Webster’s defines zen as a Japanese sect of Mahayana Buddhism that aims at enlightenment by direct intuition through mediation. The online Urban Dictionary gives this definition: One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.
I submit that we (Westerners) are often so distracted in our multi-task-driven lives that we barely have time to breath, let alone find anything near the aim of the Mahayanan Buddhists. We can all use a little piece of zen in our lives, if only for a moment. And while these suggestions may only be baby steps, they are hopefully steps in the right direction.
1. Zen through your eyes: Simply close your eyes. It’s amazing how much we can take in and how much we can wear out our poor pupils, especially sitting in front of computer screens all day. Give your lids a rest and close them if only for a minute of solitude.
2. A zenful breath: Ujjayi is a yoga breathing technique used to try and center one’s focus away from all the many distractions in our daily life. The simplest way to describe the ujjayi technique is to pretend you are holding a mirror in front of you and exhale and inhale deeply towards that imaginary mirror as though you were trying to fog it up. Now close your mouth, breathe through your nose as you remain aware of that same quality of breath (a Darth Vader-like breath, similar to the sound of the ocean). This sound is continued through a slight closing off of the back of the throat during both your inhales and exhales. Try breathing as deeply as you can using this technique for twenty full breaths to see what its effects are for your body.
3. The sound of zen: Pop in and hit play to a mix your favorite calming tunes. Try sacred or classical music if you prefer something purely instrumental, or new age artists like TJ Rehmi and Enya for slightly more upbeat yet meditative in their own way.
4. A sip of zen: The benefits of green tea are many including lowering of “bad” cholesterol (LDL), helping to prevent cancer, reducing high blood pressure, lowering blood sugar, and destroying the bacteria that forms plaque. Try a cup of Tazo’s Zen green tea when you need a meditative moment with a side of health-minded benefits.
5. The scent of zen: Use aromatherapy lotions or oil sprays (diluted oils in a spray bottle) at your desk, home, or even in your car to surround yourself by the instant soothing scent of lavender or bergamot, comforting vanilla, chamomile’s relaxing benefits, or the meditative effect of sandalwood.
6. The beauty of zen: Take a moment to create something expressive—write a poem, song lyrics, a quick sketch, or collage … something fun, creative, and artistic. It’s during these moments of creativity that we can find peace and rejuvenation.
7. The path to zen: It’s simple, it’s comfy, it’s a toasty pair of clean socks. That’s right, something as easy as changing into a new pair of socks during the middle or end of your day can give you a newfound rejuvenation.
8. Healing touch of zen: Aches and pains distract us from fully focusing on the present moment or task at hand. Help relieve the distractive tension by throwing a warm heating pad on those sore shoulders, neck, or lower back.
9. Understand zen: If stress is piling up around you at work or home, take a few minutes to bring your awareness to the greater meaning of it all. Here are a few sites with inspirational quotes and zenful stories to bookmark on your computer:
10. Sharing zen: We send out mass emails, forwards, ecards, and rarely see personalized mail anymore. Pass on a bit of zen through the unexpected personalized email or letter to a friend or family member just because.