Chopping Wood

Being Happiness - Chopping Wood

I love this (I found it again in The Snow Leopard, a beautiful book about wandering paths, and The Path, in the Himalayas):

How wondrous, how mysterious!
I carry fuel, I draw water.

P’ang Chu-shih – Layman P’ang

It’s the perfect Zen idea that all the wonder of the universe is available to us in the most simple actions – if we just stop and look!

This week I’ve been stopping and chopping wood. I have a bit of free time at the moment and find that I’m drawn endlessly to surfing the net – and though I haven’t been on the computer for more than two hours a day, surfing the net makes me ‘nervioso‘ as the Spanish say – anxious, stressed, and drains me quickly of body heat.

Perhaps I’ve overdone it over the past 8 or so years of heavy net-based work, and I’m burnt out.

So I go down into the garden and chop wood. How wondrous, how mysterious! This simple mechanical action fills me with happiness (and warms me up), and makes me wonder how I can turn my life further in this direction. The internet is increasingly unfulfilling. Reality is a joy!

Soon I’ll have chopped up all the wood from the pine trees I cut back outside the house this week. We thought about cutting more back, to get more light into the house, but I don’t think I can do it, as there are blackbirds and a family of blue- or great-tits that feed and roost in them. I can’t take away more of their habitat with the excuse that we, 3 humans, need more light.

So I’ll look for other everyday manual activities that make me equally happy.

Washing up, sweeping leaves – how wondrous, how mysterious! – Why not?

Being Happiness - Chopping Wood

A Very Good Plan


I found this wonderful text a couple of years ago on a Plum Village facebook page, saved it, and came across it again yesterday (just when I needed it of course!):

Many of us are always in a hurry. We hurry to finish one thing to do something else, and one task always follows another. If we have nothing to do we cannot bear it so we fill our time with countless projects and errands. 100 years pass like a dream. I do not want to live like that. I want to live at ease and deeply every moment of my daily life. I want to practice living happily in the present moment. I want to do less work, and work in such a way that every moment of my work brings me joy.

What an extraordinary good plan! I’ve decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into making this a reality. Life really is an incredibly precious gift and I miss lots of it everyday with so much rush and busyness. Living happily in the present moment, calmly, sounds like a wonderful plan to me.

Life is full of precious gifts

What gifts do pour forth upon each new day
If but we open our hearts to receive them.

Every day is full of amazing gifts. Starting with one new day. Another day on this beautiful planet. The first and greatest gift of all.

Then the sun, trees, daylight! People we meet, projects we are involved in, children, friends, smiles, conversations with shopkeepers, our legs and feet to move us around amongst it all, a good meal, a glass of clean water! A moment to pause. Space to think. Space to stop thinking…

Spring leaves, roadside flowers, gentle rain, birdsong.

A warm shower, a warm hug, a warm smile, a warm fire. A walk to… anywhere!

This breath… the next breath… this moment, and the next…

So many gifts! Every single day!

A Good Day

A friend send me this wonderful text by Brother David Steindl-Rast who I had never heard of. There is a video version at the bottom if you prefer to hear these things. Wonderful.

A Good Day

You think this is just another day in your life. It’s not just another day; it’s the one day that is given to you today. It’s given to you. It’s a gift. It’s the only gift that you have right now, and the only appropriate response is gratefulness. If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day of your life, and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well.

Begin by opening your eyes and be surprised that you have eyes you can open, that incredible array of colors that is constantly offered to us for pure enjoyment. Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky. We so rarely note how different it is from moment to moment with clouds coming and going. We just think of the weather, and even of the weather we don’t think of all the many nuances of weather. We just think of good weather and bad weather. This day right now has unique weather, maybe a kind that will never exactly in that form come again. The formation of clouds in the sky will never be the same that it is right now. Open your eyes. Look at that.

Look at the faces of people that you meet. Each one has an incredible story behind their face, a story that you could never fully fathom, not only their own story, but the story of their ancestors. We all go back so far. And in this present moment on this day all the people you meet, all that life from generations and from so many places all over the world, flows together and meets you here like a life-giving water, if you only open your heart and drink.

Open your heart to the incredible gifts that civilization gives to us. You flip a switch and there is electric light. You turn a faucet and there is warm water and cold water — and drinkable water. It’s a gift that millions and millions in the world will never experience.

So these are just a few of an enormous number of gifts to which you can open your heart. And so I wish for you that you would open your heart to all these blessings and let them flow through you, that everyone whom you will meet on this day will be blessed by you; just by your eyes, by your smile, by your touch — just by your presence. Let the gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you, and then it will really be a good day.

-Brother David Steindl-Rast

Be Kind

Last weekend we checked into a hotel in Barcelona, and came across a very, very tense young lady working at the check in desk. She didn’t agree with an aspect of our booking, something we had agreed with the guy that had taken our booking on the phone a week before.

Basically we had a two-bed ‘twin’ room for three of us – my wife and I would share a ‘single’ bed, and our son would have the other. Because the twin beds are huge, and every time we order a supplementary bed for our son, he ends up in one of the single ones, we end up in the other, and the cost of the supplementary bed is wasted. So we booked a twin room for the three of us, no extra bed.

The lady at the desk was not happy about this. Hotel policy dictated that as our son is over 2, everyone had to have their own bed. She began to get more and more fraught and uptight as we explained our position, and that we weren’t about to change our booking and pay more.

My initial reaction was defensiveness, which naturally turns into returned agression, but then I stopped and looked at her for a moment and saw that she was just incredible tense. I thought that maybe she had good reasons to be very stressed that day, and that me getting cross with her was not going to help. Who knows what it was? Her jaw was as tense as a two clamped iron girders.

What was going on in her life to make her so stressed? At home? At work? What could I do to not add to that? So I calmed down and smiled and breathed deeply, and pretty soon we resolved everything, and when I saw her later that day, she was smiling in a friendly way to us.

This is simply about a big realisation that I had in that moment. That we never know what’s going on in people’s lives that can make them difficult for us to deal with. But when we understand how tricky situations in our own life, families, work etc can make us stressed and hard to be with, it’s easy to transpose that understanding onto other people.

Yesterday I came across this quote, that sums it up pretty perfectly:



“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be Kind.”

Well, maybe not everyone is fighting a battle all day long, but everyone that’s having a bad day, or making your life difficult, probably is lost in some background suffering of one kind or another. It might be small, it might be huge. We just don’t know. The least we can do is to breathe deeply and be kind back to them.

What do you want to achieve today?

I used to be tormented by the question ‘What have you really achieved today?’ But now I understand there is another way of looking at it…

May I be calm and smiling when the rest of my family wakes up, that is the greatest gift I can offer them.

And with luck I’ll be able to offer a warm smile to everyone else I greet.

Perhaps I’ll have a chance meeting and happy conversation with a friendly neighbour in the street.

And stop to enjoy the light on the autumn leaves.

If I have time to stop completely and meditate for 20 minutes, to touch my inner peace, that is already enough.

If I create space to sip a cup of tea in silence and see the steam rising over the rim of the mug, and take in the perfection of that present moment, the day is complete.

If I can fill a day with such treasures, and really see the wonders of life surrounding me in the present, then all other conventional ideas of achievement evaporate into insignificance.

May all my days be spent like this, and whatever great plans come to fruition in the meantime, will be a happy bonus.

Today has mostly been like this. It’s been a wonderful day.