When spring rolls around, it always seems like the list of projects on the farm goes from zero to 100 overnight. There is so much work to do, and most of it depends on weather conditions.
Garden boxes can be built, but they cannot be placed in the garden until the winter snow melts. Minor repairs can be made to animal enclosures in any weather, but they cannot be completely rebuilt until the weather is good enough for them to be less dependent on shelter. And there are times when you don't know things are broken because you haven't used them all winter!
This was the case last week when I tried to start my riding mower. The endless rains we've had for the past few weeks have taken the grass from nearly dead to knee high in no time.
I couldn't wait to drive my mower around the lawn to cut it down to size, but I felt a shock when I turned the key to start my mower and nothing happened. The lights did not come on and the engine did not run. There were only a few pitiful clicks, followed by silence.
Needless to say, this made me uncomfortable. Riding mowers aren't cheap and I dreaded the thought of having to buy a new one. Also, my mower is only a few years old. It made no sense that he was giving up the proverbial ghost after such a short time.
As I often do, I turned to the internet for advice. I have learned that it is not uncommon for lawn mower batteries to die during the winter. As they age, it becomes more difficult for them to hold a charge and the problem is exacerbated by cold temperatures.
What I experienced was a common problem with a simple fix. I just needed to recharge the battery. And if it didn't work, I would have to replace it with a new one.
So I took the jumper cables out of the trunk of my car and connected my lawnmower battery to my car battery to charge the latter. The process was made more difficult by the fact that the lawnmower's battery is under the seat and the lawnmower will not start unless the seat is down and someone is sitting on it. This is a safety device put in place so that the mower's engine will shut off if someone falls off the seat while mowing the grass. As a result, I had to charge the battery for several minutes before I could test to see if the process worked.
While it charged, I took care of other chores around the farm. I continued to work to frame the greenhouse I am building. I fed the animals and watered the garden. I did my best to keep my mind focused on the present moment rather than letting it dwell on worst-case scenarios.
Eventually I went back to the garage, unhooked the charging cables and tried to start the mower. The first attempt met with minor success. Then the motor revs but it does not turn. So I tried again and got the same result. Now I was increasingly concerned that besides the battery, there might be other things on the lawn mower that needed fixing.
But I took a deep breath and turned the mower key once more. On my third attempt, the motor ran smoothly and the mower ran like new.
I find that returning to spiritual practice can be similar to the experience I had with my lawnmower. There are countless reasons why we may press 'pause' on our spiritual journey – not to chant, meditate or study the sutras as the Buddha instructed. There may be changes in our work schedule, so we cannot visit the temple as often as we would like. Maybe we finish reading one sutra and get distracted in our search for another, or maybe we just need a break. Whatever the reason for our interruption, it can be difficult to return to the cushion. We may struggle to slip back into old routines and feel like nothing is happening as we work to get back into the groove.
At times like these, it can be helpful to think of the work we do as recharging our spiritual batteries the same way I had to recharge my lawnmower battery after a long winter.
It's not a fun or sexy job and, frankly, it can be frustrating at times. But if we persevere, our spiritual engines will turn with renewed vigor and we can mow the grass of our filth.
Namu Amida Butsu