An Adventure in Projects

My mother can’t sit still. Neither can I. In spite of years of a semi-regular meditation practice, exercising like crazy, giving up caffeine (seldom and sporatic), and a host of other techniques, I still can’t sit still. In fact, the most accurate term for my behavior is “squirmy”. 

I squirm. A lot.

For ages I tried to fix my squirminess. But after reading the following in opening pages of The Wisdom of No Escape by Pema Chodron:

When people start to meditate or to work with any kind of spiritual discipline, they often think that somehow they’re going to improve, which is a sort of subtle aggression against who they really are.

I finally realized that I am my squirminess and my squirminess is me. 

I like being busy. I like being caffeinated. I like having to sort through chaos. I like having a to-do list eleven miles long. 

After coming to this conclusion, I delved head first into as many projects as I can handle. 

My current list of active projects includes:

  • building and finishing (in the woodworking sense) a bookcase
  • sorting through my enormous pile of mail and magazines
  • cleaning out our shed
  • overhauling my mountain bike
  • planning trekking itineraries for our new travel company
  • working out all the details of starting a small company
  • creating a website for above company
  • blogging
  • exercise (gym, swim, climb, run, bike, whatever)
  • photography (both educating myself and taking photos)
  • two different design projects: a backpack and a crash pad
  • finding fenders for my town bike

My current list of inactive projects:

  • cheese making
  • chocolate making
  • training for a marathon
  • repairing the fence 
  • building a new compost system in our yard
  • buying and installing a stereo in my truck
  • reading
  • overhauling my touring bike
  • cleaning out and donating all the crap I have in my basement and house that I haven’t touched for two years
  • antique sewing machine repair

The really interesting thing about projects is this: they truly are meditative. 

Even though the list seems crazy and disjointed (which it is), it also allows me to enter a place of stillness and presence of mind. 
Its exactly what Robert M. Pirsig describes in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I never truly realized it before I started on my projects kick, but I am seeking stillness amid all of my chaos. I want to be the hummingbird, buzzing wildly around. Beating its wings 50 times per second, yet still enough to slurp nectar from a flower.

While staining the bookcase last night, I had the most fantastic time. I had a beer on the windowsill, all of the lights on in the livingroom, blues playing. Just me, the paintbrush, and the bookcase. 

That is all that existed.

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