It turns out that to reap the benefits of being Zen you don’t have to commit yourself to hours of meditation. We have discovered that huge changes in attitude and outlook can come from adopting just a few simple Zen practices. These are the 4 S’s of mastering a Zen lifestyle.
Zen monk and activist Thich Nhat Hanh says that by smiling you make life more beautiful. An instant antidote to all of the stresses that build up on our shoulders, and the tumult in our minds, is a smile. This sounds totally cheesy, but it actually works! Scientists have found conclusive evidence showing that our facial emotional responses trigger powerful psychological responses. Rather than waiting for happiness to come and give you a reason to smile, try smiling and seeing what feelings follow. This is the beginning of your Zen path.
Cultivate a mind that sees clearly. The first step is not to go straight to seeing, but to begin by recognizing the fallacies in your perception. Once we acknowledge how faulty our methods of observance are, we can begin to awaken. We rid ourselves of delusion. We are not so persuaded by our own minds. We recognize that truth and what our minds tell us is true may not be one and the same thing. Once you understand this you can begin to truly see: to see through the projections and the illusions, to see clearly and simply and truly.
One of the tenets of Buddhism is that to practice meditation you must be aware of the existence of suffering. This naturally leads to an impetus to serve. Engaged Buddhism asks us to help alleviate the suffering of ourselves and of others. Service can be as easy as cooking a meal for a friend, or lending them a hand. It can be cleaning up after your partner without resenting the mess they have left. It is an age old truth that by giving we receive, and if you try it you will be surprised by how true it is.
Zen says that life is precious. And that is all. Not life can be enjoyable when we have attained enough or achieved enough, but just life is precious, without any qualifiers. And the more we simplify our lives, the more accessible life becomes to us: the more we can experience how precious it is.