To Cut Down a Tree (March 2009)


It is almost the end of March. I don’t know about you but the year seems to be flying by.

Self care is an issue that has come up a lot with my clients. As I was reflecting on this, I found, in one of my journals, the quote below that I had written down some years ago.

“If I had eight hours to cut down a tree I would spend six of them sharpening my axe.”
Abraham Lincoln.

Along the same theme:

There is a story of two Zen monks who each went to cut down a tree. The first monk immediately started chopping down his tree. The second monk sat down, sharpened his axe then considered how he would tackle the task. He would periodically stop to sharpen his axe. The other monk just kept going even when his brother suggested that he stop and sharpen his axe. The first monk’s response was that he did not have time to waste and he had to get the task done. You guessed it – it was the second monk who cut down his tree easily and effortlessly.

We can see this so easily and clearly when it is happening outside, or in a story. Life has a habit of taking over, or more accurately, we allow life to take us over. We wear so many hats. We wear the hats of our career, of being a partner, parent, child, sibling, friend, and colleague. All these roles take some time of us.

What time then, do we have for ourselves? In that time do we do even one thing that makes us feel great, that makes our hearts sing? Always? Often not? Never?  Very few of us set aside any time for ourselves on a weekly basis let alone daily.

What are some things you enjoy doing? I say to my clients to make an appointment with themselves, to actually mark it out in their diary. Like any appointment you make, it is a matter of integrity to keep it. Your appointment with yourself is no different. It is an agreement. Use that time to do something that fuels you. It may be going for a drive for an hour (mobile phone turned off!) and listening to your favourite music, having a massage, going to a gallery, going for swim in a new place, anything that makes you feel replenished. Most of us give a lot of ourselves, in time, attention, energy and effort. If we keep giving without stopping to refill our tanks, we run dry.

One of my very favourite things to do is to head down to the beach at the end of the day. I am very fortunate, as the bay beach is very close to my home. If it is cool, I sit on the rocks of the breakwater and watch and listen. There is so much to witness. I seem to hear things, the waves lapping, the gulls flapping and screeching differently. On warmer evenings I go in for a swim. It is something I just love. I feel as if I have washed away the day. I come out feeling exhilarated and anticipating the evening. It is so easy to do and gives me so much pleasure. Yet isn’t it funny how even in this, something which is so enjoyable for me, I can occasionally get sidetracked away from prioritising it? Mostly, however, the replenishing wins out!

Begin today and make some time for yourself. Make it a regular occurrence. Taking the time to sharpen your axe, makes cutting down a tree rhythmic and easy.

Love & joy

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.