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Zen In The Dark

Zen In The Dark

If you were wondering why there was no email or web posting on Monday, you can blame hurricane Ike. Here in Dayton, Ohio, we had a once-in-a-lifetime windstorm that some were calling a ‚Äúdry hurricane.‚Äù I’m one of 2 million Ohioans without electricity. Yes, in Ohio, 2000 miles from the nearest ocean, we’re cleaning up and recovering from wind damage. I haven’t seen any TV news in a few days, but it must have been some storm! My home suffered from no serious damage though, although many of my neighbors lost shingles, siding, and whole trees falling on the house and car. I was lucky; losing the food in my fridge was the worst it got.

Let me tell you something though. As I worked in the cool, early autumn air, cleaning up the mess Monday morning, sticks and branches and yard debris of all kinds, it was immensely calming. I couldn’t get on the Internet, watch TV, do any kind of ‚Äúbusiness work,‚Äù or anything of the sort. It was just me and the mess in the yard. Gathering small sticks, larger branches, and whole tree limbs. Putting it all, one piece at a time into the wood chipper, and then taking out the newly ground mulch over an old tree stump. Even making coffee on the gad grill was calming. Unlike the normal noisy, gurgling drip coffee maker, a pan of hot water on the outdoor grill was completely silent. There is no background noise of TV, music, and not even much traffic; the crickets are unusually loud today.

I just wanted to clean up the yard debris today, but it turned out I stumbled by accident upon one of the oldest and greatest forms of Zen wisdom. We all know that Zen monks sit a lot in meditation. They occasioanlly do walking meditation. But they also do a lot of manual labor. They plant gardens, they build things, and so on. Not because they need the possessions or hope to profit by them, but just for the sake of doing them. By doing some kind of work mindfully, they are gaining merit and building their inner awareness. This is “working meditation.” By doing work without distractions, they can focus on the job at hand completely, and the focus brings a peace and clarity that is especially rewarding.

I’m writing this on my laptop late Monday night, using the last of the charge in my battery. I don’t know when I’ll get access to the Internet and electricity to post this. The radio has been saying that some people in the area may not have power until next weekend. But don’t worry, everything is fine here, I’ll be back as soon as I can, and I suspect that I’ll be more focused because of the break.

It gets dark when it gets dark, and it gets light when the sun comes up. There’s just so much radio-chatter I can take, so its quiet here most of the time. No air conditioning means I can hear the crickets outside. There’s an owl out there too, and this is the suburbs.

I’ve learned something. Actually, I highly recommend this.

Maybe we should all “turn off” some of the things that distract us from a mindful, simple life, and get focused!

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