Zen Habits Live Simply (don’t just shove it under the rug)
Do one thing at a time. This rule (and some of the others that follow) will be familiar to long-time Zen Habits readers. It’s part of my philosophy, and it’s also a part of the life of a Zen monk: single-task, don’t multi-task. When you’re pouring water, just pour water. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re bathing, just bathe. Don’t try to knock off a few tasks while eating or bathing. Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
Do it slowly and deliberately. You can do one task at a time, but also rush that task. Instead, take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. It takes practice, but it helps you focus on the task.
Do it completely. Put your mind completely on the task. Don’t move on to the next task until you’re finished. If, for some reason, you have no choice but to move on to something else, try to at least put away the unfinished task and clean up after yourself. If you prepare a sandwich, don’t start eating it until you’ve put away the stuff you used to prepare it, wiped down the counter, and washed the dishes used for preparation. Then you’re done with that task, and can focus more completely on the next task.
Do less. A Zen monk doesn’t lead a lazy life: he wakes early and has a day filled with work. However, he doesn’t have an unending task list either — there are certain things he’s going to do today, an no more. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do.
Put space between things. Related to the “Do less” rule, but it’s a way of managing your schedule so that you always have time to complete each task. Don’t schedule things close together — instead, leave room between things on your schedule. That gives you a more relaxed schedule, and leaves space in case one task takes longer than you planned.
Develop rituals. Zen monks have rituals for many things they do, from eating to cleaning to meditation. Ritual gives something a sense of importance — if it’s important enough to have a ritual, it’s important enough to be given your entire attention, and to be done slowly and correctly. You don’t have to learn the Zen monk rituals — you can create your own, for the preparation of food, for eating, for cleaning, for what you do before you start your work, for what you do when you wake up and before you go to bed, for what you do just before exercise. Anything you want, really.
Designate time for certain things. There are certain times in the day of a Zen monk designated for certain activities. A time for for bathing, a time for work, a time for cleaning, a time for eating. This ensures that those things get done regularly. You can designate time for your own activities, whether that be work or cleaning or exercise or quiet contemplation. If it’s important enough to do regularly, consider designating a time for it.
Devote time to sitting. In the life of a Zen monk, sitting meditation (zazen) is one of the most important parts of his day. Each day, there is time designated just for sitting. This meditation is really practice for learning to be present. You can devote time for sitting meditation, or do what I do: I use running as a way to practice being in the moment. You could use any activity in the same way, as long as you do it regularly and practice being present.
Smile and serve others. Zen monks spend part of their day in service to others, whether that be other monks in the monastery or people on the outside world. It teaches them humility, and ensures that their lives are not just selfish, but devoted to others. If you’re a parent, it’s likely you already spend at least some time in service to others in your household, and non-parents may already do this too. Similarly, smiling and being kind to others can be a great way to improve the lives of those around you. Also consider volunteering for charity work.
Make cleaning and cooking become meditation. Aside from the zazen mentioned above, cooking and cleaning are to of the most exalted parts of a Zen monk’s day. They are both great ways to practice mindfulness, and can be great rituals performed each day. If cooking and cleaning seem like boring chores to you, try doing them as a form of meditation. Put your entire mind into those tasks, concentrate, and do them slowly and completely. It could change your entire day (as well as leave you with a cleaner house).
Think about what is necessary. There is little in a Zen monk’s life that isn’t necessary. He doesn’t have a closet full of shoes, or the latest in trendy clothes. He doesn’t have a refrigerator and cabinets full of junk food. He doesn’t have the latest gadgets, cars, televisions, or iPod. He has basic clothing, basic shelter, basic utensils, basic tools, and the most basic food (they eat simple, vegetarian meals consisting usually of rice, miso soup, vegetables, and pickled vegetables). Now, I’m not saying you should live exactly like a Zen monk — I certainly don’t. But it does serve as a reminder that there is much in our lives that aren’t necessary, and it can be useful to give some thought about what we really need, and whether it is important to have all the stuff we have that’s not necessary.
Live simply. The corollary of Rule 11 is that if something isn’t necessary, you can probably live without it. And so to live simply is to rid your life of as many of the unnecessary and unessential things as you can, to make room for the essential. Now, what is essential will be different to each person. For me, my family, my writing, my running and my reading are essential. To others, yoga and spending time with close friends might be essential. For others it will be nursing and volunteering and going to church and collecting comic books. There is no law saying what should be essential for you — but you should consider what is most important to your life, and make room for that by eliminating the other less essential things in your life.
