If you ask a Zen Buddhist to define the word zen, they may tell you that they cannot explain it with words. Zen is not simply a theory, idea, belief, or religion. Zen is an experience, a way of living, a constant effort towards enlightenment. The human mind is too limited to fully grasp what it is to be zen. The practice of zen does, however, bring people balance by promoting physical health, mental health, and spiritual growth.
While we may not all want to devote ourselves to living as a Zen Buddhist monk, there are still simple ways that we can use the “rules of zen” to enhance our lives. Below are 6 great ways to start “bringing out your zen side” and improving your life.
1. Develop A Routine
First and foremost, a routine removes the stress of the unknown and eliminates idle time. Zen monks not only have a scheduled time for everything that occurs within their day, but they also develop rituals for everything they do. Developing routine for the most important parts of your day and life helps you appreciate the simplest things, aids your mind in focusing your attention on each task,, and allows your body to fall into the rhythm.
Developing a schedule in our busy, fast-paced life may not sound simple. Technology can help with finding routine in many ways, though. If you want to plan out your time, try using a calendar app such as Google Calendar, especially if you need to share your schedule with a significant other or roommate. If you want to stick to time limits, you can set alarms on your phone or smart watch, or you can buy a timer from Amazon.
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the mental state of focusing on the present moment. Many of us spend a large portion of our days mindlessly moving through our lives. Mindlessly experiencing life leaves us disengaged from critical moments and out of tune with our bodies. Practicing mindfulness includes observing, describing, and participating in the events of our days. A great way to help your brain work towards mindfulness is by journaling or recording the events of your day. The more you become aware and present within your life, the more you will be able to recall at the conclusion of the day. We often confuse the term “mindfulness” with the term “meditation,’ but it is important to remember that these are not the same. Mindfulness is being aware of and present with the world around you whereas meditation is being aware and present within your own body.
3. Meditate Daily
Meditation is the practice of achieving mental clarity. The aim of meditation is to cleanse the body of thoughts and emotions, with the end goal of feeling at peace and free of the past and future. Many people believe that meditation can relieve stress, anxiety, depression, and pain while increasing peace, concentration, perception, and wellbeing.
There are numerous ways to practice meditation, and, thanks to technology, there are meditation apps and videos available at our fingertips. Personally, I’ve had great success with apps like Headspace, Calm, and Tara Brach’s guided meditation videos.
4. Get Into Yoga
Yoga is, first and foremost, physical activity. It may not be a daily jog or weightlifting, but yoga works nearly all areas of the body through various stretches, poses, and movements. There are so many schools of thought on yoga. Some concern a spiritual connection, while others simply involve body alignment and mindfulness. I enjoy yoga because I don’t feel as self-conscious with it as I do when working out, and it is individually focused, unlike sports (which I am terrible at playing). Although you may not burn as many calories doing yoga as you would on the treadmill, the flexibility of your yoga approach combined with the bodily awareness it provides can help you lose weight if that’s your goal.
A quick Google search can help you find local places to get your yoga on, or you might even find some local yoga groups on social media. If you’d rather “yoga” from home, there’s The Yoga Journal, apps like Daily Yoga or Down Dog, and infinite videos on YouTube.
5. Clear The Clutter
Zen monks focus on living life simply and removing the unnecessary.what is not necessary. Most Americans live fast-paced lives filled with material goods, too many obligations, and lots of physical and mental junk.. If you are trying to clear your mind, a great place to start is clearing your living space. Set aside some time to go through each room of your home, and clear out the clutter. There are fabulous suggestions on how to handle this process in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, a book my husband and I highly recommend to anyone feeling cluttered.
6. Connect With The Universe
Most of the above suggestions are ways of establishing connection with the universe through your own personal experience. There is a lot to be said for connecting with others, though, and its positive impact on your life. One of the essential rules of zen is to “smile and serve others,” which can be as simple or complex as you choose to make it. If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity and have some spare time, contact organizations like Habitat for Humanity, The United Way, or any number of local organizations and nonprofits.
Some of these habits may be easier than others to implement into your life, but all of them will positively impact you once you get the ball rolling. All zen requires is desire and commitment. Your path towards living “zen” may be easier and closer than you expect. Namaste, go in peace.
Featured image via Unsplash