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the beauty of ‘doing less’

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During last weekend’s silent retreat (see post of March 29), my task was to sweep the walk-way leading from our little meditation hall to the outdoor toilet. It had been raining all morning and I encountered puddles sprinkled with pine needles. As the broom’s bristles pushed the water off to the side, I noticed that the needles stuck to the boards’ surface. The more pressure I applied, the more they hung on: when I changed to softer brush-strokes, they let go and followed the broom’s motion. A simple shift — doing less — brought satisfactory results.

During my recent house move, several people came to help. One person in particular came in spite of having all kinds of body pains and was of great help loading and unloading the truck. Each time I saw certain behaviors in him which I’d never noticed before, I felt intimidated and resentful. But I didn’t react! In the past I might have walked right in the middle of things, made some smart-ass comment, even challenged his way of upsetting my little world. Instead, I held my tongue, busied myself elsewhere, and said nothing. The jobs got done and the dust settled.

Three weeks later, during a social visit, our topic of conversation drifted to moods and attitudes and I mentioned the incident. I was able to speak directly, sticking to observations and reactions. No blaming or analyzing, just the facts as best as I could recall, making it possible for us to talk about ways we behave in stressful settings.

Two opportunities to learn from ordinary interactions; two teachers … pine needles here and furniture movers there.



2 responses »

  1. Peter I am inspired by your thoughts on “the beauty of doing less.” I often wonder if I am doing enough. Even though I know to do more would impact on the quality of what I am doing and experiencing now. So though I wonder I stick with the “less” and I suppose things do move like the pine needles and the movers:)

  2. Terrill, I feel lazy at times — having worked long hours since age 13. So this one is not about working harder and longer but, as you indicate, about the quality of our actions.


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