Updated: Aug 15, 2020
Admit to yourself the frequency with which you deny yourself your desires.
Maybe your philosophy is that desire is the root of evil, or desires are nothing but childish impulses that must be disciplined into submission; then this article is not for you. I’m challenging the individuals in agreement with the idea that desire is the compass to the adventure of life, our wayfinder to a fulfilled potential.
Truth is, a “fulfilled potential” sounds like something for Athena, or Zeus. Enticing to your senses, and yet just out of reach. You notice the longing; you quiet the longing. You repost quotes like “My destiny is in the hands of fate” to convince yourself that the lack of control you have over your life is due to divine will. Well, that is true, but the divine is you and the will is yours.
However, you’re still under the impression that living your best life is an impossible dream. Your logic is sound: how could you possibly fit in time for a bubble bath after the day you’ve had. Your thoughts spin, you think about the chores you missed, the dusty floorboards you’ve been meaning to get to, that stack of papers on the dining room counter that keeps growing. HA! Fulfilled potential, whatta crock. You’re too human for that stuff.
Not so fast, dear one. Slow down. Join me in taking four, deep, long breaths. Each exhale longer than the one before. Come back to your center point. You’ve already come so very far; rest here, but this is not your settling place.
Now, look at it again. How often do you deny yourself that divine spark?
Let’s get practical: you waste time fumbling through cabinets looking for the accoutrements of coffee making every morning, you waste time scouring rooms because you forgot where your shoes are every morning, oh shit where are your keys? Every morning, you’re losing 3-5 minutes to scramble, and you didn’t have a hot breakfast. Bummer.
The problem is you are wasting precious moments in the chaos of your daily routine. Not fulfilled, but still plenty of potential.
Every excuse, every faulty priority, every bad choice you’ve made moves you further from the path towards fulfilment.
Okay, you ready to let go of all that resistance, and to finally step into the flow? Are you ready to trust the process? Yea, I thought so.
Zen is the key component to creating a life of harmony. A life where you are following your soul path and feel invigorated by the journey. Zen teaches meditation, which is the practice of organizing the mind. It is important to decide what is important and the way to do this is to explore our impulses, i.e. desires. We must sift through the clutter in our mind to reach the point where our truth is evident. Zen masters would say that our everyday thoughts are miscellaneous, that our truth lies in stillness (of the mind). Stillness is truth; truth is balance, clarity, and simplicity. Some say truth is love.
Most people are living a life that they don’t love. They’re stressed, never relaxed, always pushing towards the next goal, unsure why the satisfaction never comes. They’ve allowed their thoughts of freedom to be labeled as sin or a distraction. In truth, it is their commitment to being busy that creates stressors and strife in their lives. Daily, they make choices and take actions which steer them in the opposite direction of their highest good simply because they cannot hear their inner voice through the busy chatter of their own mind.
Imagine having a relationship with your highest potential self. Imagine knowing every choice you make brings you closer to your purpose; closer to a stress free, happy life; closer to love. It is possible through Zen.
Zen, an ancient Buddhist philosophy dated as far back as 5th century, is the practice of meditation with the goal of heightened awareness and a peaceful mind. The important components of Zen are balance, clarity, and simplicity. I will expand on these here.
Zen is balance
Upon reaching home at the end of your work day you may fall into one of two common habits: powering through dinner and chores, finally collapsing in bed exhausted with no time for yourself; or you remain overwhelmed by the running to-do list in your mind and end up ordering take out, watching TV until well past midnight and wake up feeling like a zombie the next day. You follow the same routine day after day hardly stopping to wonder why it is you are an exhausted zombie. Both people in these scenarios need balance. They both need to make choices and take actions to bring their lives closer to Zen, but they still are yet unaware of how to do so. One over-does it, the other does nothing to avoid the feeling of not doing enough. Oi vey!
Here we have a planet full of people who are led by habit and programming. They wear blinders and stick to tradition, suppressing their desires through exhaustion and denial. Their natural balance is skewed, their quality of life does not mirror their effort.
