What do you think of when you hear the word “zen”? Maybe a long-beared man meditating on a mountain top. Sure, that could be considered zen, but you don’t need to quit your job and set off with a backpack and white robe in search of peace and harmony.
If you’re a typical Type A go-getter, then you can probably relate to juggling multiple work projects, family life, self-care and a never-ending to-do list. Frankly, you, as much any anyone, can probably use a little zen in your life. The good news: it’s more easily accessible than you might think (mountaintop is optional).
Here are some things to remember:
Zen is not about perfection, or being constantly happy and blissed out. Life gets messy. We experience a wide range of human emotion, and they’re not always happy ones.
Zen is about learning to be like water, without form or shape, and flowing with ease. It’s about contemplating a bad situation and asking introspectively, “What is the lesson here?” instead of “Why me?” It’s allowing yourself to actually feel your emotions, instead of shoving them down, or trying to cover them up until one day they violently surface with the force of a pressure cooker.
Do you often feel stressed, anxious, or like there aren’t enough hours in the day? These are my top five zen tips to get to a more blissful place:
1. Get out of your head and into your heart. When you’re having a particularly trying day, your mind may start spinning out of control, a typical stress response. Try repeating this mantra: “I am not my thoughts.” Simply observe them, as if you’re watching a movie.
Let them happen, but don’t become attached. Your mind will get the message that you’re not willing to play the freak out game, and the thoughts will fade.
2. Stop trying to control everything. Acceptance is your zen best friend. There is so much in our lives that’s out of our hands. Control what you can, but trust that the rest is happening for a reason.
One day you’ll understand. In the meantime, worrying won’t change anything, so don’t.
3. Strive for excellence instead of perfection. Perfection is an illusion. None of us humans are perfect.
Trying to obtain the unobtainable is setting yourself up for grief. Instead, strive for excellence. If you come up a little short, great or pretty darn good aren’t bad outcomes, and they feel much better than beating yourself up with disappointment.
4. Keep it clean. Be the gatekeeper of what creeps into your consciousness and life. If a project or goal is stressing you, change it or start something fresh. If certain people are toxic, create a distance.
If you really want to say “no” then say it! It’s your life. Don’t settle.
5. Practice mindfulness. A regular meditation, yoga practice, or intentful walks in nature will help train your brain to connect with the present moment. Thoughts of the past or worry of the future are what trigger stress and anxiety. Live in the now, grateful for each moment.
Choose one of the five zen tips and incorporate into your life starting right now. Once you feel you have a grasp on that tool, move on to a second, and so on. Once all five become part part of your daily routine, you will be a bonafide Type A zen master.
Let us know in the comments which change you will begin with, so we can cheer you on!