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The Zen State of Mind: Wake Up! - June 2009 Newsletter

 

The art of Zen is no longer reserved for Buddhist monks sitting atop a hill in their monasteries. Contrary to popular belief, anyone can reach a Zen state of being without changing too much about their day-to-day life. Also known as satori, Zen is a simplified way of thinking. Thinking only about what is currently happening, rather than the past or the future. Zen is living in the now; being still and calm.

As a blending of Eastern ideologies, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, Zen has slowly started moving to the Western part of the world. Originating in Japan, the teachings moved through China, India and slowly gained popularity throughout the world.

What is Zen?

There is a fundamental belief in the Buddhist doctrine called Zen. Similar to enlightenment, Zen is an awakening. The shutting out of white noise that brains constantly replay throughout the day and concentration on the immediate task at hand.

Though the word Zen is a Japanese word, and comes from the Sanskrit word translated means meditation. In modern day life, few have time to spend searching for answers and taking the time out to rejuvenate let alone become enlightened, but living in the moment is one way to reach this point.

As Eckhart Tolle says in his book, A New Earth, our minds are constantly racing about what happened yesterday, last year or next year. We are trained to think about the future from a very young age. We prepare for what we will be in our adult lives, where we will live, where we will work, who we will marry, where our kids will go to school, how much money we need for retirement. But what about today? Right now; in this moment? All too often we forget to stop and smell the roses that are right in front of us, instead opting to think about what to do when the flowers die and we have to replace them.

Preparing for the future is a normal and important part of life, but being able to get back to center is just as critical. Rather than waiting to live later on in life, a Zen state of mind helps us live in the moment and enjoy life as it is happening.

To be Zen is to have a clear and completely conscious perspective, even if just for an instant. Many of the thoughts that run through our brains are recurring even when we aren't aware we are thinking at all. It happens at home, at work, while we drive to work. You may recall a product that some have in their homes and offices called a "Zen garden," the theory behind this sand garden is that while they are raking the sand, nothingness fills the brain.

How can one get a Zen moment with all the responsibilities in daily life? Here are a few helpful tips to jump start a Zen feeling.

Physical Exercise

Yoga has been around for thousands of years and was created to help the mind and body get in sync with each other. Each of the asanas, or poses, was invented with the intention of creating a perfect balance to center yogis, or those who practice yoga. While yoga is a wonderful form of exercise, the additional benefit is that it can be used as a path to reach a completely still state of being. The breathing (known as Atman), combined with the inversions and quiet, fluid movement of yoga has an incredible way of quieting the mind. A euphoric feeling is said to be felt by many yogis for hours after a single session.  The focus of tuning the outside world out, much like meditation, mixed with the breath and movement of the yogic exercise can create a feeling of Zen throughout both the head and body. 

Walking is another way to take a moment to be with you. Even if it’s a short 15 minutes walk during your break at work, the fresh air and movement can do wonders for your stress levels and the head making the rest of the day easier and less frantic. Even to take a few moments as you sit at your desk, are working outside or whatever your job may be take a moment to stretch and really breathe deeply and audibly. After that exercise you can allow yourself moment to be completely quiet.  Not only will this practice get the blood flowing back into your extremities, but will give you time to collect your thoughts.

Throughout the day, breathing may get shallower as we feel more and more stress and under a time crunch. During this short break take the time to breath deeply.  Regardless of how long or how short the time out you take, it can help bring the mind back to the present moment. The fresh air combined with movement of the muscles is a fantastic way to forget about responsibilities if only for a few moments. 

Working out at the gym or outside are also wonderful ways to release tension and stress. The endorphins that the brain creates during physical exercise create a euphoric state alleviating worry and neuroses.

Everyday Tasks

There are plenty ways that can create a heightened awareness in our daily activities. Many times, we arrive at our destinations with absolutely no recollection of the drive itself. Philosophers suggest driving a different route to and from work every so often to make sure you are fully aware of what you are doing.

It’s easy to get stuck in a routine that is no longer mentally exciting.  Something as simple as going to a different restaurant, eating different meals and altering the daily routine just slightly can create an entirely different awareness and can bring enthusiasm for the slightest tasks. While change can be a little scary, small alterations can also be exhilarating. A new hobby, such as origami or a sport, also provides as a great outlet for any excess energy that would usually be spent worrying. If you love food, allow the time in your week at least once to prepare and enjoy a beautiful meal. Maybe there is a class that you have always wanted to take, but can never seem to find the time for. The time is now! Sign up and give yourself a new activity to enjoy, today.

For those who love teas, brewing a cup can become a nightly ritual to help the mind unwind. Instead of heating the water in a microwave and dropping a tea bag in the mug, heating the water in a kettle and using loose leaf tea can be a wonderful treat. Every typically mundane task can be transformed into a soothing activity.

Meditation

Sitting still and focusing on nothing may sound tedious, but there are many forms of meditation and many don't even require much time at all. Traditional meditation requires a person to sit and be still, sometimes focusing on an object like a candle flame until the person is able to easily reach stillness before closing their eyes. Meditation many times increases energy levels, as physical exercise does so it is best to meditate at the beginning of the day rather than in the evening.

By taking a few minutes a day out for you, to live in the now and stop worrying about everything that is at this moment beyond control. By making that tiny change, you will be awakening your consciousness and living a more Zen lifestyle.

Stop by Mrs. Lin's kitchen to check out assortments of candles and incense to set the mood for the quiet moments in your day. We also carry a huge assortment of tea cups, mugs, loose tea leaves and tea kettles. These items are also wonderful gifts for anyone in your life who can use a little assistance in pampering themselves and a reminder to take a moment to relax.

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The Zen State of Mind: Wake Up!

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