Find Your Zen

As of late, quite a few people have asked me how I remain so relaxed and stress free with everything I have going on in my life. If I am honest, I do have my moments! Running your own business or starting a brand is labour intensive and it can be mentally, physically and emotionally draining. That’s not to say it’s not enjoyable either; just know nothing is ever perfect. When you work for yourself or start a brand on your own it’s easy to get pretty consumed by it all. Start-up success doesn’t happen over night and you have to put your heart into it. There is so much to do and you also have so much to prove, more so to yourself than anyone else. The same can be said in any career path. Even being a stay at home mom or caregiver can send one into a state of complete emotional depletion and dissatisfaction. It’s hard to be all things for other people and more things for yourself. We all need to have spaces where we can just clear our mind and find our zen.

I am not going to get into an in-depth explanation about Zen Buddhism because we all believe what we believe and I don’t want this to get looped and twisted with ‘religious’ practice. Although I will note, Buddhism is a way of life, a way to connect spiritually regardless of your religious leanings and it often gets clumped into the same category as the Abrahamic traditions (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) in terms of ideology. Anyone, whatever you believe in, can find their Zen. Finding your Zen if you will, or getting to that space where you come face to face with yourself and how things really how (not how they appear in your mind) is what I am talking about. This is what the overall premise of Zen Buddhism is and this aim is done with a practice called zazen a form meditation. For those who want to delve deeper into Zen Buddhism, one of the many schools of Buddhism, you can find out more here.

 

What Do I Mean By Find Your Zen?


I am sure you have heard about the power of meditation. Some people do it all the time and find it quite easy and other people find it torturous. For most people, meditation entails sitting in a quiet room, blocking out all the outside noise and mental clutter and becoming one with your breath; being present. This is one form of meditation or meditative method I should say. It’s highly beneficial and it’s probably one of the easiest ways to get into finding your zen. For beginners, designate, for starters, 5 minutes of your day and then work your way up. It can be any time in the day, find a time the works best for you. Some people meditate during their lunch break, or skip that afternoon coffee and spend that time in their office or a quite space available to them to meditate. Others meditate before they go to bed, it’s a great way to unwind and beneficial for those who have trouble sleeping.

Now I know what you’re thinking? I don’t have time to meditate during the day, I don’t work in an environment that is conducive to this. Do you expect me to sit on the floor with my legs crossed just anywhere and get zen? No! I understand that this form of practice, particularly during that day, isn’t available to everyone. So early in the morning before you start your day or before bed is best. I feel there is always time in a day if you eliminate time wasters. You know what they are and I am sure you can think of a least a few activities that you do during your day that serve no purpose at all and waste a lot of precious time. Time you can spend on yourself.

So beyond the traditional practice of meditation there are other forms of meditation that you can seamlessly incorporate into your life. This is where I am going with this so bare with me. By the time I get to the end of my ramblings I hope you can think of five zen spaces you can get to throughout the day to clear your mind, bring back balance and flow into your life on a daily basis.

 

Your zen space is what you create. 

My go to zen space is walking. It’s that simple. Believe it or not walking meditation (otherwise known as kinhin) is another form of meditation. We walk to get places and to do what we need to get done each day. I don’t think many people give it much thought; you walk from point A to B. While you’re doing this your thinking about all sorts of things, your posture isn’t aligned and your breathing isn’t in sync. You probably don’t even pay attention to what’s going on around you because your mind is cluttered. Walking is just a means to an end. It’s kind of like watching a driver speed through busy traffic to get somewhere that isn’t going anywhere but they have to get there so they go as fast a possible and miss the red light. When you actively walk or practice walking meditation you have to slow down. Clear your mind of all the noise and lists. You have to put your phone away and walk without a destination point so to speak. You have to stand tall, shoulders back, breathing deeply in and out and just walk; just be. Look around you, take in the noises, the sounds of life, nature and the colours that paint the sky. All you need in this moment is your breath to keep you flowing and your awareness to guide you. Be present, think nothing, just observe and think nothing! Focus only on what you see and feel as you walk. What is currently taking place in your surroundings. I learned this form of meditative practice years back while studying Buddhism and it just stuck with me. You will notice that the colours and sounds of life are much more vibrant than before. An old walking path will become new again because you are really here and present. You will also notice your breathing and how important it is, another natural behaviour that gets over looked. Just breathe, indeed this is true, yet many people sit with their shoulders hunched and their backs rounded therefore not allowing their lungs and diaphragm to fully take in enough air. Remember attention goes where energy flows so sit up and let the air flow in and out of your body. Air is energy and you will never be able to escape the fact that you need to breathe to live. Watch how something this simple will ease your stress, release tension in your body and clear your mind.

