Tending the Ox

One day, Kuei Shan was walking through his monastery when he saw one of his disciples, an older monk named Ta An, sweeping the walk. Kuei Shan went up to him and asked, “What do you do all day?” Ta An replied, “I tend an ox.” ” How do you tend this ox?” asked Kuei Shan. Ta An responded, “Whenever it wanders off into the weeds I grab it by the nose and bring it back home.” “Well, you really know how to tend the ox,” said Kuei Shan, and he walked away.
‘Wandering off into the weeds.’ In this ancient teaching story ‘ox’ is a metaphor for mind, while ‘weeds’ represents the restless mind, the mind of ‘what’s next?’ or ‘me and my problems!’ The old monk had discovered through practice that life experienced without all the negative internal dialogue is usually just fine as it is. In other words, when you are sweeping the walk, just sweep the walk. Most of the time, feelings of regret concerning the past, or anxiety about the future distract us from the issue at hand.

Our lives are full of wonderful distractions, and there is, of course, nothing wrong with distractions in and of themselves. The problems begin when we become so divided in our intent that suddenly nothing seems deserving of our full attention, and all our actions are mere shades of the full depth that we are capable of. Meaning and real satisfaction begin to wane, and anxiety or depression follows hard on the the heels of this distracted life.

Zen practice is simply a means to reengage with the depth and meaning that is constantly available to us if we are receptive to it.

Doug Dittman

Doug Dittman is a zen buddhist practitioner and was entrusted to teach on his own in 2013 by his teacher, Reverend Nonin Chowaney, a recognized American Zen Master.

Tending the Ox Zendo is affiliated with the Nebraska Zen Center where Reverend Nonin Chowaney is the resident priest. Doug is also a member of Lay Zen Teacher’s Association.

Doug established Tending the Ox Zendo at Branched Oak Farm, a certified organic dairy, where he lives and farms with his wife Krista, and two sons.

Doug Dittman | email | 402.326.6954

branched oak farm trail
branched oak farm cows 02
branched oak farm cows 01
branched oak farm pond
branched oak farm canoe
branched oak farm fireplace
branched oak farm pillar
branched oak farm seek the ox
branched oak farm valley


Schedule of Activities


In addition to the One Day Mindfulness Retreats throughout the year, Tending the Ox offers:

Zen Meditation

Wednesday evenings at 7 pm, September through May.

Intro to Zen Meditation Workshops

These quarterly workshops will be held March 24, June 19 (2:00 – 5:00 pm), September 22, and December 22. All except the June date will be held on Thursday evenings from 7:00 – 8:30 pm at the Jayne Snyder Trail Center located at 228 N 21st St, Lincoln, NE 68503.

All are welcome.

Mindfulness Retreats

Retreats are held the first Sunday of the month, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, September thru May.

The Mindfulness Retreats include two meditation periods, walking meditation, a midday meal, and unstructured time to hike the farm trails. Cost for the all-day retreats is up to you; Tending the Ox accepts free-will donation via cash or check.


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For first time visitors

Please plan on arriving half an hour earlier than the scheduled time so we can go over the meditation posture and you can ask questions.

Branched Oak Farm
Tending the Ox Zendo

17015 NW 70th St
Raymond, NE

402 326 6954