A puny, wimpy student of a Zen master asked instruction of the master how he might build up his inner strength.
The master told him that there was a park, not far from the Zen monastery.
“Every day, you must go there and walk up and down the steps that are there, leading up to the Japanese garden, at the top of these steps. Make at least ten such up and down trips, each and every day.”
“Do this for a year, then come back to me then,” he said.
After a year, the young student re-appeared in the master’s rooms.
He said to the master,
“For one year, I have done as you told me to do, but as far as I can see, I am still the same as I was a year ago. Nothing has changed in me. I still do not have inner strength.”
The master grimaced visibly. His student had obviously missed seeing the whole point of the exercise.
Then the master smiled again, as he spoke to his student,
“Well, look at your outer body. It has gained much strength, and muscle, from your performing diligently this set task.”
“Anything that happens outwardly always affects you inwardly too, you know. And so, do not be so certain, you must have changed inwardly too.”
“What did you do when you got up to the gardens there?”
“Did you come right back down again, after your tenth trip, each day, or at least once, did you stop at the top, to look at the garden there?”
The student replied,
“No, not once did I stop at the top. I just carried out your instructions rigidly every day, without varying from them, at all.”
The master winked twice, before he said,
“Well, maybe you are right, you are disciplined, but too disciplined to be flexible enough to grow and to change from who you inwardly are right now.”
“Do not follow rules so doggedly, but stop sometimes to see what is at the top of your task.”
“See the truth, that the task takes you to truth, but on its own, the task only ever leads you further away from it, because you stubbornly refuse to see the benefits, the results, the insights, and learning opportunities that you can see on the way, without over-focussing on your task, excluding all else, as you do so.”
“All life is winking the truth at you, if only you recognise the wink, as the truth.”