cut on the pull stroke

Posted on October 27, 2015 by

Recently, I was waxing poetic about handsaws.  Specifically, about my ryoba, a Japanese handsaw that suits my woodworking needs and style to a T.

Like most Japanese hand tools, it’s designed to make good use of your body weight.

It cuts on the pull stroke.

By contrast, most Western saws cut on the push stroke.  That makes the work harder:

  1. A saw that cuts on the push stroke has to withstand a lot of force, so it has to be thick.  A thick saw has to remove more wood as it goes, which is more work.
  2. A saw that cuts on the push stroke requires the user to generate that force, instead of allowing gravity and mass to do the work.

The ryoba allows a short, relatively small, relatively unmuscular person to make the best use of their available resources.  The tension that comes from using the pull stroke allows the blade to remain stiff without being thick, so the kerf (the slit left by the saw) is narrower, and less wood is removed.  You lean in the right direction, holding the saw in the right way, and the cut happens almost effortlessly.  You don’t press the saw down, you simply hold it and allow it to do its work.

This is all true, but it is also a metaphor.

I’ve been “working on my money stuff” for quite a while.  There was definitely stuff to work on.  But over the years I’ve stripped away the veils and peeled the onion over and over again, looking for the place where the stuff would be resolved and I could move on in maintenance mode.  Trouble was, I thought I got there a few years ago, but the expected transformations in the rest of my life weren’t forthcoming.

There are a few reasons for that.  I kept digging and found most of them.

But tonight, having been told by my therapist that I really must begin making plans to go to India and not just wishing I could, I realized something else:

all this time I’ve been staring at the money itself, trying to deal with money for money’s sake.

I was pushing away at the saw on principle, because I needed to do it, but there was no larger thing.  Wanting to be financially robust was all there was.  And when it related to someone else, family or loved one, it had to do with fear of their judgment or repercussions, or fear of loss.  My own sense of self was so tattered after a while that while I knew it would feel better to resolve these issues, I couldn’t really imagine it.

But I’ve also been watching my friend Natasha as she raises money to rebuild a village she loves in Nepal.  She is there right now, overseeing the beginning of the building.  When she decided that Nepal was an important thing, it reversed the direction of force.  Instead of pushing from her studio in Brooklyn, she was pulled forward by the force of her dedication and vision of the project in Nepal.  It brought her places and got her to do things that became easy because of her motivation, because of who she was working for and why.

She began to cut on the pull stroke.

I think this is critical.  When we cut on the pull stroke, we are pulled forward into the next right thing by the natural forces surrounding us.  Cutting on the pull stroke allows us to make the best use of the resources we have, rather than wishing we had what we don’t.  Cutting on the pull stroke is where we go when we plug into our larger purpose, our deeper meaning, the work we are truly called to do in the world.

Or just something we really, really want.

Cut on the pull stroke, and everything’s easy.

Let nature draw you forward, and the seas part.

Let it begin.