“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.” – Alan Watts
I like to pressure wash stuff; sidewalks, driveways, patios, cars, trucks, dogs, just kidding, I don’t pressure wash my dogs, although. Pressure washing is simple and mindless work that provides instant gratification. To pressure wash my driveway from end to end will take me about two hours. I don’t do it very often, maybe once every three years but it needs to be done to keep the sludge and grim down. The results are immediate, from brown to bright white, an instant transformation.
The work is a slow grind and very messy. It doesn’t require any special skills just focus and attention to the job at hand. There is a connection that occurs, a melding of the moment, moving the wand of high pressure water back and forth. It is a movement that is repeated, over the course of two hours ten thousand times. The sound of the machine is loud and drowns out all of the physical distractions around me. There is no time and space, there is simply the now, this place, this activity, this moment. I find zen, my zen in this very simple task.
Much is written and said about zen as if it were an emotion like being happy or sad. The first qualifier is that it is not an emotion it is the farthest state from an emotion. Zen is a presence, a position and maybe a place in your soul if you can find it, a button that gets pushed. Zen is seeing things without all of the other traffic or images your mind wants you to see. Pressure washing the driveway is simply that, pressure washing the driveway, peeling potatoes is peeling potatoes. If you can empty your thoughts, stop the distortions your mind wants and needs to create and simply peel potatoes you have found a moment of zen however fleeting it maybe.
Finding these moments in today’s distracting world are difficult for all of us. The biggest distractor for me is the little 2.5 x 5 inch rectangle I carry around seven days a week, 24 hours a day. It buzzes, it chimes, it rings alerting me to things that 95% of the time can wait but we are programmed, like Pavlov’s dog, to react and respond.
There is no zen in our cell phones, better yet, there is no living to be found inside of our cell phones. Steve Jobs never found that magic moment, that app, which would transform us into more conscious human beings. Maybe your cell phone can direct you to a spot high on a mountain top that, if you simply took the moment in, you would find something. But instead, most of us take a selfie and post it to Facebook, or Instagram or send a Snapchat to 500 of our “closest” friends.
Our moments in this world are limited and fleeting. Don’t waste them, they are not retrievable. Point your eyes north away from the mesmerizing glass screen and find your zen, your moments of living, peeling potatoes in the present.
“The only Zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” – Robert M. Pirsig