Everything is practice

The Japanese archery master Awa Kenzô was once sick for several months, which took him away from his craft. Finally, when he was able to get out of bed on a cold wintery day, Kenzo met with a few students eager to resume their lessons. As he spoke with them, he was suddenly beset with pain and left the room to urinate. His students found him outside, his urine dark red, staining the snow. Kenzo looked at them and said simply, “This too is practice.”

Although his remark was rooted in the Zen philosophy Kenzo had studied all his life, its truth was a deeply Stoic concept as well. Marcus Aurelius, who suffered from numerous painful ailments in his life, almost certainly would have agreed. Because the Stoics believed that everything we experience is practice for our philosophy. Everything is a canvas for our mastery. Illness, archery, politics, the way we arrange our workstations, how we respond to obstacles and offenses. This is what Stoicism is and how it’s done. This is what Zen is and how it’s done.

Remember this today as you go about your work or pursue your studies. All that you encounter–intended or inconvenient–is an opportunity for practice and for improvement. But only if you let it be, only if you open your mind to it.

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