Some might call me high-strung; some might even use the adjective “twitchy.” Let’s just say my motor has a fast idle setting. I get it from my mother, who collected anxieties the way others collect Hummel figurines.
So, in a lifelong pursuit of chill I have tried an array of techniques: long-distance running (time-consuming), self-medication (not recommended), and a long list of disciplines and therapies that could be lumped together under the category of meditation and spiritual practice (which work pretty well with regular and frequent application).
But I found myself more chilled out than I have been in a long time after a prolonged session of what you might call “brush meditation” – no, not the kind George W. Bush did at his Texas ranch – the kind where you start with a bunch of unfinished pine doors and trim, a couple bushes and a supply of satin urethane.
It has a beginning, an end and a process. It not only doesn’t require thinking, it extinguishes thinking. There is only bare wood, or smoothly and precisely coated wood. One coats only the wood, and not the newly-laid floor or freshly-painted wall, or one’s clothing, shoes, hair, glasses and face. There is no way to hurry. It takes exactly as long as it takes.
When there is no bare wood left, you go back to the now dry first door, lightly sand (long smooth stokes, always with the grain), wipe, and do it all over again.
In the end, the warm wood glows with inner light. You can step back, at peace for once, and feel an elation that is not entirely fume-induced.