When F and I were first talking about buying a house, doing yardwork was one of the things I was least looking forward to. I’d never mowed a lawn in my life – my parents’ next door neighbor when I was a kid was an old guy who just liked to mow, so they let him have at it. Ever since moving out of my parents’ house for college, my idea of yardwork has been repotting a houseplant. Then we bought a house with a big backyard – a house that hadn’t been lived in for over a year, and before that had been owned by an older man in poor health. To say that the yard was in need of attention was an understatement: the lawn hadn’t been mowed in weeks, the bushes were determinedly trying to take over the front walk, the rose bushes had been engulfed by weeds for so long that the weeds had grown into 15-foot weed trees, and the ivy was everywhere. As a housewarming gift, my parents bought us a lawn mower and a weedwacker (among other things) and lent us their hedge trimmers, and… we got to work.
My first try at mowing the lawn was surprisingly satisfying: getting all the little clumps, making the lines straight and even, mowing around all the obstacles. Going after the weed trees was even better – clipping and chopping and hacking until we found the fence under there! (It’s a six foot fence. I’m serious, weed trees.) I spent close to two hours on Sunday turning the huge bushes out front into smooth, neat hedges again, even though my arms hurt from the vibrations of the hedge trimmers. And after each yardwork session, we bag up all the clippings and take them out to the curb.
It struck me that meditation is a lot like yardwork, and yardwork can be a form of meditation. When I’m doing yardwork, I’m completely focused on the task in front of me – the sort of one-pointed concentration I strive for in my meditation practice. In yardwork, you can see immediate results – the weeds are gone, the lawn mowed – similar to the calm feeling you may get at the end of a meditation practice, but the real satisfaction, I imagine, comes in taking good care of your lawn in the long term, planting your garden and watching it grow. This too is like meditation, where the practice we do now sets the stage for future growth. Maybe in meditation you discover something unexpected, like the wasps’ nest I found under the second hedge on the right. (I’m not dealing with the wasps’ nest yet, but it’s sure good to know it’s there!) And, finally, you don’t have to be particularly good at yardwork to be successful, just like in meditation. Whether you’re a professional lawn care expert or a newbie like me, at the end of the day, the grass is shorter. All you have to do is show up and do the work.