Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Zen of Home Renos

I could make excuses for being awol from the blogging world but what are excuses anyway? Justification, explanation, the whirring of monkey mind when we feel we should have done other than we did. Wisdom lies simply in acknowledging what is. I have been preoccupied sweeping and phoning and feeding the fabulous carpenter who is staying with us while he does some reno work in our new-to-us house. It felt comfortable to use a dear friend's brother, from another island, to tackle the long list of jobs we had for our new place, jobs that fell beyond our meager skill set.

So with some enthusiasm and a smidge of trepidation we invited someone we hadn't met and his two papillion puppies into our home to stay while he worked, putting in doors, taking out shower stalls and walls. It has worked out swimmingly. He is skilled and quick, good company and easy to get along with. I remember my Zen teacher saying when things went well: "it didn't have to be this way." In other words appreciate and feel grateful for what goes well and smoothly in your life. Too often we tend to ignore these things. We never think, "gee I am glad not to have a toothache!"

And as always there is Dharma in everything. I get to watch my habitual tendencies, the tendency to feel a bit on edge having someone I don't know around the house 24/7. And then when I remember, I remind myself to relax and just be the silly, foolish self that is me and to enjoy our new housemate with all his own fun and quirky details.

Not being a dog person I wondered about having 2 busy little dogs around the house and honestly they are fine, cute, quiet and well behaved. I even found them sleeping in front of the Buddha in the Zendo one afternoon. Before I could snatch a picture I had disturbed them and they got up. So I am learning new things. I remember the words of Patrul Rinpoche in "Words of My Perfect Teacher" when he lists the difficulties that sentient beings born into the animal realm have. I don't worry so much that they hop up on the blanket on the couch for a little snooze.

A small glitch in a wall that got opened up presented a problem and over dinner we came to a compromise solution on how it could be dealt with, not what I had hoped for, "but sure the easy way would be okay, I agreed." But when I awoke in the morning I knew it was not a comprise I wanted to make if at all possible. So over coffee I pursued an alternate solution, asking more questions and I found that I could get closer to the outcome (less wall, more open space) that I was looking for. It reminded me that kind and thoughtful perseverance is a good thing, that if something is important to you it is worth following every thread to the end. A big Dharma lesson for me over the years has been that, just because I decide on one thing in the evening, doesn't mean the issue can't be revisited the next morning. I tend to operate from "well I agreed to this, I need to stick to it." It has been a big lesson for me to learn, that I can change my mind, nothing is written in stone. You can always move from where you are.

And I could feel so much gratitude for our carpenter's cheerful ways and competence in his work. I feel very fortunate to have found such an easy, uncomplicated solution to the work that needed doing. And so while I have been simply leading an ordinary life doing mundane things like preparing 3 meals a day and sourcing material and gathering needed supplies, the day is filled with Dharma, the dharma of working with habitual tendencies and of feeling gratitude for an easy relationship with our skilled help. It is fun to prepare food for him as a sort of offering.

What Dharma are you finding these days in your ordinary life?


  1. I like these rooms...the butter yellow of the walls and what might be a rich red wall near the brick...floor, chairs and the windows...oh, the windows looking out on green! I'm so glad you have someone to help with the list of things to accomplish in your new to you home. I'm changing my front windows (three large ones)and he says it will only take one day...that will be one interesting day!

  2. The red wall is going to open up to more of the great, green outdoors. Good luck with the windows! Sounds like an intense day. And so much opportunity to practice patience and kindness and wisdom! We do feel blessed to have found competence and good humour in one human package!

  3. How beautiful! I've always enjoyed the skilled tradespeople who have shared my vision of Home. After working for some time with our current bodhisattva, I have become sensitive to his quiet "hmmmm" that suggests I may want to re-think my grandiose plans. Dharma in my life right now is how to negotiate through the greed of organizational politics without being swept away by my own greed. Another form of taking down walls.

    Good to read you again. I was going into withdrawal!

  4. Yes, I was feeling withdrawal symptoms myself! :)

    As for "Dharma in ordinary life" - well I'm juggling how to make enough money to live on, maintaining my roller coaster health, meeting the needs of my aging mother who is having eye surgery next week, trusting that all is as it should be - not trying to *make* anything happen, and not making a story out of any of it... Mostly it's one step in front of the other, seeing what I need to see in the immediacy of each experience...

    Glad you're back! :)

  5. "kind and thoughtful perseverance" are two points that I am glad you've reminded me to keep together. Sometimes I forget to keep both elements and let my emotions take over.

    How fortunate to have found someone you can trust for your renovations. So I guess that red wall in the pic will disappear? The windows in that far room must have a beautiful view.

  6. PS :) I did notice that you have a wonderful spot there in the far room for "window sitting" ;)C

  7. Ah yes, if we are paying attention there is always enough Dharma in everyday life to keep us on the toes of our practice! Greed, hate, the tug of family, the pull of the emotions. Thanks to all 3 of you for reminding me the great breadth of things we humans train with.

    Ah, Christine, window sitting, I think I could use some of that right now in my life.

  8. I am not sure I know the actual meaning of Dharma, except that is a Buddhist teaching of enlightenment. With all of political drama, I have been dealing with anger and forgiveness. I decided to cast my vote, turn the news off and let what is, be!
    On a brighter note I love your new habitat! It's becoming everything I would expect for you. Uncluttered, light and lovely. Just beautiful!

  9. Hello Eva. Dharma is simply the teachings of the Buddha. And I hear you living the Dharma, acknowledging your anger, working with forgiveness, doing what you felt was right (voting, yay!) and then letting it all go! Good for you.

    And now we are covered in a thin icing sugar layer of drywall dust! The nest making continues.