“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” Shunryu Suzuki
I like Zen’s emphasis on the ordinary and orderly. It provides an antidote to my culture’s obsession with speed and novelty. Just because something is new or fast doesn’t make it a worthwhile sucker of your time and life energy.
I just started volunteering at a local non-profit nature center. I do administrative things. Ironically, I am not a fan of the outdoors. So, people kept asking me, “Tell me more about why you are interested in volunteering here,” seeking my motivation. I told them that I am bored and want to use my skills for a useful purpose and that I cannot commit time-wise to a normal job.
I spent four hours in the office. Nothing particularly noteworthy happened. Until Liz came in. She was psyched to have someone willing to help organize some of the computer files, in particular the registration database. She wants to make it mail-merger friendly.
Now I am off and running. I spent last evening separating last and first names and moving columns of common information to the same relative locations on different sheets. It was boring, but it kept me busy and I know that what I am doing will make her job much easier.
And that’s where it’s at: making people’s jobs easier and things run more smoothly. So much of what we do is routine. To spend your day frustrated at the inability to get the routine stuff done expeditiously will make any worker frustrated. Frustrated workers seek alternative employment.
I am no expert on mail-merging. I’ve done it a couple times. So I have some brushing up to do. But the better I am at this stuff, the more I can help them and the more valuable skills I have. It feels good to help some place be more organized. Now I just need to apply more of that to my own life. When I was less organized, I felt like things were “good enough” for the longest time. Now that I have started the process, I just see everything as a big mess. If I ever get everything in my life in order, I will probably think things are more out of control than ever. I need to channel Suzuki Roshi.