We commonly say “Zen” as a synonym for serenity, but what does it really mean? Grounded in principles of Mahayana Buddhism well over a thousand years ago, Zen is the practice of meditation in your daily life and creating general mindfulness of what is around you. Previously, Julie wrote about her experience at a Zen monastery, and how one day, she was asked by her teacher to cut up 27 carrots into tiny triangular pieces. After laboring over them for an hour, she took it to the cook, who immediately put it in a food processor—making her hard work disappear in a flash. The episode is meant to evoke “oh, the present is the only thing that counts—not the end result” response, although actually putting this into practice in one’s daily life would be frustrating and impractical, to say the least.
Zen isn’t just about mindfulness, it is also rooted in helping others. When obtaining a Zen state, you are using your intuition truly living in the moment. Here are some (non-chopping) ways to practice Zen in your life.
Journaling at least a few times a week has kept my mind calm. It leaves your problems on the page and also lessens stress when the daily grind becomes too much. One of the best aspects of journaling is that there are no wrong ways to do it! Whether you love long form writing or are more of a list maker, journaling is one of the perfect ways to connect to inner wisdom. I have noticed that since journaling there is less worrying and fretting about what happened in the past as well as what can happen in the future. Besides buying a journal or creating one online, it is a free task that does wonders. For the beginner, I would recommend journaling for five minutes a day and working your way up from there. Your journal could be full of photographs or even doodles. No one journal looks the same.
Yoga has definitely brought me inner Zen is one of the mainstays of my daily routine. (Check out what happened when I practiced yoga every day in 2020!) Starting a yoga routine is easy and tests your internal and external limits. One of the reminders of yoga is to be gentle with yourself and only stretch to the point where you feel comfortable. For most yoga practices, relaxation and slowly but surely improving your poses are the goal.
Also known as intuitive eating, engaging in mindful eating has boosted my intuition and has (mostly!) kept mindless snacking to a minimum. Being aware of what I’m eating and planning certain meals has also given me a calm that does not keep my mind oriented on the future. I have also been able to enjoy the moment of eating without distractions. Eating intuitively might be challenging at first, but learning your natural hunger cues is the best way to find out how much you need to consume in order to live your healthiest life.
Rest and Reset
Ever had those moments when you have a million things going on and feel overwhelmed? That is when you rest and reset. Just taking the time out of a busy schedule to create space to rest makes a huge difference in getting things done at a calm, Zen-like pace. One of the ways that I accomplish this is by literally resting. Taking even a short nap during the day has done wonders for my concentration levels and has also helped me fit more into the day. Nothing beats waking up refreshed and energized. The same applies with getting enough sleep at night. As a former night owl that rose well past 8 a.m. on the weekends, creating a goal of sound, deep sleep at night is the best way to wake up refreshed and ready for whatever plans you have for the day. With proper sleep, I have also been able to roll with the unexpected events of life easier than before.
Lean into Your Bliss
Do you have those hobbies that you loved to do when you were younger? Are you taking the time to live your purpose every day? Leaning into what makes you happy (a.k.a. your bliss) is the last step to discovering a Zen state. There are too many times when we are taking on tasks for others and not nourishing ourselves. Take the time to learn what makes you happy and do it! It is that simple. Whether you always wanted to learn a new language, play an instrument, or even finally learn how to bake, leaning into you bliss will create unforgettable experiences what will impact your life for the better. Practicing the arts like poetry and calligraphy are even common training practices in Zen Buddhism.
How to Start?
Incorporating Zen practices into your lifestyle is a simple task. Each practice builds upon the other to create a calmer mind that wanders less often. If you haven’t tried meditation yet, it would be most effective to start there and work your way up from there. If you are interested in other ways of living, learn more about Greek Stoicism here.
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