After taking a long hard look at your choices, you’ll notice that you spend an inordinate amount of time doing things for your not-self. Doing things for work, spouse, family, children, church, and home to name a few. How often is your time spent on you? On your goals, your dreams, your DESIRES. Whatever the ratio may be in your life, Zen recommends we bring it into balance by making the right choices. You cannot do everything and have energy to left over for exploring your purpose. You must Marie Kondo your life- keep only that which inspires joy. Say goodbye to the stack of clothes in your closet you haven’t worn in years. Delegate chores to your children and spouse. Make a weekly chores list if you must. Start saying “no,” especially at your job, especially if your work is not in alignment with your truth. Let go of the belief that doing more is a virtue. Of course, we want to be productive, but repeating the same routine day in and out is the equivalent of spinning our wheels in the mud- its not actually productive in the context of bringing you closer to your best life.
Create a place in your home that is designated as sacred. There is to be no clutter, only objects which bring your inspiration and inspire the feeling of joy. Make choices that bring free time into your life. Use the extra time you’ve accrued to meditate. Start with breath, stay in your place for one minute your first try. Expand your breathing practice and stay for longer periods of time as you grow more comfortable with making truthful choices.
Zen is clarity
When there are many choices, there are few clear choices.
Meditation is a core component of Zen that will allow you to find clarity; it will help you to decide what is important, because until this point you have allowed most of your desires and thoughts to accumulate and become very disorganized in your mind, similar to your overflowing closet.
Picture you, standing in front of your closet. Most likely, your closet is full to the brim and for this you are grateful. The number of options that hang before you are multitudinous. There is abundance, yes; but there is also lack of clarity. What exactly will you wear, today? You can’t know all the possibilities and making the correct choice given the number of options you have amassed seems impossible.
The “capsule wardrobe” trend is a fantastic example of clarity in the closet: these (mostly) ladies have very clear choices when it comes to their clothing options. Because of this clarity, they feel confident in their choices. Guess what? Confidence breeds gusto, i.e. invigorating energy!
If Zen is your goal, you must balance your priorities to include time for you to be quiet and still. You must also actively search for the choices that bring you closer to your best life. As you learn to quiet the chatter in your mind, you will notice that many of your thoughts are not true. You may also notice thoughts that belong to your friends and family. Thoughts that belong to your country, city, or community. You’ll begin to recognize positive and negative thoughts. Soon, very old thoughts will appear. You may become overwhelmed with the number of thoughts you have. At this point you should re-commit to your practice of breathing. Breath is a clarifying act and is essential in a Zen practice. Breath will help you to remain centered while sifting through the clutter of your mind.
As your thoughts become evident, you will become capable of discerning the thoughts that serve to support and encourage you on your path to the best life. You may discard those thoughts that are doubtful, critical, angry. You are becoming clear, you need only to fill your mind with positive affirmations; all else is clutter.
Zen is simplicity
Clarity and balance, breath and meditation; so far, we’ve learned that Zen is work. The work illuminates our path to the best life for us as individuals. The balance you’ve made space for is the practice of making yourself a priority; meditation is the physical embodiment of self-love. You remove everything that is not you and focus on that which is. As important as prioritizing yourself is, getting clear on your chosen path is as essential as breathing. You cannot turn left and right simultaneously, you must choose. You cannot breathe in and out simultaneously, you must do one followed by the other. The path of breath is clear, use it as your guide for drawing into your life positivity and releasing from your life the negative mind clutter which does not benefit you. Finally, allow your newly found space and clarity of thought to make your life simple.
Wouldn’t you love to be as agile as a ninja throughout your entire day and life, where each move is purposeful and fluid? That is what you will gain with a mastery of Zen and the acceptance of simplicity. Western minds are taught that complicated means sophistication. Zen’s perspective of complication is that it makes life difficult when there is no need. You will be constantly trudging though life’s stressors if you stick to the habit of filling in empty space with more stuff. This is complicating your life. You will be more ninja like if there are fewer mind obstacles for you to trip over.
Marie Kondo is a Zen master, along with many of her tidying peers. Her philosophy on home organization is daunting for the un-organized, yet it is so simple. She says: “keep only what sparks joy, put like-things together and make a place for every object in your home. Do these things and your life will be magically better”! That’s right, as you sort through your mind clutter deciding which thoughts and desires to keep as your own, you will realize how much unwanted stuff was there and how much new space is available. Avoid filling in this space with more clutter, let the space stay free. This is the practice of simplicity. That is why Zen is so important when organizing a house, because every person wants peace, tranquility, ease of movement, and joy in their home and their lives.
Let your mind rest after meditation. Focus on your breath as the most important thought process of your day. Do this and you will notice the mind clutter return, it wants to take over. Mind clutter is the path to stress, breathe it out. Where you were ill equipped before, now you will know the choices to make that bring you closer to your best life.