Zen and the art of screwing

I had to screw a locking bolt on to the door of the hut in our garden today. I am not useless at DIY but this is the sort of thing that could easily drive me nuts. The screwdriver might slip in the screw. There might be knots in the wood that make it difficult to screw properly. I might have to stand in a difficult or awkward position to be able to get enough purchase to screw the screws in.

Any or all of the above would in the past have been enough to push me over the edge. I would have seen it as a personal attack on me that the process wasn’t going well and would let it get to me at a very fundamental level. In response to such trivia I could really lose my temper.

None of that happened today. I have been practising mindfulness meditation again on a regular basis and today I was able just to notice what was happening. To notice the screw and how it was formed. To notice the screwdriver and how it felt in my hand. To notice me noticing the screwdriver. The end result was that I managed to screw the locking bolt onto the door with little effort and without once losing my temper.

I need to apply this principle to more of my life.

9 thoughts on “Zen and the art of screwing

  1. Euan, you were also tackling a compromise technology. For example, you might have been tackling a Phillips or Pozidriv screw head. They are designed to "cam out" so as to spare the head of an automated screwing machine, and that does not make for an optimal drive for hand-driven work…Seems to me the ideal screw drive for handiwork would be the Robertson drive, which is popular in Canada but not well known elsewhere; or the torx. But when you can't get a good screw, the Zen approach is good advice!


  2. I have been amazed at how a decent handheld electric drill and an elaborate kit of bits has improved my self-image at this sort of thing. It's more brains than brawn now. So I tell myself. It's certainly a lot more fun. Press the trigger for a few instants… buzz… buzz… and the job it done. The magic of technology. It's analogous to using the net.


  3. Thanks for all the DIY tips guys but I obviously wrote this post badly – it was meant to be about mindfulness! I have taken on some pretty big projects in the past and have a power screwdriver with loads of heads – just didn't have it with me. I was trying to convey something akin to Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance which was the first time I was introduced to the idea that the world is neutral and not out to get us. It is our own thoughts that overlay things with meaning and often negative meaning at that.


  4. I empathize with the anger bit – you described that well and I think "me too". The noticing: I'll try that next time I get unreasonably affronted by an inanimate object. As Pirsig probably said, the journey is all around us, and it sounds like you took time out to change the quality of your being present.


  5. That would be the opposite of Zen, I guess. Like taking the book "Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance", and wedging the door shut with it.


  6. Love the Zen thing…I've been on a mission to apply this approach to life and it's seemingly mind boggling nuances I think since reading The Celestine Prophecy 2 decades ago and have a much better appreciation of life and The God of Small things ever so…makes life so much more enjoyable….love this post…thanks…


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