8 months ago I wouldn't have been able to write this post. Zen was this mumbo jumbo thing I associated with people in colourful clothes, weird hair, and weird habits, men and women in spandexes doing weird stuff with their hands... I lacked the maturity and the depth to perceive what 'attention' i.e. Zen really meant. But change is the only constant and here's my view of what has been a cornerstone in transiting from quick burst hacks to sustainable lifestyles.
Before I even start writing about this thing, Zen has a loose definition in popular literature really and is nothing if not grounded in practice. So read books about it if you want to delve into it.
ZEN = SILENCE
Zen entails hearing the silence outside. But to capture every sound around you right now, you need to cancel out the noises inside. It’s just amazing ! Try it now. Stop. Try it now :) Listen to the sound of your computer or your fridge, the other people around you, speaking or moving slightly. Stop for a second. Can you hear the breath of the girl in the corner or the guy at that table ? Can you hear your breath ? Did you notice ?
By simply trying to capture every sound, even for a second, you unconsciously establish inner silence. Your thoughts fade away ! How many times have you dreamed of silencing the inner cacophony ? It’s that simple. A plain matter of focusing attention not on your thoughts / inner noises but outside noises. It’s magic. No need to fly to Bali anymore or go to a spa. You can enjoy silence here and now. You can feel and hear your breath. Every sound reaches you. Like a superman of silence (I need to trademark this thing)
Pushed to the extreme, one can say Zen is about disappearance of the self. And Zen literature expresses it in many ways. Here's a strange trail of thought, bare with me:
- Everything has buddha value. The moment is everything.
- You need no one in Buddhism. The moment is enough.
- Attention and consciousness are crucial obviously to realize that. They are present of course ...
- However, Buddhism approves of existence despite absence because it is the annihilation of ego and a transcendence of dualism …
“What ?!!”. Let me sum this up : The world continues to exist despite one’s disappearance. Zen is ultimate vulnerability you see. Zen is deliberate personal death. You are nothing and the world is still there despite you. You are dead. And one can’t break what’s already broken. One can’t kill what’s already dead.
ZEN = SHOCK
Zen sometimes manifests through 'koans'. Keeping in mind that Zen is an improved ability to notice the moment, remember your last epiphany. It sounded like an inner BOOM. As if your world was turned upside down. In their interactions with disciples, Zen masters often try to disrupt their thinking to that extent. The BOOM extent. They call it the 'koan'. Think of it as a shortcut to enlightenment or better yet : As a 9/11 of the mind and spirit.
Hacks are Minimal Effective Dose Operations aimed at repurposing a system by introducing a change as minimal as possible. Think of koans as the Zen hack of the mind. A typical quote (mis-attributed to Buddha) that could act as a koan is the following:
“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”
Wow ! Another interesting exercise to bring about a rapid change of mind is Richard Wiseman’s advice from his book “59 seconds: Change your life in under a minute”:
"Asking people to spend just a minute imagining a close friend standing up at their funeral and reflecting on their personal and professional legacy helps them to identify their long-term goals and assess the degree to which they are progressing toward making those goals a reality."
Mindfulness and a healthy convergence to a happier self can be done quite simply by setting 5 minutes aside every night to write down the 3 happy things that happened to you during the day
ZEN = PATH TO PERSONAL EVOLUTION
Zen entails a focus on the moment and an ability to notice every feeling and every detail of that moment. One becomes a better receiver and a better emitter of one’s own emotions. By honing this personal feedback loop, one realises the relative importance of each feeling and emotion. One starts leveraging what’s truly relevant to him and participates to his well-being. The mind becomes aware of the weight and impact of each emotion towards things, people and life events.
And let’s not delve into mumbo jumbo new age bongo and higher levels of consciousness. Zen means stopping at noon in front of your lunch and noticing you’re eating even though you’re not hungry or listening to yourself screaming at your loved one and thinking "But I love this creature !”. So if evolution is natural selection, Zen creates an inner ecosystem ideal for echoing one’s own emotions and helping them co-exist. Zen, hence, favours a natural selection of feelings. Zen is this path towards personal emotional and spiritual evolution.
And here's a koan for you. You've heard about how particles behaves differently whether they're observed or not. Photons for instance have a double nature. They're a wave and particle and 'opt' for one or the other when they're observed. There is a quantum nature to the electric and magnetic fields in light (quantum theory of radiation). And same for your mind. It behaves differently when looked at. When you observe the motion of your thoughts and emotions, they're bound to act differently. So take a dive into your Quantum mind :)