Monday Zen: The Buddha at the Lake

Once upon a time, Buddha was traveling from one town to the next with his followers. They happened to pass a lake. The Buddha told one of his disciples, “I am thirsty. Please get me some water from the lake.”

The disciple walked down to the water, but when he reached it, he noticed an ox cart had just begun crossing the lake. As a result, the water turned brown and murky. Seeing the water as unfit to drink, he returned to the Buddha, saying, “The water is muddy. I don’t think it’s drinkable.”

The Buddha said, “Then let us take a rest here.”

30 minutes later, the Buddha asked the disciple for water again. He went back to the lake and found the water was clear. The mud had settled down and the water on top looked clean and drinkable. He collected some in a pot and brought it to the Buddha.

When he gave the Buddha the water, the Buddha said, “See? You let the water be, and the mud settled down on its own. You got clear water, and it didn’t require any effort.”

Your mind is a magical tool. It has the power to perceive everything in this huge, dynamic, fast-changing world we live in. It can decode any problem and situation, break it down into its parts, and piece it back together.

It can even imagine what it’s like to do all this from someone else’s perspective - or someone who never existed at all. It can dream up places, characters, ideas, and travel to distant planets without you even leaving your chair.

But when the water is muddy, it can’t do any of those things.

Sometimes, this powerful force in our head goes haywire. It zones in on the wrong problem, the wrong person, the wrong thought and clamps up. It won’t let go, running in all directions without you moving forward an inch.

This happens to all of us. Don’t fight it. It will only get worse. Instead, remember the Buddha: Let’s take a rest here. Give it some time. The mud will settle down.

Calm doesn’t happen when we try not to be frantic. It’s a result of not trying at all.

So don’t stir the muddy water. Don’t mess with an already messy mind. Let it be and, soon, the water will be clear.


About Monday Zen: Most people hate Monday. Why? In a good life, it’s a day like any other. At the very least, it shouldn’t be worse by default. That’s what Monday Zen is for: To make sure you start the week with calm, poise, and determination.

Let’s not derail our trains of thought before they leave the station. Let’s enjoy the journey.

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