I’ve just got back from dropping off a car at the local garage for its annual MOT Test. For those who don’t know this is a Ministry of Transport test for road worthiness and having a current test certificate is a legal requirement in order to use public roads in Britain. Fingers crossed the car gets through OK even though, it being nearly ten years old, I’m not counting on it passing first time.
From an early age we are instructed on the importance and practice of maintenance, of taking care of ourselves and what we use. I’ve memories of being reminded to brush my teeth, wash my hands before meals and tidy my hair. Quickly we learn that grazes need plasters and persistent bleeding is an emergency! Almost as soon as we can walk, I remember, there is talk of shoes needing repair, my bike chain having to be oiled and having to make my bed and tidy up! Small daily acts of taking care of ourselves, what we use and what surrounds us, is rightly instilled in us early on and hopefully stand us in good stead for the rest of our lives.
But maintenance takes time and in the rush and bustle of daily life small signs of something needing attention can be pushed to one side or simply ignored. Time needs to be set aside and in the monastic schedule we have Renewal Days each week. Typically this is the day when medical appointments are scheduled and shopping trips organized. Also it’s a time when robes are mended and new ones made, that’s along with a seemingly endless list of ‘must do’ personal maintenance tasks. This all sounds neat and tidy but nothing ever is especially since there are so very many calls on our time and energies, not to mention pockets. There’s a need to prioritise but that doesn’t catch everything by any means. Things do break for lack of replacing the lost screw, medical conditions do get out of hand because having tests are time consuming, and cars break down in inconvenient and lonely places because a suspicious noise had been ignored.
Years ago I took my car to the garage. It wasn’t due to be serviced or for its MOT test either. You know, I said to the mechanic, this might sound strange but I feel like one of the wheels is about to drop off! Later when I returned the garage the chap said, You were right, the wheel could easily have dropped off! I’d changed a wheel some time before and put back the wheel nuts the wrong way around so they were working loose. There was no charge if I remember correctly.
So the message is that we do the best we can to take care of and maintain our own health, that which we use and which gives us service. In the wider community we can play our part too. And then there is paying attention to and following up on those little niggles, those stray thoughts that come unbidden such as the one that came to me about the loose wheel. Having regular times each day to simply sit still and purposefully do nothing, meditate, means that there is more chance of those stray thoughts being heard and taken notice of when they come. Often not while formally meditating.