The Beginner’s Guide To Zen Living

One of the major intentions of my life is to live with the spirit of Zen.

That’s the spirit with which I live my everyday life and the very spirit of Buddhaimonia.

I’m a firm believer that we all hold a certain intuitive wisdom within each of us, and it’s that wisdom which hints at our naturally harmonious and interconnected nature.

It’s also this wisdom which, if we so choose, can be used to bring this world together in greater peace and harmony.

And it’s this intuitive wisdom which we share that is the very spirit of Zen.

Zen is a sect of Buddhism which focuses on the practice of meditation. But that’s a very “textbook” response and hardly communicates the true spirit of Zen.

When it comes down to it, Zen has an individual “essence”, an essence that speaks directly to us.

Why is this? Because Zen speaks that same language of intuitive wisdom that I mentioned a moment ago and which we all have deep within us.

We may not have practiced or studied Zen, meditation, or even be completely familiar with Zen, but the wisdom it speaks resonates with us because it’s in line with the way we feel that we should live our lives.

So what does it mean to actually live with the spirit of Zen? My favorite explanation of this is in renowned Zen teacher and author Philip Kapleau’s Introduction in Thich Nhat Hanh’s book Zen Keys, where he describes Zen as a possible antidote to many of the problems of modern society:

“One obvious answer is- through Zen. Not necessarily Zen Buddhism but Zen in its broad sense of a one-pointed aware mind; of a disciplined life of simplicity and naturalness as against a contrived and artificial one; of a life compassionately concerned with our own and the world’s welfare and not self-centered and aggressive. A life, in short, of harmony with the natural order of things and not in constant conflict with it.”

In a way, this isn’t Zen at all- Kapleau’s describing life itself. This is the intuitive wisdom I speak of. To me, this is simply how we should all live:

With the energy of mindfulness – Fully aware, alive in each moment, with a single-pointed awareness. If we’re cleaning, we’re fully present for the act of cleaning; if we’re with our loved ones, we’re fully present for them; if we’re relaxing at home, we’re simply relaxing and not letting the events of the day or worries of the future cloud our mind and distract us.

Simply and naturally – Understanding that less is more and being aware of how this affects the state of our mind as well as accepting things fully as they come or “going with the flow of things” so to speak (among other things).

Compassionately and lovingly – Concerned for our own well-being as well as the well-being of all other beings together as one, ultimately understanding how we’re all interconnected.

As Kapleau put it, this is about overall living in harmony with the natural way of things (and not creating friction).

Figuring out how to truly live with the spirit of Zen in my everyday life has been pretty difficult at times, but along the way I’ve learned quite a bit.

And it’s been infinitely worth it, more so than anything else I’ve ever done in my life.

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