Posted by: Mark Nielsen | June 24, 2010

Zen and the Art of Lawnmower Maintenance

Since the Zen path of wisdom is supposed to involve experience, not knowledge, I had a good little breakthrough this past weekend. I fixed our old John Deere.

By staying centered (focused) and serving (my family), I stumbled my way toward success, in the arduous task of finding and fixing an electrical problem. I’m not usually “mechanically-minded” and thus went in not knowing what I was doing. But I believed I ought to try, that I had what it took, which in itself is good to be able to say. Then the discipline of believing “maintenance” is part of God’s plan gave me stamina in tracing electrical wires, cleaning little crevices that have not been looked at in over ten years, summoning vague distant memories about electricity, physics and mechanics, keeping the anger and the ANTs at bay (ANT=Automatic Negative Thought, a big problem for shame-bound men).
To top it off… there was a steady sense of identifying with my late father (an electrician by trade) through the whole several hour process. Needless to say, we were very different. Yet Saturday, it was as if he was sitting beside me, sometimes just watching, sometimes reminding me of something, sometimes encouraging.

It may sound minor, but the joy and relief I felt when I got it working was like a little “turning point”, or a test I had passed. And even if I had “failed” (to get it running), I still would have passed, by being ready to make the attempt, by overcoming all those feelings of “I can’t”, and the dread that what’s broke will always be broke. Hearts –and switches for lawnmower blades– can indeed be repaired.


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