The Construction Worker & Spirituality
By Tarun Cherian
 

The painter looks like a romantic poet, long hair, lanky, soft eyes. The wall he has to paint unromantically has a 40 foot drop. And a vast unrelenting 35 foot width. Unlike in the movies where you have a window cleaner's cage, complete with pulleys, here you have something robust, but medieval...

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...A rough heavy stick is covered with coarse hessian. It's tied at the centre by a raw, hairy rope. So it's a little like an inverted T. You put your legs on either side of it and are lowered, over the building's edge. It looks precarious, it is precarious. You need to lean forward, keep balance. The stick cuts into your thighs, the sackcloth offers some padding but has a rasp like sandpaper.

You are lowered down to the right height. Then your boss tethers you by the simple expedient of putting his foot firmly on the rope. There you balance and try to get the paint strokes even.

We in India , look down on manual labour. Many spiritualists believe the earth is crude. A prison to be escaped from. But crude as it is, the construction labourer's job has incredible lessons and spiritual rewards.

"When most talk about spirituality they imagine people meditating, when people think meditation they think of people with eyes closed. But that is misleading. Meditation is that which reconnects us to the inner reality..."

The painter's aura before he gets on to the contraption shows a grey, smoking solar plexus indicating fear. But he takes a breath and the grey dissolves to sunlight. And you realise that the painter has trumped one of the hardest spiritual obstacles. He has confronted fear. And gone beyond.

As the painter is lowered, his root turns a bright red, fear stimulating vitality, courage and the Gods of the root chakra. It settles into a deep, transformatory purple. This reveals an even more vital lesson internalised, facing death, and earning its respect. Which means when we come to death's door his knock will be firmer than ours.

The stick the painter dangles from is not an a/c cabin, with plush cushioned seats. So the construction worker is not put off by mere discomfort.

As the painter engages in his art, something incredible happens, his crown is lit with shimmers of light. He takes real pleasure in his job. ‘Ananda' or bliss being a vital aspect of the ultimate.

The ability to reach out and embrace the world is a real emotional and spiritual lesson. But can this just be words? The boss who holds you firmly up has come up the hard way. From a mason, he has grown into a contractor, now a builder. He has built two 5 storey apartments.

Then comes possibly the greatest lesson. Trust. Faith. For all that holds the painter aloft, is his boss's firmly placed foot. Of all the spiritual gifts this is possibly the most profound. Faith is the lever that can move mountains, win wars, defeat illness, command death's salute and God's nod.

A year as a construction worker is worth 20 lifetimes as a meditator. Another construction worker in the crew, old & scrawny, was given the task of cleaning the grills. As I looked at his aura, I saw his root was red. His spine lit by the Kundalini's charge.

A friend from a middle class family joined a group of construction labourers for a month, carrying bricks, climbing ladders… There were no special privileges. He lived in their tin sheds, eating their full but simple food, lived only off the earnings. He didn't tell them where he came from. When he spoke of those days, there was great respect for what he earned in experience.

When most talk about spirituality they imagine people meditating, when people think meditation they think of people with eyes closed. But that is misleading. Meditation is that which reconnects us to the inner reality. One-pointedness can come from staring at a point or by driving 18 hours without losing focus. Faith can come from trusting childhood's prayers, or by dangling off a 40 foot drop anchored by a foot. A life that pushes the spirit, strengthens it and celebrates it is the spiritual life. The humble can humble us… God doesn't live in a gilded cage.

"A year as a construction worker is worth 20 lifetimes as a meditator..."