What Zen is Not
Zen is not a traditional religion, in the purest sense of the term. It does not come with scriptures, rituals, memorized prayers, and all of the devotional rites that most religions require. There are no gods to worship, no holy days to keep, no strict rules to follow. It is more of a way of living, a practical experience of constant insightful meditation that focuses on the internal rather than external.
Because of its unreliance on the written scripture, Zen actually discourages the distilling of its philosophy into mere words and text. You can’t encompass the entirety of Zen philosophy into a Do’s and Don’ts list, a How-To article, or even a complete book- it just doesn’t work that way. You have to live Zen everyday- practicing mindfulness and meditation on a day-to-day basis so that it comes naturally to you as breathing, taking control over your thoughts and deeds so that they may serve greater benefit to others, and being mindfully aware of your oneness with the whole world.
What Zen Is
Even if we can’t fully grasp its spirit through words, we can have but a brief glimpse to it by incorporating some of its philosophies in the way we do things in our lives. Though these tips may not encompass the entirety of Zen expression, they can be used as beginners’ stepping stones. In this frantic, fast-paced world of deadlines and rat races, just a small dose of Zen, taken daily, will greatly improve your soul.
Take Your Time
Do not rush your way through life. It is tempting to multi-task in this digital age, but by doing so, you forget how to savor one of the most limited resources that people have- time. Move through your daily tasks with a purpose- do one thing at a time: don’t walk when you eat, don’t study when you’re working- do one task first before moving on to the next.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Rest
Monks lead busy lives- they wake up early, they stay up late, and their whole day is spent on working, doing chores, and studying. However, in the midst of the hubbub, they still manage to find time to meditate and practice mindfulness.
This is because monks have an approach to life that is very different from office grunts, executives, and your average 9-to-5 employee. They don’t have never-ending TO-Do lists, they’re don’t painstakingly micromanage their time to the very last second, and they don’t fill their schedules with tasks just to feel that they are “productive.”
Rather, they place a huge importance on their daily breaks. Their work days are interspersed with brief periods of rest that they use to meditate. They treat these rest breaks as holy- they allow them to slow down, take a breather, and to be in touch with the whole world once more.
Create Your Own Rituals
Rituals, not routine. Rituals are a series of things that you do because they are important to you- not because they are necessary. A ritual is something you give your whole attention to, and not just something you rush through just to get them over with. They give a stable structure to your day. They don’t have to be complicated like monks’ rituals- they could be just as simple as the order of stretching and breathing exercises that you do each day, or the way you prepare your food.
Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
The whole point of this philosophy is looking inwards, instead of outwards. This means being more in touch with yourself and your thoughts, and how they can benefit other people around you.
So there’s really no point in comparing yourself with others. This only invites negative thoughts and disrupts your flow of thinking and mindfulness. Understand that each person is different, and that each one of us has his or her own strengths and weaknesses.
There’s also no point in accumulating things that you don’t need. Live life as simply as you can. Though this may vary from person to person, but if it isn’t necessary, if it doesn’t bring you joy, then cut it away from your life. Eliminate what you don’t need so that you can focus on other aspects of your being that are more important to you.