THERE'S a wonderful zen story that I heard some years back told by my good friend and great Zen teacher Paul Haller on one of his many visits to his native Belfast.

There once was a wandering monk who came across a village and as he entered the village he came across a building site and was curious as to what was being built. He approached the first builder who was hammering away, huffing and puffing and cursing under his breath, so much so that the monk did not dare speak to the builder. The monk then approached a second builder who was courteous enough in his reply and he told the monk that it was a job he was doing to earn money to take care of his wife and children.

The monk thanked the he builder and continued on to the next builder who was was whistling a happy tune and had a wonderful smile. The monk stopped and asked him the same question as to what he was doing. He replied: "I’m part of a wonderful team of builders who are building a temple for the villagers who never had a temple." He went on to explain: "Every time I carve into the stone I can hear the villagers chant and I can visualise the wonderful temple and how it will house and offer great teaching and great teachers. When I go home in the evening and I tell my wife and children of the progress we are making everyone smiles. Even when I go to bed, I dream of the temple and rejoice in the part that I have to play in its construction, how lucky am I to be part of such an event."

The monk thanked him and reflected on what all the builders had to say about the same task. The first one was annoyed upset and angry at having to work; the second one’s  intention was to get paid; and the third was filled with great joy at seeing the benefit the work will bring to the village and the joy that it will bring. 

On hearing and remembering that story, I reflect on what my attitude is going to be today and how I will approach and connect with this precious life, this wonderful mystery. How can I add to others and contribute to a better life for all? 

I remember hearing Melvyn Bragg’s interview the famous painter Pablo Picasso about Pablo’s art and Melvyn asked him about his approach to the canvas. Pablo replied that every time he lifts his paintbrush to apply paint to the canvas is like the first time. Pablo explained to Melvyn that he is still learning how to paint, how to hold his brush, how to apply the proper pressure to the canvas. He said that each stroke was guiding him to the creation of his art.

If it’s good enough for Pablo and the third builder, it’s good enough for me. 

It’s wonderful how we can be mentored by those around us and be inspired by them in all that they do. A friend spoke of someone to me and told me that he never heard that person say a bad word about anybody. 

When I look at my life and the many people who have inspired me – John Lennon, Che Guevara, Robert De Niro, the punk scene and all its energy, the jazz scene – it brings a sense of wonder into my heart and mind. Throw in Zen and its simplicity and AA for being there for the suffering alcoholic.

Each day for me is a learning experience based on yesterday as I go about my day introducing mindfulness to people in the knowledge that mindfulness can benefit us all in some way. 

I know that I am blessed to have a job that enables me to deliver mindfulness to groups, and also having the opportunity to express this through my column in the Andytown News.