Another zen space that I like to go to is cooking/baking. A lot of people find that cooking calms them. It’s another way to get connected to your food as well. The colours, the tastes, the textures and the process. We are always on the go. In this moment you can slow down and just really take a look at what your eating and how you are preparing it.  But you have to do this without distractions. I know it’s easier said than done if you have kids, but if so get them involved in the process. Spending time with your family can also be your zen space and cooking or baking together is a great way to do this. In some cultures cooking is an art that’s not only a means to feed the body but it’s a practice that’s meant to enliven one’s senses and create balance. If you have ever foraged for, lets say wild mushrooms in the woods or watercress for a salad you will know the profound impact this act can have on the mind, body and senses. Or what about strawberry picking, the moment you take a bite out of a fresh strawberry you just picked. Just like cooking, is a zen space to go to, gardening or foraging can harness the same present moment effect of connecting to the earth and what is happening as you feel the sun and hear the sounds around you. Remember think of nothing (no lists, who you hate, who you love, when you are going to be rich) just be right there. Slice each vegetable with intention or plant your hands into the earth with intention.

 

How Do You Find Your Zen Spaces

Well, above I mentioned two of mine. What I will tell you is that you need to find the activities that calm you. Find things that naturally clear your mind to start with; this is a good starting point. From here you will be able to pinpoint your five zen spaces. Walking meditation, in my opinion, should make the list. Get off the couch and take a stroll around your neighbourhood and don’t even think about taking a single photo even if you see the best sunset in your life.

I posted a review on adult colouring books earlier in the year (or late last year). Adult colouring has become quite the trend these days. Remember when you were younger and you would get lost in the moment colouring or painting. Nothing mattered but what colour would hit the page next. You didn’t know what it would look like when you were done but the moment was taking this piece of art where it wanted to go. You were present, breathing and thinking of nothing other than what you were doing in that moment. Unconsciously you were harnessing a zen space; a clear mind space free of mental formations and blockages.

So what you need to do and there is no timeline and if you can only find two to start with this okay. Is think of those moments and times when you allowed yourself to be present. Were you dancing, playing an instrument, wood carving, sailing…what were you doing? How did you feel? If it brought a sense of ease and present moment awareness then start with this activity. Obviously, I am not encouraging some wild behaviour, you know what I am talking about. I had to say that because I know how some of you think (I get your emails!). I am referring to spaces and places that have given you peace of mind and clarity. Accessing these spaces and places are extremely beneficial to your overall well-being and help you make better decisions that aren’t clouded with irrationality and instability. You will see how quickly you’re able to navigate through difficult times and not allow stress or grief to consume you and in turn make you sick. Your mind is powerful and your thoughts can make you sick in addition to the actions associated with those thoughts.

When we find our zen, we start to tune into how things really are. We become familiar with our nature, no one is perfect, we recognize this and we can make the steps needed to make improvements that are necessary. So we can be our best selves, give our best selves out into the world and hopefully live a purposeful life. We also open our minds and our hearts so we can see more than what want to see and more than what we think. You will be amazed with the amount of great ideas that come to you when you bring back the balance, the zen into your life. You will be amazed with how deeply you love and how deeply you forgive just by simply learning the art of living meditation, the art of finding your zen. A strawberry is much sweeter when you pick it, wash it, prepare a nice fruit bowl, sit by the window, watch the sunset, just being, just there and think nothing and breathe.

 

I am not going to write a list of zen spaces, places or activities because only you know you. If you don’t, it’s time to know thy self; get into it! It’s the only trend that will ever last your entire lifetime. I will leave you with two great sites that will guide you through two kinds of meditation: traditional meditation and walking meditation*. The more you practice this, it will become routine and an essential aspect of your life. I think it’s time for us to learn how to create balance in our lives rather than seeking somewhere…where? The answer is right here in the present moment and inner peace is waiting for you to open your heart and mind. Yes, life will never be perfect, but what you do with it will make all the difference.

 

Cover Image: DIDIER BAERTSCHIGER

 

*links for more information.

P.S. There are great books in the library or bookstore that are great for meditation beginners. I encourage you to go and explore a bit and see what fits you.

 

Author Description

Hanifa Sekandi

Founder & Editor-in-Chief

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