If ever there was a time we needed to bring calming, grounding practice into our lives it’s now. Stilling the mind, being present and grateful… Time to get the ancient Japanese art of Zen in your life.
Many of us are feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and struggling to cope with the restrictions of lockdown life right now. There is disorder, and disharmony. Covid-19 has a lot to answer for.
First practised over a thousand years ago, Zen is one of the key sources of the meditation and mindfulness trend that has swept the West. The simple things below are time-tested to detox your mind, lift your spirits and soothe anxiety.
Ready for some Zen?
Get some Zen – Meditate
In Japan, there’s a long tradition of people going to Zen temples to learn meditation and mindfulness to equip them for success and happiness in life. While we can’t disappear to a Zen monastery right now, we can easily implement Zen tools into our everyday life. And gain remarkable results.
Make meditation a daily practice. Recent studies have shown that meditation decreases the stress hormone cortisol and increases the release of dopamine (the chemical associated with feelings of pleasure). It also boosts our serotonin levels.
Depleted serotonin levels are associated with depression. So regular meditation acts like a natural anti-depressant, and unlike prescription pills there are no nasty side effects. Plus with meditation, you get to know yourself on a deeper level and the inward connection can even lead to states of elevated consciousness and bliss.
Looking for ways to raise your dopamine? You might like this article about ‘feelgood chemicals‘
Get some Zen – Be Present
Zen places an emphasis on mindfulness – being aware and being present in every moment. This helps to boost our happiness levels since we can start to move out of our head. Getting away from any overthinking, or negative, anxious thoughts swirling around, to becoming fully present and engaged.
This might sound simple. But it takes practice for us to drop old patterns of distraction and simply be in the present moment. If you find it challenging to stay in the present or you find your mind wandering, simply focus upon your breathing. Start allowing your breath to be deeper and longer – this instantly calms the nervous system and enhances our happy hormones.
How is your sleep health? You might like this article about improving your sleep
Get some Zen – Cope with Emotional Pain
The Zen secret to working with emotional pain is found in the acronym AA – awareness and acceptance.
When we stay with our emotional pain, without avoidance or judgement, and replace it with a sense of compassionate awareness, extraordinary transformation and healing can happen.
It’s also useful to view pain as a messenger, trying to communicate with us and point out something about how we are living. And naturally, taking any necessary action relating to your suffering is also crucial.
With Zen, we try to treat our emotions like floating clouds that go right through us.
Get some Zen – Cultivate Gratitude
In Zen, there is an emphasis on cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful and focusing upon the blessings in our life helps to change our perspective about how we see life in general.
If we only focus on our challenges and hardships, this can have a negative impact on our health. Because thought follows attention. Instead, if we turn towards to all the positives in our life, then that will occupy more of our attention.
So spend a few minutes per day reflecting on what you’re grateful for in life. This will elevate your happiness levels. We can even learn to be grateful for our most uncomfortable circumstances in life too as they ultimately show us what we need to heal and how we can grow. And as the Zen proverb goes, ‘No mud, no lotus’.