I recently started reading the book "Zen - The Art of Simple Living" by Shunmyo Masuno. The author walks you through 100 ways you could incorporate the principles of Zen Life into your daily life. In the first chapter, Shunmyo walks us through ways that can boost our energies and bring us true happiness.
Eliminating negative emotions and reducing anxiety have become priorities in the current modern life. And we can neglect this trend: we live in a fast-paced society, running from one corner to another, and accumulating stress everywhere in our body and soul.
And in my opinion, the global pandemic hasn't improved our mental health. If we think about our lives before covid, how did we release stress, disconnect and recharge energies from busy days? first word that comes to my mind is travelling. Holidays somewhere else, in a different environment and ideally in a place with a different culture. Somewhere, but not your city, where you can disconnect from studies or work. Does it sound you familiar?
Now, think on the present: how do we disconnect? I personally think that we don't disconnect. We don't really achieve that total disconnection, when you don't even remember the laptop's password or you are so relaxed, that it feels you levitate.
Regardless, going back to travelling as a form to disconnect: what happened when we came back from holidays and restarted our regular days? Stress accumulated, mind frayed and we somehow felt empty again. There was, and there is, nothing extraordinary in our lives. But, aren't we the ones who are pushing for such feelings? what is really the extraordinary?
Going through the essence of Zen applied to the modern life, it made me think on how we can change our mindset and lifestyle; how we can find balance between daily life and the constant search for the extraordinary.
I personally love routines. I love having a tidy house, having my day scheduled and having same routines one week after another. You could be different, and it is OK. However, Zen and simple life, does go in tune having an organized and tidy life. According to the author, our lifestyle do affect our spirit and physics. By putting the things around us in order, we invigorate our minds.
Create space in your mind: wake up 15 minutes earlier, lengthen the spine, take slow breaths, and while enjoying a cup of tea/coffee, look out the window at the sky. And empty your mind.
Living simple is also about discarding our physical and mental burdens, discarding what we don't need - and this also includes discarding people, who bring negative vibrations to our lives!
If you want to improve the way things are, if you want to live with a light heart, you must start by discarding. The moment you detach, a new abundance will flow into your life.
Taking time for yourself and going inwards is also key to find inner balance and apply Zen lifestyle to your life. For instance, attempt to express yourself through artwork, either painting or playing an instrument, without doing it for another person, but only for yourself.
Breath in and deeply out
There is a reason why I always include Pranayama practice in my yoga classes. We usually go through the Ujjayi breathing, the ocean breath, and every time we exhale with the mouth open, it feels like all the accumulated tension and negativity are being thrown away. And indeed, according to Shunmyo, deeply exhaling helps us eliminating negative emotions.
Furthermore, breathing together with Zen meditation - known as Zazen - is a powerful combination to help us to reset ourselves. Emptying the mind and allowing thoughts floating and drifting away, without judgements, steadies the mind. It releases us from any burden related to the past or future, and it helps us to center ourselves in the present.
Becoming spiritually lighter is also a big part of Zen lifestyle. Not wasting time worrying about things that we can't control. Easier said than done though. Yoga practice has definitely helped me to reduce my anxiety towards things I can't really control. Additionally, I made time to be alone and learnt to accept things for what they are. I also had to learn accepting negative events. But, honestly.. from every negative event there was something positive coming afterwards! Plus you learn to accept defeats and move forward.
However, if your mind is already fragmented and you feel that the daily life burns you inside, your coping mechanism will already be overloaded. Meaning that, any possible negative event, will throw you deeper in a dark hole. For this reason, we need to regulate ourselves before starting to suffer. I love this tip from the author, that I sincerely believe it could help us:
try creating a space that represents the landscape of your mind. A place where your mind can escape. A place where you can look upon your essential self. Where you can sharpen your mind and practice mindfulness.
A place where you can disconnect at home.
Other ways to help us energizing our present self based on the Zen lifestyle would be:
Get in touch with nature
Don't put off what you can do today
Don't go chasing the clouds
Work hard to do today what needs to be done
Do you recognize any of them? I definitely find getting in touch with nature is key to find peace and clarity inside me.
All illustrations are from Harry Goldhawk.
If you would like to share your thoughts on the topic with me, do not hesitate to leave a comment below!