✨ This sounds like wishful thinking, but it’s true. When it comes to how I experience life (my happiness and general mood) the state of my mind is more influential than the state of my circumstances. The world holds no inherent meaning beyond my perception of it. Nobody’s perception of reality is objectively true; everyone’s point-of-view is merely an interpretation. If 100 people sat where I am sitting now, each 100 people would have a different interpretation of their surroundings based on their points-of-view and past experiences. The world is a blank canvas. My perception creates the picture.
When I perceive imperfection in another person or see a flaw in my life, do these flaws actually reside in the person and my circumstances, or does the flaw reside in my perception? My thoughts are so fundamental to my interpretation of life that I rarely notice how every day I am painting the canvas of my experience through the lens of my perception. Every thought is another brush stroke. Each subconscious judgement is another color. Soon I am looking at a painting (my experience of life) and have forgotten that I created it.
The kindest thing I can do for myself is remembering to slow down and observe my thinking mind – each inhale and exhale of thought – instead of giving it free reign to shape my experience of life without supervision. This is the point of meditation. My mind has the power to perceive both heaven and hell in each passing moment. Heaven is the state of unbiased and non-attached awareness. Hell is the hurricane of mental chaos. Regardless of what is happening in my life, I have the power to choose my point-of-view. My thoughts may seem insignificant compared to the big bad world, but the state of the world – with all its monsters, demons, angels, and lovers – does not impact my emotions as much as the state of my mind.
Logic does not help here. Only awareness. Because the world is an unfair place, seeing life from a happy perspective is not always rational. There are a million good reasons to be unhappy and blame others. But when I shift my focus from my circumstances to my awareness, I remember that peace-of-mind is always a choice.
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.
“Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.”
i kinda need a fic where Noora takes Isak and Even to her yoga class and Isak is actually really good at it and enjoys it and Even is all like “I’m to tall for this shit, the earth seems too far I am an artist goddamit, downward dog yourself hoe, nope I am never doing this again ever”
What if your problems are opportunities in disguise? Instead of fighting or running away from your problems, what if you used them as a stepping stone to a higher version of yourself?
Next time you face a challenge (which, if you’re like me, is all the time) try seeing how your challenge could help you raise your vibration and become a smarter, stronger, and kinder person. Let go of what you THINK life SHOULD be, and accept the possibility that life is arranging itself perfectly to help you learn and grow.
A change in perspective can transform a problem into a divine opportunity.
✨ Life is uncertain. And that’s okay. The ego strives for the answers, but life is in constant motion, and having certainty is like trying to hold an ocean wave in your hand; as soon as you grasp it, the wave changes shape and passes through.
Happiness and security don’t happen by having certainty. They happen from learning to trust the mystery. When we accept uncertainty, we find strength and clarity in the chaos.
Life is full of chaos. People throw negativity at us. Everybody wants something. The subway breaks down when we are already late. When we are not careful, this chaos can infiltrate our thought patterns and turn our minds into raging storms.
We usually blame external circumstances for our internal frustrations. But truthfully our reaction to circumstances, however imperfect they may be, is more critical to our happiness than circumstances themselves.
A chaotic mind drags us down into the dirt and drama of the negativity surrounding us. But a calm mind keeps the bullshit away. Meditation does not magically make life easier. But it does give us strength to handle life’s pressure with grace.