Hello Friends! I’ve just returned from a five day silent retreat with my teacher, Michael Stone. This was a Zen meditation retreat in snowy, snowy Ontario, Canada. I rang in the New Year by sitting in stillness. It was the third New Year that I celebrated this transition in silence, and by far the most powerful.
During the retreat, each student had a working meditation task. Mine was chopping wood and tending to the indoor fire. I was a little anxious of being responsible for this job, because I had never chopped wood before. Despite the fact that I grew up in Wisconsin with a wood burning stove in my parents house, I always had other things to tend to. Thankfully I was paired with Doug, my wood splitting, fire tending guru, who became a dear friend to me.
Chopping wood isn’t actually difficult. It’s quite simple really. It’s all about proper form and right effort: a good solid stance, a smooth arc of the axe, a focused mind paired with a relaxed manner, and the element of surrender.
At first I tried to use my strength to make the axe blade pierce the seemingly impenetrable log. Wrong effort. Then Doug taught me how to let gravity do the work. When a proper swing is infused with a sense of letting go, the result is a beautiful and effective strike. You can’t over think it, and you can’t hold back in doubt.
I began thinking of my experience chopping wood as a metaphor for life. When we stay rooted, pay attention and tap into the flow, then we don’t need to put forth so much effort. It’s when we become hindered in fear, we over analyze, or try to muscle our way through life, that we get into trouble. When I sense that I’m going against the grain, I think of my time in the snow, splitting wood. I take a step back, assess my footing and approach, and then connect with my inherent and abundant trust that life will unfold as it’s intended.