The Zen of Lawn Mowing
I'm going to tell you a secret: I love cutting my lawn.
Oh sure, after spending two hours on a ride on tractor, having my hands smell like gasoline, and getting dust and dirt all over me, you might think otherwise. But don't be fooled. This is a labor of love and my bit of zen exercise.
Ridiculous, you say? That may be—especially to you city folk. There's not a whole lot of lawn cutting you can do in a concrete jungle or on places where a blade of grass needs to cut through concrete to meet the sun. But let me tell you, anyone who owns a lawn mower (and uses it) has found a peace in the smell of cut grass and order in the lines of his tire tracks.
What Is Zen?
For those of you not acquainted with eastern philosophy, zen is the art of being in the moment—for lack of a better term.
You enjoy doing what you're doing while you're doing it. Your mind is focused on an action and for a moment you and the action are one. Zen can be realized in almost anything. For writers, it's the act of writing and being one with one's thoughts as you're creating them. For a cook, it's the focused intent of cutting the food, heating the the pan and the oil, smelling the aroma of the cooked food, and tasting the product as it's being cooked.
Zen is simple. Zen is now. Zen is life while you're living it. Even now, as you read my words, you are experiencing zen because you are reading for the sake of reading and concentrating on the words I've just written. Like now . . . and now.
Cutting the Lawn and Meditation
Meditation takes the form of essentially releasing your thoughts and thinking of nothing.
You don't need to be lying down or sitting with your legs in strange positions. Sometimes, it can be just the act of walking. It can also be while you're driving. In my case, I do it while I'm cutting the grass.
I start my grass cutting meditation by checking the gas and oil in my tractor. If the gas is low, I fill it. If the oil needs to be changed, I'll make a note of it and change the filter after I'm done. I back out the mower from the garage and leave it there until I'm ready to cut the grass.
Before I start the mower, I'll inspect the lawn for dead branches or other things that may be caught in the blades. I'll also move any of the lawn furniture out of the way, so I don't have to stop cutting once I start. And even if I do, that's okay.
I'll start up the tractor and start cutting the perimeter of the first third of my property. This will give me a border and I'll cut around this twice. There are many ways to cut a lawn, just as there are many ways to get from your home to your job. Every so often I'll mix them up. You can cut in long vertical lines, you can cut in a reverse "corkscrew" pattern (going round and round until you arrive at the center) or you can cut horizontal lines. I prefer vertical lines because it makes the property look longer than it really is. It gives it more depth.
Cutting the lawn vertically allows you the luxury of focusing on where the lawn has already been cut. You can focus the tire track on where the long grass is and compare it to where the short grass is. If you're doing it right, the grass that is cut will look darker than the grass you've cut from a different direction. It's hard to describe, but you'll know it when you see it. Ideally, when you're done, it should give your lawn a "striped" look.
You've probably seen it on baseball fields.
The slow vertical passes are times when you can let your mind wander in the background while your conscious mind pays attention to the lawn. True zen is your focus - you're doing what you're doing while you're doing it. As you meditate you are cutting the lawn. Your mind is focused on the task. You are now mindful of how much grass is in your bag and how much lawn you've already cut.
As I finish the first third of the lawn, I empty the cuttings in a hidden part of the property and allow it to compost. I reattach the bag and repeat the cycle for the other two thirds of the lawn. I make the perimeter. I set my pattern. I cut the lawn. And I'm mindful of everything as I'm doing it.
When I finish the lawn, I'll look back on my work. If I need to, I'll ride the tractor to any spots I've missed and cut those. When everything is done, I'll ride my mower back to the garage and shut it off, close the garage door, and look back on my job with a matter of pride that it was done as well as I could do it.
There is a certain amount of stress we all accumulate within our lives. When our lives get too complex, we, as human beings, require simplicity. Simplicity is either done in work or in play. Whatever you do, you should be committing to doing it.
If you are going to work, then work. If you're going to play, then play. Try not to play when you have work on your mind, if you do that, you're just wasting time. Try not to work when you are playing or thinking of things other than work. It's okay if you enjoy your job. Ideally, that's what we all shoot for. However, if you are doing at task at hand, you should be focused on the task.
This is why we have meditation. It's a way to reset your mind. I know, it's not always easy to do. The world and life's drama get in the way. This is why we have a need for simplicity. You can do that all the time.
If you've noticed, this article is not about cutting a lawn. It's a way to live your life.