Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water.
After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. – Wu Li
The term ‘zen’ often conjures up images of monks sitting in a cross-legged position, eyes closed, hands clasped in reverent prayer or meditation. A Zen state is often seen as a prolonged ability to experience feelings of unshakeable inner peace and stillness. Given the global struggles and pain of current times, these qualities are scarce commodities to find even though they are desirable to have. The world anguish is real and the antidote doesn’t ask that you become a contemplative monk. Instead, incorporating a little ‘zen’ in your life can go a long way to help putting healing energy into the world and making a difference.
What is Zen?
The term sources from the Japanese words ‘mushin no shin’ meaning ‘the mind without the mind’. It represents a state of being that is detached from any fixed thought or emotion but is open to everything.
How Can I Bring Zen Into My Life Every Day?
These following 12 rules of the Zen road have been excerpted from Leo Babauta and provide pragmatic guidance in bringing more Zen into your mind, soul and life:
- Do one thing at a time: single-task, don’t multi-task. When you’re pouring water, just pour water. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re bathing, just bathe.
- Do it slowly and deliberately. Take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random.
- Do it completely. Put your mind completely on the task. Don’t move on to the next task until you’re finished. For example: If you prepare a sandwich, don’t start eating it until you’ve put away the stuff you used to prepare it, cleaned the counter and washed the preparation dishes.
- Do less. Just do certain things today and no more. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration.
- Put space between things. Don’t schedule things close together — instead, leave room between things on your schedule to assure you complete before starting a new task.
- Develop rituals. Ritual gives something a sense of importance. Create your own rituals around such activities as the preparation of food, eating, cleaning, what you do before you start your work, for what you do when you wake up or before you go to bed. Give every activity a moment of attention and intention.
- Designate time for certain things. Designate time for your own activities, whether that is work or cleaning or exercise or quiet contemplation.
- Devote time to sitting meditation (zazen) Every day set aside time to just be present. If sitting is not in your wheelhouse, try running, walking – just do it meditatively.
- Smile and serve others. Devote part of your day to helping/serving others – your family, or others. Consider volunteering in your community or just let a smile be the kindness that flows to others from you.
- Make cleaning and cooking become meditation. Put your entire mind into cooking and cleaning, concentrate, and do them slowly and completely.
- Think about what is necessary. Give some thought about what you really need, and whether it is important to have all the stuff you have that’s not necessary.
- Live simply. Rid your life of as many of the unnecessary and unessential things as you can, to make room for only the essentials based on what is important to you.
My challenge to you:
Work down the list if 12 items picking one to embody each day. Begin your day with a focused intention to, for example, Do One Thing At A Time. With every single task you undertake, focus only on that task, not the next one ahead of you on your list.
- At the end of the day, record your experiences, insights in your journal.
- At the end of the 12 days, reflect on how your approach to daily living has evolved.
- Consider how continuing to follow these 12 simple steps will change how you conduct your life. What might change?
Zen is good medicine for the healing, growing and finding deep, authentic peace.