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A Zen Koan – Nerdful Mind #138

September 4, 2022 by Simon Mannes

I'm sick this week, so here's a Zen Koan for you instead of a regular newsletter:


When one goes to Obaku temple in Kyoto he sees carved over the gate the words "The First Principle". The letters are unusually large, and those who appreciate calligraphy always admire them as being a masterpiece. They were drawn by Kosen two hundred years ago.

When the master drew them he did so on paper, from which the workmen made the large carving in wood. As Kosen sketched the letters a bold pupil was with him who had made several gallons of ink for the calligraphy and who never failed to criticize his master's work.

"That is not good," he told Kosen after his first effort.

"How is this one?"

"Poor. Worse than before," pronounced the pupil.

Kosen patiently wrote one sheet after another until eighty-four First Principles had accumulated, still without the approval of the pupil.

Then when the young man stepped outside for a few moments, Kosen thought: "Now this is my chance to escape his keen eye," and he wrote hurriedly, with a mind free from distraction: "The First Principle."

"A masterpiece," pronounced the pupil.



Reading Recommendations

What to Do When You're Feeling Drained

“Lately I’ve noticed a lot of people are feeling drained by life — the challenges they’re facing, their workloads, the anxiety of the world around them, and more. Someday soon I’ll write a longer guide to how to get yourself to a place of renewed resilience … but for today, I’d like to share how I practice when I just don’t feel much of a capacity to do anything.”

The Wisdom of Rest

“I recently interviewed Dr. Alex Pang, author of Rest, who writes that work and rest are allies, not adversaries. That means that in order to take your work more seriously, you need to elevate the importance of your rest.”

How to interrogate unfamiliar code

“Readable code is great, but not all code will be immediately readable. That's when you get your interrogation tools.”

Weekly Mindfulness Practice

Do a small act of kindness for someone, without that person noticing and without telling them. Rest in the feeling that you’ve done something good.

End Note

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Have a great week


PS: What do you think about this? Please hit reply and let me know. I’m curious!