‘There can be no joy in life without the joy of work.’
Firstly, I’d like to make clear that I’m not talking about ‘grafting’ as in ‘extortion’, but as in satisfying, productive, physical work. In our industrial growth society, I mourn the decrease in this activity with the advances in technology and automation. But it’s not just these mechanical innovations that have caused us to reduce how much of each day we spend on manual labour. If we valued this practice, then surely we would’ve made sure that it remained a sacred part of our everyday lives.
What’s changed our values?
Off the top of my head, some initial thoughts are:
• Class structure: earning a living from manual labour signifies, in the social order, that we belong to the lower classes. Those belonging to a higher class employ others to do their manual work.
• Advent of the ‘Knowledge Economy’ – there are fewer manual jobs.
• Automation and mechanisation is regarded as a sign of technological progress, a source of improved efficiency and productivity, so high numbers of manual labourers have become indicative of a less advanced, less ‘civilised’ economy.
• Uniformity and standardization have become valued over individuality, innovation, beauty, design and creativity.
What seems to be behind all of these is the tendency within our culture to value money and status above wellbeing and the assumption that our worth is determined by something or someone outside of ourselves.
The joy of grafting for me, in contrast, stems from my beliefs that my wellbeing and that of others is more important to me than money, status or What Others Think. This is an example of one of the shifts in perspectives that occurs when we start adopting a more simple and sustainable way of living.
‘When we are at home in the garden, tending and nurturing all its plants, animals and minerals, living with them through all the seasons and days, then healing comes upon us like a gift and makes us whole.’
What are the benefits of grafting?
• Easily discernable evidence of our achievement and the inner satisfaction of experiencing that.
• Physical exercise which keeps us fit.
• Creativity – an uplifting sense of beauty and purpose.
• Intrinsic motivation (the opposite of extrinsic motivation based on What Others Think.)
• Improved sleep through feeling physically tired at the end of the day.
• Experiential learning or learning by doing, which is more effective for most people than learning by reading or listening to others.
• Increased time being in our bodies – embodiment. This is when we are present to our bodies through directing our attention there. It reduces stress and anxiety, increases ability to relax, to be present and enjoy each moment. It also increases self-awareness and therefore self-empowerment.
• Connection with the earth or with others. (interestingly, grafting also means to join or to unite closely). This can improve our understanding of our place in the web of life and thereby add meaning to our lives and put it in context for us. Finding the meaning in what we’re doing and cultivating genuine companionship can also lift feelings of despair and depression.
• Mindfulness in action – an opportunity to practise being present, to reduce stress, to improve our concentration, focus and clarity.
• Source of inspiration which we can then carry across into other areas of our lives. In my experience, grafting fosters connections between the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of my being, which can result in helpful intuitive sparks and guidance.
The distinction between joyful grafting and ‘doing chores’ is very eloquently described in John Lane’s book ‘Timeless Simplicity’. Here, he regards activities to do with gardening, preparing and cooking food and homemaking as ’The Sacred Arts’. They are activities to be savoured, honoured and enjoyed, rather than blitzed, resented and tolerated. Don’t you just love that as a way of reframing ‘domestic drudgery’?
Of course, it’s equally important to keep heavy physical labour in balance with other types of work and activities and in alignment with our state of health and stage of life. Moderation and harmony are values that spring to mind here.
What constitutes joyful grafting for you?