How To Be More Zen in Your Life

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zen garden
 
Are you putting too many items on your to-do list? Are you clinging to your thoughts?
 
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything you try to achieve and everyone seems to require your attention.
 
Let’s see if we can remedy that by introducing a bit of Zen into your life.

No one travels
Along this way but I,
This autumn evening.

– Matsuo Bashō

How To Zen Your Life

Have you ever been to one of these Japanese Zen gardens? They’re actually a physical representation of the Zen philosophy.
 
The focus is on:

  • Simplicity
  • Quietude
  • Observation
  • Awareness
  • Cleanliness
  • Discipline
  • Ceremony
  • Concentration

When in the garden, you naturally breathe into these qualities. But it’s possible to breathe them into your daily life as well.
 

1. Put your phone in plane mode before going to sleep

61% of people in check their phones within 5 minutes of waking up (along with touching their mobiles around 2617 times per day).
 
The simple gesture of turning it off in the evening can pacify your brain if you can make it a habit. You don’t have to keep checking 5 minutes before sleep and you surely don’t need it as soon as you wake up.
 

2. Avoid information overload in the morning

Our minds can only take so much info.
 
Let’s see what’s on your morning list:
 
Obsessively checking your phone?
Checking email?
Online news?
Newspaper?
YouTube?
Radio?
TV?
 
If you want to be more Zen, you have to cut out all of these. You will probably do these things at work anyway so why pollute your morning?
 
Zen morning activities are:

  • Meditation
  • Drinking tea and observing reality
  • Reading a book
  • Walking
  • Concentrating on one task without distraction

3. Introduce calming rituals throughout your day

I wrote a whole article about how to relax your mind. You can pick from many ways but the important thing is to build them into your daily schedule.
 
These calming rituals help to anchor your mind in tranquility.
 
The stone of emotions drops into the pond of your mind. Observe the ripples and watch as it comes back to stillness.
 
The Zen rituals are:

  • Meditation
  • Drinking tea
  • Tending to the garden
  • Walking
  • Engaging with spiritual writings

4. Cut down on social media time

The Attention Merchants are after you. Every second you spend on social is your attention being sold by huge corporations who want you coming back for a quick dopamine rush.
 
Unless it’s your job to be on social, you could schedule a specific time to check your accounts. If needed, you can install a site blocker that’ll only allow your favorite channels, let’s say, from 6:00 pm till midnight.
 

5. Concentrate on just three things per day

On every to do list, 20% of the tasks bring 80% of the results. Why not eliminate some of your feel-good-but-unnecessary-tasks and concentrate on the vital few?
 
Preferably you should schedule the biggest and most important task for the morning and be done with it. Just imagine what just three good tasks per day could do to your goal achievement?
 

6. Audit your playlist

Throw away what makes you feel sad, distracted and un-zen like. This might be a painful process, but you have to realize that music has a huge impact on the state of your mind. You have to be meticulous about what you’re listening to.
 
When trying to concentrate, avoid anything with lyrics. In work environment, fast paced and positive vibes make a difference – atmospheric drum and bass, deep house, classical music, or binaural beats that’ll turn you into a Zen monk in no time.
 

7. Take time to breathe and meditate along the way

I like to meditate in the early morning and just before going to sleep. But true a Zen practitioner is mindful all along the way.
 
You could do that by:

  • Taking a mindful breath – just stop, and take one deep breath you’re fully aware of.
  • Practicing the Prana breaths – you can install a simple app that’ll walk you through relaxing exercises. Spend 3 minutes, 3 times a day. You’ll be amazed.
  • Staying mindful while walking, washing dishes, ironing etc. Use these simple tasks to anchor yourself in the present.

8. Enjoy the silence

Our world is so full of noise that we stopped appreciating the silence.
 
Do you ever feel uncomfortable when there’s no background noise?
 
Zen masters dwell in silence punctuated by the sound of the bell.
 
I remember that one time in the deep mountains. We were walking through snow in a pine forest. And suddenly everyone stopped. It was the fullest silence I ever experienced.
 

9. Practice concentration

Zen masters are known for their amazing powers of concentration. They achieve this skill through years of practice, so when they get up from their mats, they’re fully aware.
 
You can strengthen your concentration by:

  • Focusing on one object for long periods of time (you can start with your breath).
  • Trying to solve koans, the Zen riddles.
  • Playing go, the ancient board game.
  • Playing Sudoku.
  • Focusing on one task until it’s completed.

10. De-clutter your life

Fewer things mean less distraction and less attachment.
 
Some people cling to their possessions and the material world so strongly, that they never get to experience freedom.
 
If you want to clean up your life in a Zen style, I highly recommend reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō

“Flow with whatever may happen, and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” – Zhuangzi

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