Zen is always a difficult subject to discuss, simply because the ultimate goal of Zen—enlightenment—is not something which can be truly captured in words.
Enlightenment is something that can only be felt; once you try to capture it, it disappears. But studying Zen is about the feeling of enlightenment itself. Zen is about the practice, and finding enlightenment on your own terms.
With Zen comes a host of wisdom that one can apply to their everyday lives. These include insights and values that most people take for granted or ignore for their simplicity, but once you truly make the most of these universal truths, you can find yourself reaching that enlightenment little by little.
Here are 8 crucial rules for a good life from a Zen Master:
1) Be Careful With Your Words, and Stick to Them
Buddhism emphasizes the power that our own words have over us. While it can be easy to dismiss the things we say and pretend that they mean nothing, our words are much more important than we often realize.
They act as our representatives to the world around us, and the more careless we are with our words, the lesser we will be in the eyes of others.
Take care of what you say, and more importantly, follow through on those things that you do say.
It’s all about practicing what you preach. If you can commit yourself to a life where people know that they can rely on your word, then you will learn to respect yourself more than you could have otherwise.
2) Never Eat To Satisfy
Eating is one of those things that we don’t usually associate with being Zen or not being Zen, but the truth is that eating healthy is a major way you can regulate your mind and body.
It can be easy to surrender yourself to hunger, and eat until you are satisfied.
But abusing food has consequences on both the mind and body—not only will you gain weight and become unhealthy, but you also become weaker against addiction and temptation.
3) Every Morning, Meditate and Light Incense
It might seem like a bit of a hassle at first, but once you fall into the routine you will see that there is nothing more satisfying and powerfully contributing to a life of Zen than daily early morning meditation with incense.
Everything comes together to help you discipline your mind and body—waking up early in the morning, giving yourself a daily ritual to look forward to, the soothing aroma of incense, and the chance to reconnect with yourself every morning.
4) Be Both a Hero and a Child
Every day is a test—the choices we make are all individual decisions that shape who we are and how we interact with the world.
And it can be hard to know which choice is the right one, especially when we are not always totally familiar with the circumstances and possible consequences.
The best way to live your life according to the Zen teachings is to be both a hero and a child.
This means being fearless and brave, willing to step in front of others to protect them, much like a hero; but it also means remembering the importance of love and tenderness, being kind and gentle like a child.
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Once you learn to combine these two personalities together, you can start making decisions with a full heart and mind.
5) Study Every Opportunity
We do not always know opportunities when they come by, not until it is too late. In other cases, an opportunity may seem so wonderful that we jump on it immediately, worrying it will never happen again.
Whether it is quiet and subtle or loud and obnoxious, it is important that you study every opportunity thoroughly. Is it truly what you want, and more importantly, is it truly what you need?
6) Be Who You Are When Having Guests
This one needs a bit of explaining, but basically it refers to living in the present. When you have a guest at home, it is important that you stay you—do as you would do if you were alone, and act and speak the same way.
And when you are alone, conduct yourself in the same manner as if you had guests. What does this teach? It teaches you to respect yourself and your own time the same way you would respect others.
7) Sleep at a Normal Time
Sleeping determines the quality of your life much more significantly than you would think. Making a consistent sleep schedule at a normal hour can dictate the quality of your next day, and your next and your next.
Breed this normality and consistency and you will see results immediately.
8) Don’t Mourn the Past: Prepare for the Future
While a Zen master may be most concerned about living in the present, it is still a helpful reminder to let go of the past.
No matter what you might have done, you must keep in mind that those things are done and dusted; they cannot be reversed.
It is time to mend your wounds, regrets, and old pains, and start making a better future and tomorrow.
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• How and why to be mindful: There are many simple exercises you can do to bring a mindful attitude to quotidian activities such as eating breakfast, walking the dog, or sitting on the floor to stretch.
• How to meditate: Many beginning meditators have a lot of questions: How should I sit? How long should I meditate? What if it feels awkward or uncomfortable or my foot falls asleep? Am I doing it wrong? In this book, you’ll find simple steps and explanations to answer these questions and demystify meditation. (And no, you’re not doing it wrong).
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• How to let things go: As Buddhism teaches, excessive attachment (whether we’re clinging to something or actively resisting it) all too often leads to suffering. Practitioners of mindfulness meditation find peace in letting go and accepting things as they are in the moment.
Check it out here.