Making difficult work a meditative act

By Rachel Saum


In the transitional season of fall, my heart is full.  As the air becomes crisp and the leaves begin their showy display, I feel my spirits lift in recognition of this beautiful time of year. Along with the changes in weather and foliage color, Mother Nature gives us her greatest gift: a bountiful harvest. Apples drop from trees, pumpkins begin to turn in the fields, and the cooler weather gives way to sweet root crops and healthy greens.

I can’t help but gush about the abundance of produce in this season – as a vegetable farmer, I work all summer long in the heat, waiting for fall to bring us its nourishment (and cooler temperatures!).  This summer, though, I adopted a helpful practice to use during the more tedious tasks of my work. When the physical labor and heat of working in the sun begin to feel like a chore, I turn my attention toward positive thoughts and begin to make the task a meditative act.  

For example, when I get tired and achy from picking beans from their low-lying bushes for the third time that week, I can choose to be irritated by the work that they make for me and focus on that negativity, or I can choose a new perspective.  Here are some of my favorite ways to do this:  With each bean that I pick, I like to say a message of gratitude as I put it in the bucket.  It is truly remarkable to realize how much I have to be thankful for!  Or, if my mind is particularly overactive one day, overanalyzing a situation that occurred earlier, I simply work on clearing my mind of its restless thoughts. I tune in to the sounds and sensations around me, noticing birds chirping, bees buzzing on flowers nearby or the weight of each tomato as I hold it in my hand.

Some days, it is really difficult to move away from the reel of thoughts that play in my head, but the important thing is to keep bringing your attention back to what you want to focus on in life.  People work all kinds of different environments, but I believe that this practice of mindfulness can be adapted to fit any situation.  If we can recognize the tendencies of our mind to focus on irritation, frustration or bitterness, and step outside of it, our work can become much more enjoyable. 

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