All Hands on Deck
Last week I was packing boxes, answering the phone, “dressing cushions,” getting holiday boxes ready for the short trip (just across the Stevens River) to our local Post Office to get packages in the hands of Mark, the Postmaster. Taking the walk to the Post Office, the elements reach out to you. In a light rain, if you manage to look up, you will see clouds shrouding the hills of New Hampshire in the distance.
The first day of “all hands on deck” is a shock. The body doesn’t want to move or bend. To be fair, I had been on the road the week before, mostly sitting, so my body was a bit…well, stiff.
We Aren’t Amazon
You should know, or you may have figured out, Samadhi Cushions is not Amazon. No employee ever waited for a security check. There are no robots. Everything is done with a human hand.
That’s not to say that we couldn’t benefit from some technology upgrades…there is a fair amount of duplication in our record-keeping, and certain inefficiencies…and no doubt this time of year there are things (like your emails) that fall between the cracks, but for the most part, it all works.
Some of us are Buddhists, but most aren’t. Our team is people from the neighborhood who landed at the cushion shop when a manufacturing facility was shipped off shore or rendered obsolete in changing times.
There is a general sense of camaraderie as we stare down the holiday rush. There are 12 of us. We have been working together for many years. Longer, no doubt, than a number of you have been on the planet.
I don’t want to paint an overly romantic picture. One of our stitchers, who works half time, leaves work at 4 to start her other job at the Dollar Store. Here in Northern Vermont, everyone is concerned about winter, the freezing rain in the parking lot, and just as scary, the price of heating oil.
A Swirling Storm—for Some
Perhaps I’m wrong, but in the holiday rush, those working on defined tasks—sewing a Zafu—seem to have an easier time of it. Otherwise, you may be on the phone, pulling an internet order, waiting on a delivery, helping a retail customer, triaging the best carrier for a delivery location—all more or less at the same time.
For a few weeks, it is a swirling, unrelenting storm. Most of us think only of the pressure we feel to meet our own personal holiday deadlines, some playing a game of procrastination. For retailers of course, the fun begins in November and, if all is going well, continues through today.
Can a package make it to the west coast by Christmas? Will the new royal blue fabric match the old one we are phasing out? Why is that customer calling for the third time today? Has the postal website crashed or is it just timed out?
The managers and myself claim fatigue, except perhaps our lead stitcher, who seems to be having fun, enjoying the game of keeping a long mental list of items that have to be sewn before they can ship. With each fresh surge of orders, the rest of us, and no we aren’t the youngest crowd, huff and puff as ride the energy of the holidays.
The best enjoyment for me comes from the simplicity of doing one thing, seeing it to the end. An order gets matched with the meditation cushion, or bench. These get matched with the right box, then the box with the address label, then the labeled box with the carrier. This last represented by a young man with a truck who shows up a little earlier in the afternoon than we would like.
In packing a box for shipment, I can work without speaking. In all of the chaos, there are little moments of quiet and stillness. Of course, hang on to these moments, and you will lose your place and forget to pack the invoice in the box, or worse, forget that there is a customer on hold.
We are Proud to Help
Our cushions and benches look good. And even though we’ve been around for nearly 40 years, each box we ship is packed with a measure of pride and care. We know the furniture-maker who made that bench and the stitcher who sewed that cushion. It is all personal, local. Even our boxes come from a manufacturer in the southern part of the state.
It sounds like a cliché, but we appreciate our customers too. You are doing the right thing—exploring the path of contemplation, mindfulness. You are, as the saying goes—“working on yourself.” We want to support you in that, in whatever way we can.
Thank you for your efforts at resolving the mystery of what it means to be human. We can tell it’s having an impact, not just because it gives us the opportunity for meaningful work, but also because we can hear it in your voice when you call, in how you respond to our efforts to help you find what you need.
As Sakyong Mipham likes to point out, to be mindful is to care. Thank you for caring—for yourself first, and even more importantly, for the world that benefits from your meditation practice.
Wishing you a peaceful and splendid holiday season.
BTW: About our adopted mascots. I bought these little fellows (they’re about 2″ high and made of painted wood) from a lady in a ramshackle house down a dirt road not far from me. They’re from Japan, circa 1950, each one associated with one of Japan’s 10 regional states.