Lewis…” Series of ebooks

 

He created the “How To Solve Any Problem” a course  is presented in  three levels that teaches focused and practical strategies for solving a multitude of basic and complex problems as well as exploring a wide range of disciplines.

 

 

Lewis conducts online trainings and coaching programs as well as residential retreats at the Harrison Center for Personal Development www.TheHarrisonCenter.com.

 

His most recent book is “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times

 

You can learn more about Lewis’ work at http://www.HowToSolveAnyProblem.com

 

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Lewis Harrison is a best selling author, radio talk show host, success coach, life strategies mentor and contemporary spiritual teacher specializing in human potential and personal development.  He is creating the “Ask Lewis…” Series of ebooks

 

He created the “How To Solve Any Problem” a course  is presented in  three levels that teaches focused and practical strategies for solving a multitude of basic and complex problems as well as exploring a wide range of disciplines.

 

 

Lewis conducts online trainings and coaching programs as well as residential retreats at the Harrison Center for Personal Development www.TheHarrisonCenter.com.

 

His most recent book is “Spiritual, Not Religious: Sacred Tools for Modern Times

 

You can learn more about Lewis’ work at http://www.HowToSolveAnyProblem.com

 

 

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About Lewis Harrison

Problem Solver, Author, Speaker, Trainer, Consultant, Peak Performance Coach, and Radio Talk Show Host. Expert on Personal Development, Futurist, Game Theory
This entry was posted in Artificial Intelligence, Decision Science, How to Solve a Problem?, Problem Solving, Zen Koans and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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