The Zen way of life requires efforts that are quite contrary to how we’re generally tuned to work. The focus on the present and the emphasis on training the mind to attain this focus makes cultivating Zen habits more challenging than you’d expect it to be. Nonetheless, with practice you’ll see that these five habits can really turn your life around and make you a much happier person.
1. Stop complaining
Brooding about all the things that may be going wrong might give you a perception of temporary relief, but in reality it will only drag you down further. When you complain about a person, thing, or situation all your energy is focused on fault-finding. Complaining is a passive activity that merely points out all that is wrong without offering a solution.
Contemplate instead of complaining. It’s only natural to feel let down every once in a while. Rather than trying to pin the blame on an external factor spend some time analyzing the situation; try to understand why things are a certain way and work towards identifying solutions to the problem.
2. Practice silence
Silence holds significance in nearly all religious and spiritual traditions of the world. The benefits of practicing silence are multifold. Practitioners of Zen follow four types of silence – Silence of Speech, Silence of the Senses, Statue-like Silence and The Silence of Sleepless Sleep. The Silence of Speech implies the temporary abandonment of speech to concentrate on your internal dialogue. The more advanced practices of silences will see you abandoning movement and thought.
When you practice silence you train your senses to refrain from reacting to the numerous stimuli around you. It strengthens your ability to concentrate on yourself. It’s surprisingly liberating when you realize that stillness and silence can be just as empowering as action or speech.
3. Be mindful
Mindfulness refers to your ability to focus consistently on the ‘here and now’. Being mindful adds a sense of fluidity to your emotions, allowing them to flow freely through your consciousness. When practicing mindfulness picture your mind-space as if it were a physical location. Such visualization will make it easier for you to identify your different states of mind.
Once you’ve identified all the spaces within your mind, you’ll be able to shift between them with more ease. Being ritualistic about some of your tasks is a great way to gain focus and nurture mindfulness. When practicing mindfulness avoid multi-tasking. In essence, mindfulness is taking up a single task and immersing yourself in it entirely.
4. Accept change
Despite the universal knowledge that change is constant, there’s something unsettling, even disturbing about things not being the way they were. Being able to accept and adapt to all the changes occurring around you can drastically improve the quality of your life and relationships with others.
Whether it’s a failing relationship or your first day on a job, when you find yourself in a new situation curb your tendency to react negatively to, or resist the change. Try focussing your thoughts on how it could help you grow into a stronger, wiser individual.
5. Weigh your words
What you say, or don’t say has a profound impact on the outcome of every conversation. The Buddha identified Right Speech as one of the integral elements of his Noble Eightfold Path. In part, it entails refraining from dishonesty and disregard, both of which could trigger conflicts in everyday life.
Being mindful of your words, especially when expressing displeasure; choosing the right time and place for such conversations; being objective rather than judgemental in your expression, are a few ways to ensure that what you say does not inflict pain on the other person.
Cultivating these habits will, of course, take time and effort. And when you find that following them is challenging, don’t be discouraged. Like a true Zen, just think to yourself – “The journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”.