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Torii Kiyonobu II:
A Priest Sweeping in the Snow (1731)

" … sweeping that floor that never needed sweeping."

If you or I were to run off to a monastery to seek enlightenment, upon arrival, the Master would undoubtedly assign us some seemingly menial task and solemnly declare that work our chief responsibility. Basically, these assignments usually amount to sweeping floors that apparently do not need sweeping. If we find ourselves bored and go back to the Master seeking some more challenging assignment, our request would most certainly be rebuffed. Instead, we would be told to stick to the given job. Eventually, we might discover the more profound significance of our job that does not need doing, that we were not so much sweeping some floor that didn't need sweeping, but we were -itating instead, in this instance, med-itating.

Whether iterated sweeping floors that don't need sweeping necessarily leads to enlightenment isn't for me to say.
It's probably never anybody's responsibility to say such things, for enlightenment seems an unspeakable. Nevertheless, without adequate proof, we gain transcendence through such iteration. We repeat some action until it no longer requires focused preparation, until it becomes almost a reaction, but retain our focus. Then, freed from the need to plan or intend, we might start transcending, still sweeping that floor that never needed sweeping but also seeing something through the effort. The effort becomes effortless. What once sparked mind-numbing boredom encourages instead a curious exploration, filling the sweeper with quiet satisfaction, just as if he was really accomplishing something while quietly sweeping that floor that will never need sweeping. Instead of accomplishing something, he accomplishes everything while apparently accomplishing nothing at all.

I suppose we've all experienced this sort of result, even those of us who would never willingly run away to some monastery to seek our enlightenment. Absent my active seeking, I believe that my enlightenment actively seeks me, though it most often finds me unaware of its presence. I occasionally manage to stumble over it, usually when I'm not paying close attention. It surprises and confuses me because it usually seems so damned ordinary. It makes little noise and might merely nod in recognition in my general direction without really explaining itself. It will be up to me to connect the dots and make sense of the experience. These never come prepackaged for my convenience but more tangled for my deeper consideration. Enlightenment exclusively comes in Gordian knots which are not ever supposed to be untangled.

This story and this Success Series both represent extended -itating for me. I fear some mornings that I am violating some ancient principle forbidding public meditation/consideration/prayer, for those are what I am doing here. It occurred to me that nobody needs my stories; nobody really needs me to clarify what Success really means to expand our general understanding of the concept. In that sense, a series of stories exploring facets of Success perfectly represents sweeping floors that never needed sweeping in the first place. So, what, then, must be the purpose, both of creating these stories with such dedication—every morning without exception—and of sharing them? The purpose might be the practice, not practice pursuing perfection, but practice simply -itating, meditating, I suppose. Why anyone would bother to follow along might just be a matter between a Master, his novice, and a floor that never seems to need sweeping. Success seems to carry many different meanings when sweeping that floor that never needed anyone to sweep it.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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