Zen and the Art of Towel Folding

Towel Birds

Elevate all actions to the sublime

If one seeks to achieve a sense of purpose in a purposeless universe one must elevate one’s self. To elevate the self, one must elevate the actions of the self. All human action is purposeful and directed toward an end. Do not strive toward that end with meekness but rather seek to become sublime through determined actions that are themselves sublime. Every action you take for the rest of your life, you will take only once. No two actions will ever be the same. Eliminate all drudgery from your life by making all actions the result of precise thought.

Sharpen your skills and mind as you would sharpen a tool

A workman is only as good as his tools. Don’t forget that skills and focus are tools you use to accomplish tasks. Apply effort to all you do. Adopt the habit of focusing on the task you are engaged in. Be critical of every action you take and seek to make every effort one that you can take pride in.

What is a towel? What is its nature?

Is a towel merely a scrap of cloth? No. A towel, like many things, is an item created by man for his use. A quality towel is the result of careful thought and design on someone’s part. Someone thought through every aspect of a towel’s construction and design. The pattern of the towel is the work of a dedicated designer. Nothing in the towel exists by happenstance.

Folding, why should you care?

There the towel sits waiting for use. The color, the texture, the design, all these things sit outside your control. All you control is the presentation. When a chef makes a great meal the presentation is not left to chance. Nor should the folding of towels be given any less care. Painting, sculpting, flower arranging, towel folding; All of these things are not simply chances to be adequate. Practice precision in presentation. Seek to fold the perfect towel as you would seek to draw the perfect heart on a Valentine.


Examine the towel; its precise dimensions, proportions and orientations. Each towel has an inside, an outside and top and bottom. When the towel is folded will these things be oriented the same way or placed haphazardly, wherever? Careful thought should be employed. Fold a towel as you would fold a paper crane. Though you might fold a thousand paper cranes, striving toward perfection, no two will be the same. It is in the subtlety of their differences one from another we derive joy and in their sameness also. Consider carefully how will this towel come to the user’s hands. How will they unfold it? What hand will they use? How should should the towel look? Will the user experience pain of regret when destroying your work or will they experience indifference? Seek always to make art in action and in substance.  

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