When my first client of the day arrived at my front door he walked down the hallway, and before entering my apartment, immediately took off his shoes. After crossing over the threshold, he let out a sigh and said, “Hoo Boy! These are interesting times!”
I doubted he was only referring to his personal worries. He had global issues in mind as well. Are those any less important? I replied, “We're all grappling with these times of flux.”
As I poured him a tea, I made a mental note to keep my eye on how he was coping.
Strange, depressing memes have darkened our skies of late. In times of change, I look for a synchronicity to comfort me.
Synchronicities offer inspirational wisdom brought about by psychic association.
Recently, the Universe sent me a synchronicity involving an adage. Adages are brilliant bits of wisdom. But they're common, so it’s easy to overlook them. For an adage to be meaningful it has to resonate with you in such a way that you notice it as specially relevant.
This particular adage turned out to be a Zen Buddhist teaching. Initially, it popped to mind as something I could express to my client as a way of providing him with a sense of perspective in his endeavors. So I shared it.
That teaching would turn out to also hold a lot of significance for me that day. I'd naïvely stumbled into the secret world of the Symbolic Realm, where configuring what's going on requires paying attention, and noticing patterns in hindsight.
Anyway, the Zen saying goes, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, and carry water.” In other words, 'Finding enlightenment is in the journey rather than the destination.'
When the session was over, I ran some errands. For one, I had to donate some items to Housing Works, a thrift store in my neighborhood. On my way out of the shop, I noticed a book laid out on the counter titled, “Chop Wood, Carry Water.”
'Hmm... what a coincidence...'
Psychic messages whisper into your inner ear. Lately, I've been grappling with some goals I've laid out for myself. Seeing that message spurred me to assess my approach to the efforts required to achieve them.
I returned home to work on a book project. I like to write with music in the background. Generally I keep the material non-lyrical. But I decided to play Boy George’s ‘Martyr Mantras’. One of his lyrics stood out to me: “Keep Your Feet On the Ground.”
Song lyrics make great adages.
Keeping my feet on the ground means committing daily time to a physical activity that takes me to a personal, reflective space. Physical, repetitive-motion is a great way to stay mentally centered. Activity helps you work out life’s issues. Something about getting the body moving calms and prepares the mind.
To ‘keep my feet on the ground’, I cook, clean, garden, walk, or work out on a rowing machine.
In a moment of frustration with my writing, I took a break, deciding to rake up the last of autumn’s leaves in our garden. It was a job that had to be done—like chopping wood and carrying water.
In November, I wondered if the leaves would ever stop falling into our yard. By mid-December I'd hauled out six garbage bags of them. (Yes, we have trees in Manhattan!)
As I raked, I repeated to myself, “I love you Ginko. I love you Maple.” And I meant it. I wasn’t complaining about the trees last summer when their canopy provided shade to me and my friends while we sipped wine and noshed on olives.
There was some drudgery to the work, but as I raked, I realized that those trees give me this whole other gift—a nourishing physical chore.
The day in question was crisp, clear and still. When I finished, I held the rake for a moment to survey my work. I’d just commented to myself on how clear the sky was, when a pristine white feather fell right before my feet. It came down straight and definitively, like it carried weight.
I took it as an auger of snow (which came soon enough). But that feather also meant something more significant to me.
A falling feather is a sign that an angel is around. That white piece of heaven dropping as it did, felt to me like the Universe confirming everything I was feeling that moment. My emotional self replied, “Alright, I can carry on now.”
Before sitting back down to write, I went into the kitchen for a glass of water. Nothing came out of the faucet.
Hearing a commotion in the hallway, I opened my front door. My neighbors were gathered looking out at the street with concern. Outside, a crew of utility workers was active in the trenches, fixing the water main. One of them cried, "It might be a few hours before we're finished!”
I assessed our water needs and thought: 'Uh oh...what if we can't brush our teeth tonight? I should get a jug of water.'
So I walked to the corner market for a jug of water.
On the way, I was shocked by the drop in the outside temperature. Within an hour it would be below 30 degrees Fahrenheit. I noticed that Mani’s Market was displaying bundles of wood conveniently wrapped with handles. 'Hmm...We do have a fireplace...It seems like a good night for a fire to me...'
A few minutes later, I found myself walking home—wood in one hand, water in the other.
That errand was a joy.