Blog by Norman Skiba
As someone with a long history of Zen meditation practice in my younger days called zazen, there is also a moving/walking/working meditation called kinhin. I find myself doing kinhin autonomically while working in my garden. Whether picking weeds, hoeing, or planting. Call it ‘In The Zone!’ It appears to be a non-focused ‘focused’ experience for me at times; even though it probably should be a focused dynamic. When you have a large bed of serious weeds it is daunting; but you put your head down and you start at the beginning and somehow work your way to the end. Your back and hands suffer tremendously – yet you get it done. You cannot think – Oh my God, what a nightmare – it is a nightmare, but you tune it out and you focus on the here and now and it all works out. Your Mind tends to ramble on into many thoughts and for me that is good since it is not after the formal Zazen focused mind thing I am after, rather than trying to do a tough job and not being worried about the actual hassle of the task. I get the same thing driving the garden tractor cutting grass or driving my farm tractor moving chips and firewood etc. Though with the farm tractor you have to be a bit more diligent as such. This non-focused focused meditation is another type of meditation and it can get creative and also very deep in pondering many different things in your life and also in your head.
Well similar processes go on while I smoke my pipe – usually in the early A.M. with a pot of good coffee! It gives me some time to be peaceful, listening and watching the birds, listening to other ambient sounds, and to enjoy a pipe and think of things I need to do for the day, and also just random thoughts that appear. Once you light the pipe and start to enjoy the pipe and the tobacco, your mind seems to open up to a myriad of thoughts and observations. Nothing else seems to matter in the moment. Very early in the morning, most people are not even awake and this is my time. I do feel guilty not getting a jump on stuff early in the morning with so much to do here on the small homestead; yet the idea of some peaceful time to enjoy a bowl or two seems like a worthy act and a nice way to get the day started. More guilty when it gets unbearably hot – one needs to get stuff going early on before the old body poops out and the heat wastes you and the mind away. Winter does get cold in the shed so it can be a bit trying, but it is nice to enjoy a bowl with coffee and get back in to throw more wood in the woodstove and warm up a bit before going back out to get work done. In my old age guilt seems to way heavy – just too much to do with one person (and my best friend, my dog). Heh! Heh!
In another sense – after 50 years, I am starting to learn to be a more calm puffer and trying to not rush through bowls. I have always been a faster smoker, but I have finally begun to learn about the ‘Art of Pipesmoking’. (Can I help I am a slow learner…) Many thoughts about this ‘Art’ too, also come into being while smoking and actually is the stimulus for the few short little articles I have written which Steve has posted here on his Reborn Pipes site. I am not a writer and do not pretend to be. These articles or little ditties as Frank Zappa would say are from my ruminations while smoking my pipes. They are a result of the various meditations that occur in my head/Being. Probably 99% of the time I smoke alone in these 50 years. So it is not a social ‘thing’, rather than a personal thing. In the past with 2 huge pipe collections I find I probably got caught up into the acquisition of pipes – and that ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality was unsettling , uneconomical in my situation, and a distraction of the actual enjoyment of pipesmoking. I also have found that the various forums online are also a drag to my economic state, and also sidetrack one from the actual pipesmoking dynamic. The various people and their trips and their egos and psychological agendas were a letdown. Sorry for my critique and honest thought. Staying away from such environments also gives me more time to smoke another bowl or two and to get my work done. As I said to Steve a while back – I smoked alone before there was an internet and there is no need for me to have to be a part of some smoking group to be able to enjoy my pipes and tobacco. Lastly, I also have totally downsized my extensive collection to 5 and may get a 6th; but that is all I need. Each one is unique and special and each one smokes wonderfully, with a new meer from Steve blowing all others out of the water. I really can enjoy the extra time per pipe and I also can only work on decently coloring so many meers in the little time I have left on Mother Earth. In addition the limited supply of tobacco is an issue and having more pipes and no tobacco seems a bit like ‘peeing in the wind’ as the expression goes. So I enjoy the pipes and tobacco and the special time I have in peace smelling the Latakia, admiring the pipes – both briar shapes and grains and meer carvings – and see what evolves in my head in the form of various thoughts, observations, and ideas, letting my Mind wander on the Journey into Bliss!