4 Steps to Becoming More Zen

During these hectic and strange times it can be hard to find peace, comfort and balance. I have been researching options and techniques. Almost always, adopting Zen methods tops the list. Before we get into the details, just what is Zen? The textbook definition is: a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition.

Here are the top 4 practices that I have adopted and that seem to provide more balance and happiness for me. 

  1. Develop new personal rituals. We all have rituals we perform each day. Things like, getting up in the morning, going to work, preparing breakfast or exercising each day. All rituals add a sense of purpose and structure but I wanted to add some that are more mindful and less task related. I added two rituals to my day that have helped me to start and end the day more deliberately. Nature and being outside is where I am happiest so in the morning, (before I begin work) I sit outside or near a window in silence for about 5 minutes. I try to clear my mind and just be int he moment. I do the same as the sun sets in the evening. This simple change has added a new level of harmony and I sleep better. Personal rituals invite us to use clear intention with our senses, movements and feelings. They also allow us to  better visualize and focus so that you’re meaning and purpose is clear. 
  2. Don’t pack your calendar. I can hear you now, I have things that have to get done. Believe me, I’m one of the most productive people you will meet, but planning small breaks in the day have made a big difference for me. There is a Zen rule to do one thing at a time and do it well before you move onto the next project. By focusing on one task at a time and planning space between the next you provide yourself with more time to do the project well with less anxiety about getting everything done and some time to acknowledge completion. Space between things gives your mind a break and allows you to start fresh with each task. 
  3. Slow down your mind. Practice the art of sitting (Zazen).  Zazen is about sitting meditation. It’s a meditative practice that’s designed to give insight into your true nature of being. It originates from the teachings of Buddha. If sitting and mediating is not you’re thing, its important to find something that allows your mind to relax. For me, that’s exercise. When I am on a long walk or working out I allow my mind to wander and just go empty. With COVID, I have doubled up on work outs. I added one in the evening around 7 pm and that helps me to clear my mind so that later I can sleep more soundly.
  4. Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is about paying attention while focusing on intentional actions. It can be very challenging to slow down and notice what is happening around you when things move so quickly in the world today. Doing so, can be very helpful to put things into perspective.  Mindfulness is also about living in the moment. One of the key enablers to practicing successful mindfulness is to accept yourself. Embracing and accepting you’re strengths and weaknesses will help you to move forward. Focus on breathing is another aid to being mindful. Honestly, I’m not real good at this but am working on it. I like the mindful.org site as a guide to help with breathing as well as other techniques. I find it to be detailed but easy to follow. If your interested, check it out here.

In summary, incorporating some Zen techniques into your daily routine can add great value. The zen methods are free and can be made very personal for each individual. As the Holidays approach and we balance celebration with being COVID responsible incorporating these steps could really help balance your mindset.

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Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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