- Religion and Philosophy»
How to Be More 'Zen'
Slow Down To A Different Pace of Life
Being more Zen sounds easy doesn't it? Just slow down, go more gently, smile and be happy.
But in this modern hectic lifestyle that we live in, slowing down doesn't seem so easy to do. How can you slow down and relax more when you have a job to rush to every day, kids to look after, meals to make, shopping to do, washing, ironing....the list just goes on and on.
Is it possible to slow down and live life at a more gentle pace when you have so much to do?
Yes it is.
You just start by breathing deeply. People will always tell you to take deep breaths when you're stressed. But the truth is that you need to take deep breaths all the time. None of us breathe as well as we should. That's why we yawn all the time because our bodies and brains are starved of oxygen because our breathing is to shallow.
So from now on, whenever you have a spare minute or two (standing in a supermarket queue, waiting at the Xerox machine at work, waiting for the microwave to go 'ding,' use this time to correct your breathing by taking as many slow deep breaths as you can. This means breathing in as slowly and for as long as you can (try doing it for a count of 5 to start with) and then breathing out as slowly as you can (for a count of 6 or 7 to start with - out breathes should always be longer than in breaths).
While this doesn't sound like very much to do and you can't see how it will make a difference, just try it and see. Deep breathing really helps to energise you mind and body. You could also try doing a few slow upward stretches. Just raise your arms out from your sides and arc them into the air (while breathing in) till your fingers are pointing straight at the ceiling, hold the pose and your breath for a few seconds while stretching upwards the whole time, then lower your arms very slowly while breathing out. Just doing this once or twice is really amazing and can even draw you out of your 3pm slump every afternoon.
This stretching exercise can also be practiced first thing in the morning shortly after rising. Try doing it 3 times before you dress. But always take this exercise slowly and carefully and never, ever strain. Done correctly, this is a beautifully revitalising exercise. Just try it to see what I mean.
You can also start practicing what the Buddhist refer to as Mindfulness. This means completing one task at a time (no multitasking) while only thinking about the task you are doing. No planning for the future or dwelling on the past. Just work diligently on your task and if your mind begins to wander, snap it back to the present.
You can also take some time out to sit down and think (and I mean REALLY think) about why you have set your life up to be so busy. Chances are, it needn't be that way.
Sit (or walk) and think about why you work where you do, or why you work at all. Is it right for you? Is it right for your family? Is there a better alternative.
There's a story that goes like this:
I recently heard from a man who had a job in the city.
He hated his job, but he had to have the job so that he could afford his house. He didn’t like his house much either, but it was all he could find that was close to the city. And he had to be near the city to keep the job he hated, so that he could afford the house that he didn’t like but had to keep because it allowed him to keep the job he hated. ~ Johnny B Truant
Is your life like that? I used to be the same. I used to rush out early to work every morning to go to my job just so that I could pay my bills. As ABBA used to sing, in their song Money, Money, Money - I work all night I work all day to pay the bills I have to pay. Ain't it sad. And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me. That's too bad.
I didn't want to live my life like that so I started looking around at what I really wanted to do which is be a writer. Then I took a writing course, bought a computer, did another course on how to make quick cash from writing, and I haven't looked back since.
I went from working full time to working part time and writing full time (it was time consuming but I was loving it) to quitting my job and writing full time, once I could earn enough money from my writing.
I also became more frugal because I came to realise that just like the story above about the man who was working to pay for a house he didn't like, I too was working for the wrong reasons. I was working to pay for things I really didn't need to buy.
So I sold off things I no longer needed and stopped spending so much.
Now here's the story of what made me realise I was spending money of unnecessary stuff.
I had a neighbour across the road who had two children. Her house was old and she didn't seem to own very much stuff and what she did have wasn't nice. But every day an ice cream van would come up our street. This van never missed a day, and every time it came, out came the woman across the road and let her two kids pick whichever ice-cream they wanted. And these boys didn't pick cheap.
One day I was idly watching her when it struck me that those ice creams must be costing her a fortune. So I began to mentally add it up. If the ice creams cost $2.50 each (which would have been about right then) then she was spending $5 a day. 7 days a week she was spending $35 on ice creams. 52 weeks a year meant that she was spending nearly $2,000 a year on buying ice creams.
Holy moly! That money could pay for a family holiday.
So then I started thinking about all the things I would buy without thinking and I realised that even buying simple things like a take away pizza or a cake from the bakery, although they seemed cheap at the time, they were actually costing me thousands of dollars every year.
So I made it my mission to stop stupid spending. And guess what? I halved my monthly grocery bill. I was spending just as much money on junk food as I was on proper meals. I also started saving money in other areas too. The difference was amazing.
And when I stopped spending, I realised that I didn't need to earn as much money, and so there was less pressure to work long hours because it turned out I didn't need the money after all.
You wouldn't believe how much pressure that lifted from me.
And with less mental pressure and less working hours, I had more time to read books about mindfulness, slowing down, living frugally, working from home and healthy cooking.
I felt liberated. And suddenly I understood what all those Zen monks were saying.
Being more relaxed, happier and less needful of material possessions, really was a much better way to live. Suddenly I felt rich. I had more time and felt less stressed and to me that was worth far more than money.
Now I love my life and you can do the same.
Get rid of anything in your life that's not working for you and practice being more 'Zen.'