Axes and knives are perhaps not the first things you would think of when approaching mindfulness and wellbeing, they are certainly not going to be handed out with the yoga mats or as part of guided meditation. Elements from each of these however are a wonderful part of working with wood and though unexpected they may be, give many of the qualities of more traditional forms of these practices. I suspect many creative processes hold similar powers, sweeping a paintbrush on canvas or turning pottery but for me it’s wood and finding the various items within them from spoons to butter spreaders and cake knives.
Meditation works it magic by focusing us solely on something simple, often our breathing, concentrating upon that task so purposefully that the constant input our minds are trying to deal with drops away. Once in that state we can start to objectively view these stimuli and assess how they are affecting us. Confession time…I struggle with this, those thoughts are always tooting their horn and I can go from mindfulness to just a full mind far to easily. When it works I adore it as all the noise drifts away but it’s not something I can achieve with consistency.
Pop an axe in my hand and some cherry to shape though and it’s a different story…okay, bear with me here, it’s not as crazy as it sounds. To get the most from the tools I use they have to be sharper than sharp, each movement learned in using them is designed to keep myself as safe as possible. To begin with this is a collection of thoughts and micro actions, where is my hand, where am I aiming, what am I trying to cut, which over time becomes a very specific movement, each thought becomes part of one thing. This movement becomes a singular focus, repeated over and over during a project. Other thoughts get pushed aside, the hubbub of the world takes a step back, instead of focusing on a breath it is the repeated swing of the axe as a spoon blank begins to take shape. In doing so, this need to make a precise, well judged strike, or knife stroke creates the perfect moment of mindfulness and peace for me.
The first time this happened I finally understood another concept too, being in the moment. For a long time I had connected this to beautifully instagram worthy adventures, of a certain brand of freedom. As I zoned in on my work though I at last got the connection to mindfulness that actually lies within the idea of being in the moment and it was actually very simple. I was solely in that moment, that action, a singular process. It helped me to start finding that in other moments and how I personally approach that.
I imagine there are certain other elements in this recipe for a calm mind, I love my work, I love how it feels with an axe in hand and simply the act of creating something puts me more at ease. So this mindfulness is not just tied to chopping wood or carving a spoon, rather it is born from a passion for something that you connect with intimately. Finding that something that your soul connects with is in itself a very worthy cause but in doing so you may find something altogether more peaceful and that moment is well worth looking for.
I will be running workshops throughout the festival weekend – pop by and say hello.
Vic Phillips, Single Malt Teapot
Visit the Single Malt Teapot for more information about Vic Phillips and the good life journey.