I spent the day working with my friend Louis, making tee shirts to sell to my readers to help support The Daily Zen. Louis has been screenprinting for years. It isn’t his only craft— he does a bunch of stuff and is a very eclectic person with a variety of interests— but he is very good at screenprinting. His methodology is practical and simple, and he has developed his craft enough to accomplish tasks through it as a certain form of meditation.
On top of the fact that Louis is one of the more mindful and compassionate people I know, I admire the way he approaches the tasks of life with a certain tactical wisdom. This variety of wisdom is becoming rarer and rarer in our world.
We had 160 shirts to print. I’ve never made shirts before and was rather overwhelmed by envisioning the final product. The beauty of craft, and of diligent work in general, is that the envisioning of the final product is usually the least labor intensive part of the process. There are many steps to be completed before that final product is realized.
Like with anything else in life, if we get too preoccupied with the ends, we slack on the means. Watching Louis work with diligence and consistency, and learning from his energy and approach, was a pleasant reminder that we accomplish all tasks one step at a time. Having a five year plan, a ten year plan, etc— these are all appropriate concerns, and natural— but the key is to zone in on what you have to do right now. If you approach the present moment with the proper attention and honesty, everything else falls into place.
I could envision the shirts all I wanted, but there was work to be done. We had to pour emulsion on the screens, burn the images into each screen, clean the screens, let them dry, set up all the shirts, mix the ink, apply the ink, etc, etc. This sounds technical, sure— but think of how much of your daily life is, to varying degrees, technical.
We all have to eat, drink, use the bathroom, brush our teeth, do errands, have conversations, and maintain the routine machinery of everyday life. Each of these tasks is a component of the day. If we’re so worried about “having a great day” that we miss out on giving our full attention to each of these components, we end up having not so great of a day. We reverse the old adage, losing sight of the trees for the forest. The trees are great. They make the forest possible.
I enjoyed being reminded that my anxiety about the future is both wasted and misdirected, especially if it affects my ability to get things done in the here and now. Losing yourself in a meaningful task in the moment is such a beautiful thing precisely because it allows you to forget about the big picture. We should remember to tend to the small tasks of life, to nurture them rather than getting too caught up in the grand scheme.
You can order a Daily Zen shirt here.