Last Saturday I had the pleasure of doing my first build day on site with Habitat for Humanity Bucks County Women Build. While I really enjoyed the seminars earlier this year I didn’t know what to expect from the day. All I knew was that I had set my intention to do whatever was needed, have a good time serving others while working on a team, and make whatever I got assigned to do into a meditation and learning experience. Good news is that I managed to do all of the above!
I ended up working on the team assigned to laying cinder block foundation. So I spent the day digging hard soil (lots of rocks in this area as I know from my own yard), chipping away mortar, mixing concrete, and laying block. While I was initially frustrated, it did indeed get better as my crew leaders had promised. I might add my crew leaders were the best — the right mix of helping, encouraging, and letting you learn as you go. What I kept thinking about for most of the day as I did the work was this famous Zen story:
“Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.”
What that means is that the tasks are the same, but who you are being as you do the tasks is totally different. While I am certainly not claiming enlightenment, I can say that I am so much better at being clear, open, and present with a task than I ever was before. Even tasks that are exhausting and not quite my cup of tea. Instead I did my best to approach it with the bigger picture in mind — serving families in need of decent housing and with the mindset that anything you do can be a meditation if you choose to allow it to be. And, when you do that a whole new world opens up to you.
I am certainly not going to turn to masonry as a career any day soon. In fact when one of the crew asked me if I wanted to make block laying my new career, I jokingly said “I’ll choose root canal or death!”. What I did gain was a whole new respect for people who work in construction or some sort of physical trade. I also was reminded how crazy busy my mind is, how quickly I get bored and frustrated when things aren’t going according to my expectations, and just how soft we all get with totally sedentary jobs.
While I am just now getting over being extremely sore (reminds me that while I am in good shape…hiking, biking, kayaking and weight lifting do not directly translate into block laying) — I am eager to go back and do another build day in June during their Women Build A Thon. First, I must get busy raising money so I can do so.
I highly recommend checking out a Women Build in your area. It is incredibly satisfying and amazingly empowering.