Health & Wellness – Find your Zen in the last stretch of 2017
By: Natasha Archary
Zen – With the Western world adopting the term and throwing it around as loosely as ‘almond milk’, ‘banting’ and ‘gluten free’ the spiritual meaning behind this enigmatic idea has been lost. Zen is not just another healthy lifestyle fad.
1500 years ago in 6th century China, the Ch’aan school of Buddhism was first founded and for nearly 600 years the practice was reserved to that part of the country. In the 12th century, the concept was exported to Japan where it was quickly accepted and became an influential path of study.
The practice of zen should not be associated with a theory or dogma as zen has no specific philosophy or faith. Followers however should adopt the concepts of karma & samsara.
- Karma – The force generated by a person’s actions & its ethical consequences that will determine the nature of the person’s next existence.
- Samsara – The process of coming into existence as a differentiated mortal creature.
Despite what Western culture attributes zen to, the practice does not seek to answer subjective questions. In zen, what matters is the here and now, nothing more than the fulfillment of this very moment. It is premature to try to define zen as a state of calm because to search for a definition of zen is the opposite of the ancient teachings of the practice. Zen is the acceptance of everything and nothing.
Zen is not taken from the written word nor religious transcriptions. It centers on a personal relationship with your own mind and a higher undefined entity outside of yourself. The common misconception about zen is that Buddha is the God that is worshipped during zen meditation and this isn’t true. To practising Zen Buddhists, Buddha is not considered a God but it is believed that he achieved ultimate enlightenment through the process of zen meditation and it is for this reason he is reverred.
Derived from the Chinese word ch’an and directly taken from the Indian sanskrit word dhayana which means meditation. Being in zen is a state of being at peace with your own thoughts and being self-aware of your place within the universe.
In today’s highly stressed environments reaching zen could be the key to unlocking inner peace and tackling the pressure to succeed in every area head on. The study of zen is extensive and many feel overwhelmed to start practicing it for fear of never reaching enlightenment. But there are easy ways to adopt a zen lifestyle and reap the health benefits by living in the now.
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN – BREATHE
We all have moments of worry and sometimes the noise in our heads becomes deafening. Many link a stress-free life to the absence of stress factors and if this were true we would all be wealthy, healthy and live in the lap of luxury without a care in the world. Instead the stress-free have simply adopted a method to handle whatever life throws at them. The most important aspect of zen is to let it go – breathe in ease and exhale the feeling of worry – do this with the intention that you are creating a new habit of inner ease while letting go of that old unhealthy habit of worrying.
FIND TIME TO MEDITATE
You don’t need to scale the highest mountain top or find a remote island in order to reach zen through meditation. Don’t be overwhelmed at the thought of introspection and don’t focus on self reflection, meditation should be practiced to calm your thoughts and quiet your fears. After a few sessions of meditation you will be more focused and refreshed, ready to tackle the next challenge. Find a quiet spot in your home or garden and simply close your eyes and practice the breathing techniques above for 15 minutes. The aim is to drown out the noise, the pressure, the stress and just be at one with yourself. Think of it as time to reconnect with you.
Humanity is quickly becoming detached from the emotional within and with others. We have evolved to improve on technology to the point where everything is accessible at our fingers, this is evident in that we are staring at our screens instead of making human to human connections. When was the last time you did something for someone without expecting something in return? Human beings thrive when we feel loved, we need it in order survive and if we showed more compassion to those around us we would find a greater sense of self and belonging. It may one of the most difficult things we learn as the concept is so far removed from who we are but learn it we should.
The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of everything in life, they have simply mastered the art of making the most of what they do have. Money may buy you comfort and lavish luxury but there is a reason the addage “money can’t buy you love or happiness” was penned. Minimalistic living is catching on with more people simplifying their lives and limiting their materialistic spending. When we find who we are, what we have becomes less important in comparison.
Of course, the complete practice of Zen Buddhism is much more extensive than the list above and it could take years before one is a Zen Master, but the path to spiritual well-being doesn’t have to be exhaustive or intimidating. What is important to remember is that the labels and terminologies can wait until you are ready to learn more. Any lifestyle change takes time to get used to, to see out and to continue with but the journey of self discovery should be as imperative as every other task you give yourself. You can’t pour water from a cracked pot, so take the time to heal, to listen and to find yourself first.