Living a life that feels increasingly busier, noisier, and more cluttered begs the question, “is there a better way to live?” True enough, more and more people are looking for ways to change and improve their lives by changing their habits and mindset. A lot of people have started veering towards a more healthy diet an a more active lifestyle, integrating organic products into their food consumption and an hour or two of exercise into their agenda every week. Some people have taken it even further, choosing to live a minimalist life, what others often call “The Zen Way“.
But What Exactly is Zen?
There are no fixed definitions for what it is but at its core, it aims to inculcate the idea that everything in life is unique, and therefore must be experienced one at a time. It focuses on being present and mindful, doing things well and keeping your inner calm.
There are no fixed definitions for what it is but at its core, it aims to inculcate the idea that everything in life is unique, and therefore must be experienced one at a time. It is the focus on being present and mindful, doing things well and keeping your inner calm.
If you want to make the same switch for yourself, follow these steps to get started in living out the zen way.
1. Do one thing at a time. – When you have to work, work; when you have to eat, eat; when you have to sleep, do sleep. Many people fall pray to the illusion that being busy means being more productive. Doing several things at the same time may add to your stress and exhaustion, but it does not automatically translate to a more productive life. The end result is your efforts will be all over the place with little to no accomplishment to show for it. Multi-tasking is too distracting, taking away your concentration and ability to focus on a single task and do it well. Choose instead to be single-minded ticking off your To Do boxes one by one, keeping your priorities organized.
2. Do not rush and take your time. – The Zen way necessarily includes being calm and collected. This should also apply in your demeanor and the way you conduct yourself. When completing your tasks, it is best to concentrate and focus on the task at hand, immersing yourself in doing the task perfectly and completely. Make all your actions intentional, purposeful, deliberate. Slowing things down allows you to focus more intensely and with time, you will master the art of focus in on a single task completely.
3. Do things completely. – Even if you have an ideal schedule set for yourself, do things completely before moving on to the next task. Again, this will allow you to focus more on a single task at any given time. If, for some reason, you are unable to complete your task, make sure to put away the things you have been using for that task before moving on to another task so that there will be no more need to go back.
4. Integrate the saying “less is more” in your life. – The Zen life commands one not to be idle but this must not be construed to mean that you seek to fill in your schedule with different sets of activities for the mere sake of it. Finish your tasks for the day, doing them one at a time, but only those that are strictly necessary. Put in time to relax, unwind, meditate, and recollect yourself in between activities. Do what you need to do and rest when you can. Keep from adding frivolous activities to fill your days.
5. Develop habits, invent rituals. – Any practitioner of The Zen way knows that habit-making plays an important role in maintaining a zen lifestyle. Develop rituals for your meals, meditation, and even regular work. The logic is this: if you start considering something significant enough to merit a ritual, you are more likely to give your entire concentration and attention when doing it, owing to the importance of the thing. It will also give your life more structure, you will know what to expect and what to focus on at each part of your day.
6. Devote time for meditating. – Meditation or “zazen” is one of the most important aspects of the zen life. It allows you to relax, have a clear mind, and rethink your place in life. You should set a designate a time specifically meant for thinking and meditating. Your goal in meditation should be to learn to be present. This means worrying about the future less and just doing what the present moment requires. Rather than be consumed with thoughts on the future and other attachments, being content and focusing on your attention on what is happening as it happens should be the focus of your meditation. You can seek guidance online or with other practitioners to get you started.
7. Make cleaning and cooking part of your meditation. – The zen life turns seemingly mundane activities into meaningful ones by turning them into occasions to meditate. Cleaning and cooking which are normal routine chores that you have to do periodically can be a chance to improve your life if you choose to spend them concentrating, focusing, and harnessing your ability to zero in on one activity completely.
8. Think about what you need. Focus on what is essential and necessary. – If you observe people who practice the zen way of life, you will find that they have only a number of possessions. This is because they only think of what is necessary. They do not indulge in excesses and focus on only what they need every day. They focus on having bare necessities and nothing more. This is to veer away from the culture of excess and overspending, a trap most people fall easily into. This is true for both possessions and activities. Think of what objects and activities are the most essential to you and stick to them.
9. Take time to experience life. – Being present means you are free to experience things as they are happening to you. When you stop and keep from letting worries and plans preoccupy you, you are able to enjoy all the moments in your life. Be present. When it is time to party or celebrate with family, cherish the moment. When it is time to study, put your mind to it to maximize learning. Experience life as it happens by removing needless clutter in it.
10. Live simply. – Perhaps this is the summary of all the things we have outlined so far. The biggest appeal of making a switch to the zen lifestyle is the peacefulness it brings to one’s life. To live simply means to do only what is needed, own only what is essential, and react or act only when necessary.