December 15, 2013

The Zen of Shoveling Snow.

Yesterday I posted a comment on Facebook stating that I had just finished shoveling snow and that it was almost meditative.

I suppose any repetitive work we do has the capacity to put us in a meditative state otherwise spiritual people wouldn’t use tools such as rosaries, malas and labyrinth paths to assist in achieving that mind set.

Snow shoveling has a nasty reputation. I doubt there are many people out there that profess: Oh snow shoveling! My favorite! I can’t wait to shovel snow! However, it can be a necessary job at times.

So yesterday, and this morning as I was feeling the glide and scrape of the shovel against the concrete driveway, a thought occurred to me that this simple job can hold a lot of life metaphors.

Dress Warm

If you are heading out to clear the snow, chances are it is pretty cold outside. This wearing means gloves, sweater, coat, boots and sometimes a hat and scarf. The thing is, over-layering can be a problem too, because when you get moving (shoveling snow can be a lot of work) you may start to sweat. Layering in clothes is necessary to protect you but knowing how much to layer without overheating can be tricky. You also need to be ready to slip off a few layers if needed.

How does this apply to life? First, being prepared can be paramount. Sure, we can get by without gloves and a hat to keep us warm, but probably not for long. Taking the time to prepare for something helps us handle situations with a little more ease.

We have so many tools at our disposal: meditation, prayer, guidance from those that have experienced it before—take what you need. But also, don’t spend so much time layering in practice that you miss out on what is important.

Yes, we can get so caught up in the practice sometimes that we forget how to apply it. If you mediate every day and read all the Buddhist and spiritual material out there, but you act like a jerk to your family and friends, then you aren’t really applying these tools in the right way.

Shovel Often

So you hear on the news that the area you live in is expecting to get hit with a big snow storm. After a bit of groaning from you and some celebration from the kids, you make sure you have enough groceries, locate your boots and fill up the snow blower with gasoline or dig out the shovel behind the rake. And then the snow starts. Now what?

As soon as there is more than an inch of snow I try to get out there and start working. Many people would call me foolish for doing this. What is the point of clearing the driveway when it’s still snowing? The point is if you put off getting out there and keeping the driveway clean, the snow gets thicker, and wetter, and heavier. This means it is a lot harder to shovel if you wait until morning. By clearing it off frequently, the job is quick and easy rather than hard and laborious.

This is just like our practices whether it be yoga or mediation. I know for me, when I hold off going to yoga for a few weeks, I feel it the next day. When we put time into anything often, we find it a little easier. Also, practicing meditation every day, even for just five minutes, can have huge benefits.

If It is Thick and Heavy, Work in Small Parts

This morning the snow was pretty thick and heavy. Usually I try to get outside multiple times to keep it light and easy, but since it snowed all night, I had a heavy blanket coating the driveway to deal with his morning. If you try to lift large amounts of heavy snow, it can really tax your body. Many heart attacks have occurred during snow shoveling since being outside in the cold air can constrict blood vessels. Combining that factor with some heavy lifting can be lead to a disaster.

When the snow is heavy like that, I know I’m going to have to take it in parts. Yes, this may take a little longer, but it’s easier and I won’t get too tired or sore.

This is a lot like life. Sometimes things can get overwhelming, especially during the holidays. Trying to keep family events straight while working and dealing with other situations that pop up in life like car repairs, home duties, and extended family can make you want to curl up under the covers and just not come out. When it all seems like it is too much to bear, take it in small parts—just like the snow. And yes, it may take you a little longer but you will get through it a lot easier. Break everything down into manageable steps to prevent a disaster.

Allow for Awe

Sure I can get pretty miserable if I think negatively while doing a job no one else in my family wants to do. I can stand out there and stew about not having help or wish I lived in a different climate. Except none of that type of thinking is going to get the driveway cleared and will actually make me feel even worse. So after a couple of minutes of internal complaining, I stopped and looked around.

My street was quiet because it was an early Saturday morning. The trees were outlined in icy white and the sun shining on the snow made it sparkle. Birds were huddling together in a bush nearby and I could hear their soft chatter to each other. I was suddenly awestruck by the beauty of it all. I was suddenly grateful to be able-bodied enough to be out there clearing the snow. I was filled with gratitude to have my family inside and warm in a comfortable house.

Getting caught up in negative thinking prevents us from experiencing awe. It prevents us from seeing the beauty and feeling gratitude. By shutting out that negativity and truly looking around, we sometimes see there is so much more that we are missing.

Okay, so I’ll admit that my favorite chore is not shoveling snow. I don’t like being cold and I would much rather be curled up in front to the TV with my kids, or reading a book, or even sledding down a hill than to be outside shoveling. But by being mindful, I realize that even in the chores we don’t like, there are lessons to be learned.

Now I’m off to find those sleds.


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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo Credit: Arun Seehra/Flickr Creative Commons

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