Sometimes we lose our focus and motivation. It evades us, and we have to do something to recapture it and talk it into sticking around for a while. The answer for me this time started and ended with a little Zen.
Much of this past month, I felt restless. By the time I got home from work or the weekend rolled around, my ability to focus was diminished. Rather than tackling tasks with purpose, I felt indifferent. I sat down to write a few times, but despite all of the ideas floating around in my mind, none of them shined brighter than the rest. Everything seemed lackluster.
In an earlier part of my life, I spent a year working for my dad doing manual labor in a warehouse without heat or air conditioning. It was hard work, especially for a girl who is much more comfortable in an office, but I learned some things. One particular grueling day, my dad asked me to clear out a big pile of dirt on the back driveway. The temperature hovered around 100 degrees, and I had been working 6 hours already. I was exhausted, but I gathered my energy, grabbed the shovel, and went outside.
Scoop, toss. Scoop, toss. Scoop, toss. The only sounds I heard were those of the shovel and the movement of the dirt. Scoop, toss. Scoop, toss. A warm breeze swept through and eased the run of sweat dripping down my face. Scoop, toss. Scoop, toss. I began to feel a sense of peace in the repetition. I no longer had to think about what I was doing but simply did it. My arms and back ached but my mind was clear and calm. It was the first time I experienced a sense of Zen.
Last week, tired of my restlessness, I decided to pick up my shovel and headed outside to start clearing garden space. Our vast yard was neglected by the previous owners, and though we have made some progress in improving it, there is still an immense amount of work to do. I sank the shovel into the dirt to loosen it and began pulling weeds and roots from their resting places. The longer I did this, the more focused I became. It was tiring, but the repetition and simplicity of the task put my mind at ease. I felt calm and balanced and felt a building sense of accomplishment, so I saw the task through to the end.
The timing was perfect when my mother-in-law suggested we work on the garden the following weekend. The hardest part of clearing the space was already done, so we spent the morning and early afternoon doing the fun part of shopping for plants and adding them to the new garden area.
My focus had returned after clearing the garden space, and it fueled my motivation. I’ve been spending more time outside lately wandering the yard with the dogs, and I realized that I needed a better personal space in the backyard. The same weekend that I cleared a section of the garden, I also revamped our outside seating area with a little spray paint and decor.
I created a space where I can spend more time in the elements doing some of my favorite things like reading, hanging out with the dogs, daydreaming, and of course, writing. It is a space that has already sparked inspiration. The day I finished the sitting area, I sat down with a cold beer and a dog in my lap and churned out two blog posts. And then for a while I just sat, thinking and feeling happy.
A beautiful garden and a comfy seating area by the pool – for me this is backyard Zen.
We have to create a shift to get our focus and motivation back. We have to try something new, create something different, or make a change to our environment. Sometimes all it takes is a simple task to shift our mindset, and then we can get back on track.
How can you create more Zen in your realm?