The zen of working with one’s hands

December 28, 2016

When a man works with his hands. He has to first trust himself completely and that can only mean – he’s actually working on himself.

As to work confidently, one requires a clear picture of how to go about the task. Only when one has a clear line sight between form and function can one begin to understand the nuanced interrelation of the sum of the parts to perform – the ability to proceed from theory to reality produces an intensely edifying feeling of peace of mind.

It doesn’t matter what the task is – could well be mending a fence, building a road from rocks, whipping up a meal, digging a hole or even working on shoes during the quiet evening in the plantation……I work alone. Usually in the penumbra of silence. Only the sound of tools and instruments and the rhythmic sound of breathe punctuates the emptiness – there is nothing in my mind whenever I work. Nothing specific at least. Nothing that I can actually call theory, formulation or even a hypothesis….it’s all cut and dried long before work began – except maybe a deeply immersive mood where one is in the groove of the doing – the really important thing is to transform one’s work into a thinking thing with the power of the empty mind – rather than just putting stuff together without even bothering to ask why?

This involves taking responsibility, learning about how stuff actually work and getting slightly better with each doing. Rather than proceeding unthinkingly like some monkey trained to picked coconuts – to always be curious and inquisitive about one’s work.

This way even the seemingly simple act of digging a hole isn’t the mere application of muscle and sinews….it’s something much more profound and deeper than just the idea of mere work.

As work is magically transformed from a dead to living thing.

Emptiness is not the same as nothingness – it is a form.


‘Many people have asked me how do I relate the idea of zen with work – usually I tell them, it’s not so different from driving a car – it’s an inside out thing and not the other way round – that’s to say. I begin first by accepting the idea – while I cannot control things that are happening around me. Such as crazy drivers who drive at 120 km per hour in the opposite direction or how when it rains that anecdotally render roads slippery.

I do however have 100% control how I choose to drive my car – I can respond to emergencies by taking evasive action etc etc.

My point is as you focus on becoming more peaceful with where you are and what you can do – rather than thinning yourself out on what the other driver should be doing or why he’s driving in the crazy way he’s driving – you will begin to find peace there and then.

Just focus on what you can control…as the rest you cannot hope to ever control.

That sets you in the right frame of mind to drive at the highest quality.

That’s really how I see the concept of the empty mind – it’s not the idea where you’re evacuated of all consciousness and closing your eyes and the car is driving itself while you’re happily spaced out. Not at all. Rather it’s a highly focuses and alert state of mind where you’re first and foremost elementally empty of all extraneous thoughts about what happened in the distant past and what would happen in the future – instead so much of your being is where it should rightfully be, in the present of nowness – that it’s impossible not to drive well.

I think for one to work well – it follows the same philosophy of the empty mind.’

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