Zen is a practice. Being at peace is usually not something that last 24/7 unless you’re a monk on the top of mountain, and even then it’s not guaranteed. It takes commitment and re-commitment to finding peace within us.
The good news is that practice makes perfect. The more we practice our zen muscles the easier it is to return to it.
The tricks to practice a zen attitude are:
1. Reminders: set up reminders where you’ll see them most frequently in the course of the day. Have your favourite inspiring zen quote on your computer desktop, framed in your kitchen or office, on your smartphone or agenda.
2. Daily practice: have a daily routine which includes some zen practice such as mindful breathing, meditation, journaling, yoga, reading a zen text… It is important to make it a daily habit, ideally having a practice in the morning and another in the evening.
3. Be kind to yourself: it is fine to have stressful days and not being perfect in your practice. It is part of the practice. There is no need to be a master, to be a zen practitioner. Don’t be harsh on not handling everything with a zen attitude or falling behind on your practice. Let go of your idea of perfection. Every moment is a new chance to start anew. Breathe and be gentle on yourself
4. Be committed: it takes commitment in order to keep a zen attitude to life. Life will interfere and many experiences will challenge your peace. Stay committed to respond the best you can. Be aware of how you react and recommit to stay on track with your practice.
5. Ease: practicing zen is letting go of control, it is practicing ease, it is accepting what is. Find ease into your life as often as you can. Don’t take anything for granted, drop your attachment to your thoughts and outcomes. Let go of a sense of having to do something. Let ease come to you.
If you want to feel happy and at peace, positive thinking is key. So how to reverse years of negative thinking?
1. Positive thinking is a practice. It is not a magic pill you can eat and be happy all day long. It is a practice of catching on your negative thoughts and replace them with positive empowering words.
2. Feed your soul with positive thoughts. How? Well, first by avoiding sources of negativity, such as listening to the news (is there any positive news ever? yes but they don’t report them on tv). Avoid gossiping (one of the biggest negativity source). Avoid negative talk on yourself and others.
3. Learn and practice positive affirmations. Learn to reframe your thoughts into a positive attitude to life. Instead of being wary of going to a party where you know no-one, be exited of getting to know new and different people who may inspire you. Instead of having repetitive thoughts about your tight budget, turn it around with thoughts of gratitude of all you have right now, and so on.
Believe in the words you are saying. Have the desire to see the world through positive lenses.
Use “I” or “me” and the present tense, such as “I am worthy of love and happiness”, “The universe always supports me”.
4. Be gentle with yourself. You cannot overturn a pattern of negative thinking in one day. It takes months of practice. Be perseverant. It is worth it. You are worthy of happiness and of positive outlook on life.
Peace is not about circumstances in your life, it’s about how you decide to react to those. Peace is not about sitting on a mountain top and meditate all day long, it is about let go of your attachment to drama and misery, while welcoming silence in your mind, favoring curiosity about the world instead of skepticism, choosing to listening instead of judging, opening your heart to possibilities instead of barring your path with obstacles.
Peace is within.
Meditation is a key practice to help you find and feel at peace.
Practicing mindfulness and awareness of your reaction to circumstances will support you in consciously choosing to be at peace rather than getting involved in the mind’s drama.
But all in all it is a conscious daily decision to let go of the ego and mind reactions to create space for peace to come in your life. It is a decision to favor peace above stress, anger, irritation, self-worth or unworthiness talk, envy, drama and negativity.
It is not a magic pill or mantra. It is a decision, a letting go, a mindfulness practice.
We spend so much of our days in reacting of the demands of our minds that we often forget to reconnect with our true nature and our heart’s intentions. So how to reconnect daily with ourselves?
The following simple trick is inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh meditations.
Close your eyes. Start noticing your inhale and exhale.
Now that you are comfortable with your eyes closed and breath, start counting your breath from 1 to 10. On your inhale count 1, on the exhale mentally count 1. On the following inhale count 2, and exhale count 2, and so on until 10. When you loose the counting, start back at 1.
When you notice that your mind has wandered away from the breath, don’t judge, just let go of the train of thought and go back to your breath.
The reason I love this exercise is that it is as simple as counting to 10 and has a great impact and help in going back to your daily demands with a fresh mind while giving you space to reconnect with yourself and with what really matters. Plus, it takes only a few minutes and can be done couple of times in your day.
Before taking a decision, when hitting a problem, when feeling stressed or tired, the answer is to reconnect with yourself.
Sit comfortably on a chair or cushion. Legs crossed if it feels good.
Palms on your thighs.
Lightly close your eyes.
Feel the air going in and out your nostrils.
Imagine breathing in some peaceful and regenerating air and breathing out stress and worries. Do this for 5 breaths.
Then place your attention in the space between your breaths. After you breathe out, pause for 5 seconds before breathing in. Feel this space between the breaths. Let yourself hang out a while in the vastness between your breaths.
Do 10 breaths this way.
Stretch out a bit.
How do you feel?
The one barrier to be at peace, to live from a joyful happy place, to be and feel alive, is resistance to what is.
When you resist the present moment, you cannot feel happy and grateful to live what you are living. You are looking for happiness in the next moment and in the next thing, and once you get the next thing or live the next moment, you may feel happy for a while, but soon enough you’ll be resisting the present moment again and look for other moments and other things.
Be aware of your resistance to what is. And let go of it.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reach for other moments or things, but resisting what is not only delays you reaching the next moment or thing, it prevent you to see through the joy of the process, of the journey to get there. It rips you from the gratitude of what you are experiencing.
Let go of your resistance and replace it by an easeness, an openness to the now.
