A few years ago when I was experiencing a brief but intense depressive episode, I was consumed by negative thoughts, which I couldn't get rid of. Since I know that natural light helps me heal, I spent three days gardening but I didn't feel better and the thoughts didn't go away.
I told my husband that I was seeking an outdoor task that required total concentration, little skill, and would afford a sense of accomplishment. He suggested that I sand our garage door and varnish it. To make the chore more enticing, he would buy me a new electric sander. This was a great idea because I like new equipment. So we purchased an inexpensive electric sander, extra sandpaper, and varnish.
I returned home, set up my work area, turned on the sander, and was stunned to find that the noise immediately drowned out my negative thoughts. Within ten minutes, my mind was totally clear. While I imagine it takes students of meditation years to reach this state, all it took me was the flip of a switch.
As I continued working that day, I also realized that the backward and forward motion of sanding had a Zen-like quality. While I'm sure that no psychiatrists would prescribe electric sanding as a way to heal, I think it's because they lack vision. And if you like this wellness activity, I'm sure you'll be excited to hear about the Zen of painting retaining walls! Stay tuned!