Buddhist Teachings, Joyful Effort, and Boat Work

When we came back from the ICW last year and the boat was finally pulled, it was easy for me to walk away from the boat shed and leave that to-do list firmly on the back burner. In fact, it felt good to spend a winter- a long, brutal, dark, land-based, car-trouble-infested winter- in a state of hibernation.

Ferns. #bluehill #maine

But here we are, back in the boat shed grinding things, running wires, and putting a shine on things that were very well used during our year away. I can hear the voice of our friend we met in Brunswick, Georgia, a woman who has many more nautical miles under her belt than I have. “It’s a part of it,” she said one afternoon, “You have to learn to like it.”

It’s not separate from the rest of the sailing and adventuring. The work you do maintaining a boat, for most cruisers and people with budgets, is a pie slice of the time you spend. Luckily, I DO happen to like it. I’m proud of the boat and of the work I do on her. They’re long days though, the ones where I’m working on “work work” and then going directly to the boat shed to keep charging forward toward launch date.

I started thinking about this a little while back, and it came together a little better when I learned earlier this spring about the six perfections of Buddhism. One rings in my head like a tuning fork: Joyful Effort. The application of your efforts, especially ones done to benefit other people, done with joy, zeal, and energy, is behavior befitting an enlightened being.

I’ve been meditating on that as I’m bent over for an hour painting the dinghy, or as my face gets hot under a respirator as I sand. My joy comes from the gratitude I feel that I have the equipment I need and that when I’m finished I’ll get to use the boat. It also comes from new skills and pride when a project is completed. And of course, it comes when she’s finally launched and we get to know what it’s like to float again. Joyful effort can only go in one direction, and that’s toward success.

At first I just amended the way I was moving while I was working. Mindfulness and meditation crept into the way I hold my tools, the way I breathe, the way I move as I work. Straight back, fluid motions, a bit of artful dancing, an occasional stop to admire what’s been done, smile, repeat. If someone were to look at me, I’d want to appear joyful, and to me in my motions, truly BE joyful. And then, eventually, the joy was louder than the grind.

I figure it also helps to enjoy more than just the work itself, but to really revel in making fun decisions. That means the colors are getting crazy:

My dad seemed really disappointed that I was painting the dinghy the same color again. "You could paint it any color! The SAME?" Ok, Dad. I'll go orange.

And the results are pretty rad:

Dinghy painting

What are your projects this spring? How are they coming?

3 thoughts on “Buddhist Teachings, Joyful Effort, and Boat Work

  1. Margaret Meps Schulte

    What a beautiful and inspiring piece of writing! I’m going to forward it to my husband, who is struggling to maintain joyful effort aboard Flutterby in the boatyard at St. Marys, Georgia. It’s 100 degrees there, buggy, with thunderstorms. After literally years in the boatyard, I melted down and had to leave. When I return in the fall, I plan to re-read this post and apply the concept of joyful effort to my boat work. In the meantime, I can apply joyful effort to my writing work — that’s a lot easier!

    1. Anne Post author

      Margaret- thanks for this great comment. OOF I think I definitely know a little bit how you feel. I love St Marys, especially Cumberland Island, and know the area well. It can really blow in there at times! Those serene marshes really throw everything at you sometimes between the bugs, heat, and wind. I hope to hear from you sometime this fall, do let me know how you get on with the boat. I’ll be sending a lot of good energy your way!


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