Chop Wood, Carry Water - Breathing Space

There’s a zen koan that says, “Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.”  

I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the past few weeks.  At first it was the hand washing, when it first stated to become our part time job.  And the sanitizing.  Wiping down the water pitcher handle or the doorknobs again.  Now that we’re all at home, those of us with young children can add to the list things like constant requests or calls for help, or being professional snack-fixers.  

Right now, we all have a lot of wood to chop, and a lot of water to carry.  Up hill.  Both ways.  Its easy for the hand washing to become tedious, and the children’s requests to trigger feelings that don’t leave us our best selves.  This is the perfect time to drop into a yogic mindset.  

First, we need to give ourselves grace.  Life has changed very rapidly, and it is normal to struggle with it.  Whatever you might be feeling is okay.  Rather than distract yourself from the feelings, I encourage you to let yourself feel them.  

Then, we need to let ourselves be present with what is.  Use those moments—the hand washing, the apple slicing, the counter wiping—to ground, rather than detach.  Notice what we’re feeling, hearing, smelling.  Breathe. If we can fully commit to that particular moment, probably what we’ll find is that right then, all is well.  

We’re all very clear now that we don’t have much control over what life throws at us.  What we can control, if we’re willing to try, is the way we react to it.  If we can practice being present and content in the little, repetitive moments, we’ll have an easier time navigating the more complicated ones. The wood and the water will always need tending to, but let’s commit together to doing it with a light heart instead of a heavy one.

Jessica LagardeJessica LaGarde has been teaching creative movement in the metro area since 2005 and is passionate about helping children discover and explore their bodies and the world around them. She was trained by Joye Newman, MA to teach preschool creative movement for Kids’ Moving Company, a Bethesda-based creative movement/perceptual motor therapy studio. In 2017, she completed her Baby, Toddler, and Children’s Yoga Teacher Training through Childlight Yoga.  In addition to working with preschoolers, Jessica is a registered massage practitioner and is trained in infant massage instruction. She has practiced massage for over twelve years and taught massage as part of Potomac Massage Training Institute’s professional training program. Outside of the movement space and massage room, she enjoys cooking, knitting, sewing, gardening and exploring the outdoors with her daughter.


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