The concept of Zen has been a mystery for far too long. This ancient wisdom can be applied to modern life to help a person achieve a lower level of stress. It can also be applied strategically to help a person stay happy and grounded in midst of the chaos of our modern world. In order to understand how to apply Zen, we need to uncover the underlying practices that make achievement of this state possible.
Zen is mindfulness in action. Zen is being fully present in the moment and focusing on the one thing you are doing. Our modern world is so full of stimulation often our mind is trying to go in many different directions all at once. This can lead to a sense of frustration, exhaustion and overwhelm. At an extreme level, this can trigger an anxiety response. By using mindfulness to help calm the brain, you can begin to experience Zen in your everyday life.
Be in the Moment- To truly be present in the moment you need to make a concentrated effort to slow your mind down and focus on the task at hand. Often Zen is found in daily activities that are repetitive and require a certain level of attention. Distance running, gardening, walking the dog and yes, even motorcycle maintenance all can be Zen experiences if you bring your full level of attention to the moment. This takes a bit of self discipline. The first step is choosing to focus on what you are doing instead of letting your mind wander to something else.
Control your Mind- The old saying goes control your thoughts or they will control you. This could not be more true. Thoughts without discipline are like children without discipline; you never know what is going to happen but it probably won't be good. If you notice your thoughts drifting away from the moment, gently pull your attention back to the present. You can dismiss the intrusive thought by thinking, "I will deal with that issue later, right now I am mowing the lawn (or whatever you are doing)". By giving our full attention to our current activities, we calm the mind and begin to work toward inner peace.
Intentional Practice- No one that has ever achieved Zen just stumbled upon it. Zen is a discipline; like playing a musical instrument or mastering a sport. You must practice mindfulness and meditation daily to master this skill. When you are learning the fundamentals, there will be times when it will be difficult. Once you get past that initial learning stage and master the habits of mindfulness, you can apply them to many daily activities and create a Zen experience almost whenever you choose.
By taking simple steps each day you can bring Zen into your life. Once you learn to apply this peaceful state of mind to situations throughout your day, you will be amazed at how calm and empowered you will feel. Lao Tzu said, "to the mind that is still the whole universe surrenders". With mindfulness you can learn to apply a powerful state of calm and control to even your most stressful moments. This is Zen in action.