I have been very fortunate in my life in that I have had many great teachers. I am one of the few lucky ones to have learned everything I am good at through apprenticeship. I have been a student of the martial arts for 25 years where apprenticeship is the traditional means of passing on information. I have also been fortunate enough to have received teachings in two separate and very different woodworking apprenticeships. Both taught me volumes and I will forever be indebted to each of my teachers for very different reasons. I wish to discuss what one of my teachers called, “The Dance of Intent”.
You are in your woodshop, and you reach for your pencil, either your hand lands on it or you have to stop and think and look for it. These are two completely different states of mind. In the first case when your hand lands on the pencil it is because you are in that space where everything is intuitive, where everything in the universe is somehow also in your mind. Life is a dance and you can feel the music. You transcend something.
In the second scenario you have just been human. That is where we all are 99% of the time. However, sometimes we can step outside of that, sometimes we can breath and flow and operate on a completely different plane. Sporty people call it "being in the zone”, a place where awareness is somehow expanded. I think that “The Dance of Intent” sounds way cooler. What ever you call it, that is what I strive for in work and in life. I don't always get it, but the more I practice, the better I become.
So, back to my first woodworking teacher. he had this thing that when you lost focus, when your hand did not land on the very tool it needed, that was a precursor to an injury or a mistake. That was when you stopped and took a couple of breaths, tried to re-focus, and if that was not working, it was time for tea.
To force through was not the answer. The answer lay in breathing, centering, and coming back to your work with a clear head. Needless to say, I drank a lot of tea, but the goal of the “dance” has stuck with me in every aspect of my life, and in tiny little steps I would like to think I am getting better at it.