The ancient Chinese philosophical tradition of feng shui, which concerns the placement of objects and buildings in order to maintain environmental harmony and bring about prosperity and good fortune, is so deeply rooted in Hong Kong’s culture that they even incorporate this practice into their architecture. Everything from the orientation to the shape of the building - down to the placement of the doors and windows - are taken into account while designing it.
Air is the element of the East, connected to the soul and the breath of life.
Deities & Creatures Associated With Wind
In many magical traditions, air is associated with various spirits and elemental beings.
Sylph - They are typically connected with the air and the wind - these winged creatures are often related to powers of wisdom and intuition. Paracelsus described these beings as invisible beings of the air. They are mortal, but soulless.
Stribog - The Slavic god of winds, sky and air. He is said to be the ancestor (grandfather) of the winds of the eight directions.
Tate - The Lakota wind god or spirit. There are four primary wind spirits, referenced in relation to the four directions. It is thought that the wind unites “all” in one spirit, and that eagles, who stand on the wind, are the carrier of vision. Tate is said to guide one through obstacles. As the invisible realm, wind connects past present and future, connecting ancestors and future generations , uniting humankind into the essential, eternal spirit.
Zephyr - In popular lore Zephyrs are the guardians of the winds. Zephyr was the west wind in Greek myth, son of Aurora, goddess of dawn. He was the lover of Flora, goddess of flowers and together they cause the flowers to grow in spring.
Thunderbird - It is considered a supernatural bird of power and strength. The thunderbird’s name comes from the common belief that the beating of its enormous wings causes thunder and stirs the wind.
Skosrå - They are Swedish wood spirits that are present whenever a violent whirlwind appears and the trees are shaken to breaking point.
Gifts of Air/Wind
Breath is a divine gift, returned to the giver at death. The secret of breath is part of the magic of air. We take air into us which contains vital energy that some call prana and others chi. When we breathe in deeply we inhale this life force and rhythmic breathing exercises helps to attune you to the powers of air.
Inhaled air is the sustaining breath of life, while exhaled air carries the words, poetry, and song that communicate human ideas and knowledge. In many myths creation is brought to life when a god breathes into it. It was often thought that spirit could be blown into or out of people; demons were blown out of people.
The powers of air are also concerned with the intellect, the powers of the mind, knowledge [as opposed to wisdom], logic, inspiration, information, teaching, memory, thought and communication. Like the other elements, the powers of air can be constructive or destructive. The gentle breeze cools and brings the life giving rain, but it can become the destructive hurricane. It is for this reason that the magical symbol of air is a two-edged sword.
The voice of the air spirits is heard in the wind. There were many scared groves where the voices of spirits were heard in the wind whispering in the trees. The head of the alder was used as whistle so that the spirits might speak through it. The druids were attuned to interpreting these voices, and druid means ‘oak knowledge’.
People who have air dominant in their psychological make-up are flexible, versatile, dextrous, tasteful, idealistic, original, individual and tolerant. However, they can also be distant, self opinionated, easily bored, impatient, self-deceiving, superficial, indecisive, quarrelsome, manipulative, thoughtless, cruel, fickle, inconsistent, unreliable and two-faced.
In Feng Shui, wind chimes are believed to bless one’s home with prosperity and happiness. Hang a set by your front door so that good energy will be brought in every time the wind blows. In contrast, in parts of Appalachia, wind chimes are considered a bad idea, because they call up spirits of the dead.
Sailors had a number of superstitions about wind and air. In some cultures it was said that if a ship was becalmed at sea, sticking a knife in the mainmast would draw the wind to the sails, as would throwing a ha’penny overboard. Shooting stars meant the wind was about to pick up, and whistling aboard ship could call up an ill wind.
In parts of the British Isles, tradition says a howling dog indicates that the wind is coming to take away the spirits of the dead.
A shooting star shows that wind is coming from the direction toward which it goes.
Do not fish when the wind is in the west; the fish will not bite.
Direction of The Wind - The direction of the wind on New Year’s morning is said to predict prophesies about the coming year. Wind from the south, expect money and happiness. Wind from the north, foresees a year of foul weather. Wind from the east brings famine and bad luck, while wind from the west brings milk and fish, but the death of someone important. No wind brings joy and prosperity throughout the year.