A monk said to Zhaozhou, “I have just entered this monastery. Please teach me.”
Zhaozhou said, “Have you eaten your rice gruel?”
The monk said, “Yes, I have.”
Zhaozhou said, “Wash your bowl.”
The monk understood. – Blue Cliff Record #7
It’s always interesting when my turn to host comes around. There’s usually a sort of low grade anxiety over whether I’ll have anything to say. This almost always resolves itself. There’ll be something in my life, or out in the world, that seems worth talking about, and there’ll be a koan that speaks to it. Sometimes the koan comes first, and points to my life. Sometimes it feels more like my life is pointing to a koan. Either way, there’s something there that wants to come out; that seems worth sharing. And generally it arrives in time for me to put it into words for the Mailchimp.
So what to do when the deadline looms, but the inspiration has not arrived? That’s what I was feeling as the weekend approached, and I knew I needed crank something out for distribution. There wasn’t anything in my life that felt particularly interesting, and, while I was hanging out with interesting koan, I didn’t really feel bringing it to the group. I’ve got nothing. Oh no! What to do? Can it get out of this? Call in sick? The dog ate my homework? (Not really that farfetched, if you know my dog!)
Since none of those options seemed reasonable, I started looking at koans and hoping some inspiration would come. I looked through all of the miscellaneous koans. Nothing spoke to me. I started looking through the Blue Cliff Record. When I got to, “Wash your bowl,” I stopped looking. I wouldn’t say I had a great inspiration, but I had a place to start. And that place was exactly where I was. I didn’t need to know what to say on Wednesday, I didn’t really even need an outline of what I would write for the Mailchimp. And I didn’t need anything profound. I could simply start writing. On Wednesday, I can simply start speaking. And now that this is done, I can attend to my laundry.