Work in Japan Advice Board

キービジュアル キービジュアル

Creative Career Path

Till the Field: A Year for Cultivation2009.05.27


    In Zen Buddhism, the Ox is a symbol of Truth, depicting our progress toward enlightenment and the refinement of wisdom.


    First rendered in the 12th Century by a Chinese Zen Master, Zen Ox Paintings were widely made known in the West with the publication in 1957 of, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings, by Paul Reps and Nyogen Senzaki.


    Known as the Ten Ox Herding Pictures, the story unfolds in ten phases, with the search of a young student to discover the footprints, the path, and eventually the Ox itself, a metaphor for Enlightenment. Marveling over its features, “empty and marvelous,” the student finds the Ox, tames and learns to ride it, progressing to the point of forgetting self and becoming one with the Ox. Although in the ninth stage the student returns to the Source, the tenth and final stage is returning to the marketplace and mingling with fellow humankind (


    In order to approach Enlightenment, the student must become familiar with the seasons of the Ox. The story progresses in stages from search to serenity. Although it is a story of struggle, it is also a saga of hope and fulfillment.


    This story of the Ox is also the tale of attainment of practical wisdom. It is no coincidence that we are now in the Year of the Ox, which for many is certainly a year of struggle. One message in the Ten Ox Herding pictures is that struggle does not have to mean suffering, but can be part of a joyful journey in search of renewal.


    Many aspects of today’s economy appear to be destructive and reclusive. We are hardly in a bull market! Instead we are experiencing a ploughing under of the old, and a new mixture of seed and soil. It is as if the Ox is tilling the field, and we are cultivating our own prospects for a future harvest.


    In Zen this is more than a poetic metaphor. It is a flash of practical insight!


    Whether you are engaged in a career or embarking on an enterprise, for all of us the struggle for economic recovery is a test of entrepreneurial creativity. When you view this part of the journey in that way, it puts you back on the path of discovery and opportunity.


    The Ox is in a ploughing mode. That is why you see so many things being overturned and worked back into the soil. Things are being reset. Some businesses will be swept away in the restructuring of the old ways. It means that this year more than ever is a time to cultivate the soil and plant seeds for new projects which will bear fruit when it comes time to harvest.


    Perhaps the best way to profit from this lesson is to actively participate in the process.


    What ingredients or resources do you have that can be churned into the mix? How might you better mix with people and be proactive as a networker?


    What sort of new collaborations and projects can you engage in to create new value? What seeds can you plant that you are prepared to nurture as they grow?


    Does the work of the Ox keep you up at night, or do you sleep soundly as one of the fruits of your labor? In what way is the Ox ploughing up your field of business, and creating new opportunities for you?


    This idea inspired me to do the piece of calligraphy for the character shown here for tagayasu (耕す), meaning to cultivate, plow, till the field. To learn more about how Zen and Calligraphy can bring you insights in practical wisdom, visit me at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.


    William Reed

    • このエントリーをはてなブックマークに追加

    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

    Similar Articles