Monday, April 26, 2010

Zen Master Clothes Line

The other day my new and dearly beloved clothes line and I were having a little disagreement. Somehow the plastic line came off the metal pulley causing it not to work. This became the occasion for a little Dharma teaching; me as somewhat unwilling student and clothes line as Zen master.

I thought I would just quickly right the problem and slip the line back on the metal pulley and get on with things. I tried to do this in the easiest and quickest manner possible, not paying that much attention. "Let's get this done, should be easy."

First try entailed a fair bit of struggling and resulted in a product where the lines were crossed. At that point I was getting a little testy. The project seemed to require more strength than I had in my hands and I was getting tired of this. After a fair bit of gnashing and wrangling I realized that my frustration was nothing more than desire, wanting things to be my way. Oh and by the way they should be easy! It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, I was outside, yet I was annoyed and frustrated. When the truth struck me upside the head (Zen masters like to give a little wack when necessary) I decided to pause, take a breath and examine things from another angle. How did the pulley and line fit together? And maybe it just required a little concentrated attention, some awareness perhaps.

Sure enough in a minute or two I had it fixed. And I could see that my frustration was nothing more than desire sporting a different outfit. It seemed there were two kinds of frustration, one that is very much like that aggressive, shouting anger. How dare this happen? What a pain. I have better things to do. And the whiney depressed defeated frustration that says I'm never going to get this fixed. Why doesn't someone just come rescue poor me. I'm not strong enough for this task.

So that was how Zen Master Clothes Line offered up the Dharma for the day. I apparently have a thing for clothes lines. This little collage above is from a very old series called "Life On The Line" comprised of many scenarios on clothes lines, weddings, baby things, bears, gardening accoutrements, underwear, dogs, cats, even hockey things. You're getting the picture. And by the way, does anyone know how to use the little pulley contraption that connects the two lines?


  1. Wow! It is amazing how when we stop, pay attention and "listen" to a situation we can shift from closed mind to open heart...often the small mundane details of our lives...the little frustrations are indeed our biggest teachers. These are the things that say, "stop, wait, slow are stuck in a pattern here...what is it? is this really how you want to proceed? can you love this part of yourself even if it isn't how you envisioned yourself to be?" and so on.

    I love your clothes line collage btw!

  2. I love your metaphors here - turning your frustration into a zen lesson- perfect for explaining how slowing down, looking, and living in the moment really is best.

  3. Sorry, I have no ideas on the 'pulley contraption', but I do have to say I love your blog. I was recently in Victoria just driving around with my folks (Dad always likes Ocean Drive and to stop and point out the cantilevered house he built) and I realized I was very near where you used to live. And I wondered where you had moved to. And then you wrote about Salt Spring Island. Very fitting. Although your posts resonate with me, I find I am no where near the acceptance you seem to have with life. Ah, the greener grass on Salt Spring.

  4. Thanks to all for adding to the conversation, yes there it is, frustration as opportunity. And as you mention Laura, our task is to accept it all. And Kennedy Ink, it sounds like you were very near my old house. Sounds like you were on Dallas Road and Beach Drive and if you were near to Beacon Hill Park you were very close by. And some times there is acceptance and some times resistance, the human dance I think!

  5. There's nothing fresher than clothes that have almost dried and then frozen overnight. Then thawed out before being worn.
    Anyway, I have learned more about myself from inanimate objects than I ever have from people. Peoples opinion of me changes as do their reactions to me over time. Objects usually behave the same way towards me. It's from my accommodation to the reality of the object that I learn.

  6. Nice blog you got here... Just droppin' by to say hi!

  7. Interesting insight, Helmut. Yes there is so much swirling around a human interaction. And I experience this as true, that the static quality of an inanimate object allows us to see with more ease. There has been some chat lately on a few blogs about animals and this observation of yours also makes me wonder if our deep relationship and love for our pets revolves around the simplicity of these connections (not that they are inanimate!)

    Hello tagskie, thanks for dropping by!

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