Monday Zen: The Well

A man seeking wisdom entered the monastery. He was tasked with fetching water. Every morning, he walked to a well, let down the bucket, and came back with what he found.

On his first day, the man returned with half a bucket. He said: “I’m sorry, master.” The master nodded in silence.

On his second day, it was hot. The man returned with a quarter bucket. Once again, the master nodded in silence.

On his third day, it rained. The man returned with a full bucket. He was excited. The master, however, nodded in silence.

Then, a drought came. Soon, the man returned with an empty bucket. He said: “Master, should I go to the river instead?” The master shook his head.

The drought continued for a while but, eventually, it passed. Soon, the man returned with a full bucket again.

After one year, the task of fetching water was passed on to a new monk. Having completed his duty, the man asked: “Master, why didn’t you let me go to the river when the well was dry?”

The master replied: “If you do not let down the bucket, how can you know the well is dry?”

At that moment, the man was enlightened.

Ernest Hemingway looked at creativity like a well: as long as he left something in it, he could always return the next day.

Love is a well too. It springs eternal from deep inside your heart - but only if you go fetch water.

Even life itself can be thought of as a fountain: it flows from the inside out, and what we find inside is what we carry into the world.

Like the man in the story, however, we first have to realize that’s the part that matters.

What the master knew, and what he could only teach the man through rigorous practice, is that life isn’t about how much water we find, or if any, for that matter.

It’s about becoming the kind of person who walks to the well every day regardless.

Whatever you do, whatever your challenge, your job, your obstacle - focus not on where the answers are. Just remember to let down the bucket.

You’ll be enlightened soon enough.


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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