How many times have you started a new habit to drop it after a few days? It happens to us all. Some days we wake up feeling like we own the world and we’re rocking some positive thoughts, doing yoga and meditation. Others, we just want to stay in bed. Just the thought of meditating hurts, even we know it’ll be good for us.
We all know that regular meditation and yoga practice and a positive attitude is what really will make a difference in our lives. Here are the 2 essential tricks to make the practice a permanent way of living:
1. Intention: You’ve got to mean it man. Not just be a “one day I’ll be a chill out positive person, for now I don’t have time or I’m too stressed out”. You need to have a strong intention to be who you want to be and stop making excuses. Be aware of the excuses. They’re going to come because change is scary. Realize that they are just fear and that you deserve to be who you really want to be. You deserve to take 20 minutes a day to meditate, to roll out you mat and practice yoga. Because you know that it’ll make you happier, more peaceful and alive. Set the intention and mean it!
2. Persistence: You make not like this trick but here is the blatant truth. You’ve got to be persistent in your new habit. You’ve got to come back to it. Make room into your life for it. Wake up 20 minutes earlier to meditate. The 20 additional minutes of sleep won’t give you the rest, energy and clarity that meditation will give you anyway. Go back into your intention. Remind yourself of what it means to you. Keep on tuning into a more positive mindset. Go back to it everyday, every moment. The more you go back to it, the easier it’ll get. Meditation and/or yoga will become something you’ll not consider living without.
Make it your new mantra: intention and persistence!
Flash news: you are your own Buddha. You don’t need to become someone else or to change anything. You are Buddha exactly as you are, where you are. You just forget it most of the time. How to awake from this amnesia?
1. Awareness: Realize that you are perfect. You don’t need to change anything. The moment when you are fully aware of your divine nature, you are enlightened.
2. Go back to your Buddha nature as often as you can: The thing with awareness is that it last for 30 blissful seconds and then you go back living into misery. Practice awareness as often as you can throughout your day. Reconnect with your limitless and eternal nature. Use your breath, mantra, chakra, chant, whatever works for you. Make awareness a priority in your life. That’s all is needed.
Need a quick shortcut to some peace in your mind? Here it goes:
1. Take a deep breath: Notice the air filling your lungs and then pay attention to the sensation of the air going out of your nostrils. Make it a mindful deep breath.
2. Let it go: on the next breath, no matter what your mind is dealing with, let it go. Break the attachment to your life situation. Stop trying to look for a solution or answer or understanding. Let it go. Drop the mind chatter. Let it all go.
3. Stay there a little while longer: now that you dropped everything, you have found peace. Stay there for a little while. Let go some more if necessary. Don’t try to put words into your experience. Just be there fully deeply with your breath, nothing else.
Repeat as often as you can.
Who doesn’t want to feel alive every minutes of every day? Everyone. However most of us worry about the next moment rather than feeling satisfied of living THIS moment. Here are a few tips to make most of life as it happens:
1. Live Your Life Directly. Don’t live for the next moment, the next thing to buy, the next career step to achieve, the next person you’ll meet. You don’t need agendas or goals. If you live fully engaged and present in your life, you will be more likely to take action to reach what truly your heart is set to realize.
2. Be Vulnerable. Accept that you don’t have to be perfect. Show your imperfection. Be willing to feel and be vulnerable with yourself and in the presence of others. This way you will stop judging yourself for not being perfect, and will be able to act and speak wholeheartedly.
3. Stop Judging Where You Are. Accept that you are who you are and where you are now. Stop judging and comparing with how it should be. Because it is not. It is how it is now. Feel the gratitude and the satisfaction of what you have now and where you are now. You can still reach for improving your situation. Judging and comparing will most likely not help and make you feel stuck. Take responsibility for who you are and stop judging yourself for it.
4. Aliveness is in the Now. You cannot be alive in the worry or anticipation of the next moment. You can only be alive here now. This moment is all you have and all you will ever have. There are no other moment than now. Give yourself fully to it and notice how it makes you feel. That is what aliveness is.
Some people may be in tune with exactly what they want and need, others may struggle to know what path to step on. Today, we live in a time where many more paths are open to us to step on and shine. We have the opportunity to access different professions, passions, places, etc. What seemed like an impossible or obstacle filled path for our parents, such as study abroad or pursuing a passion outside of traditional professions, is very much accessible to us. From the multitude of options, it is sometimes difficult to opt for one, as we are ourselves multi-passioned people. How to make a decision?
1. Have a vision. Imagine what a day/week would like for your ideal self. What would you like to accomplish. What kind of activities would you want to have your days filled with? Write it down. Cut and paste pictures if it helps. Create a vision board or a journal entry that you can refer to frequently.
2. Aliveness. Look for what makes you come alive. In filling out your vision, feel inside you what it is that makes you come alive. Regardless of fears and potential obstacles, just check in within you what is it that makes you jump out of bed in the morning and do it. What are you obsessed with? What fills you with joy and aliveness?
3. Check in with your vision and feelings. When you have to make a decision, refer to your vision and feeling of aliveness. Does going down that road is helping me getting closer to my vision? Or is it a detour? Do I feel alive when I’ll do it or is it a compromise that makes me die a little inside? The vision and the feeling of aliveness are your guiding lights into the decision making darkness.
Too often we get attached to our past, or some past experiences. Sometimes consciously, sometimes not. An episode of being bullied at high school or feeling humiliated in speaking in front of the class, being afraid of expressing what we feel from being laughed at when crying or expressing our feelings as kid. How many times to you refer to a fear from past experience? The truth is that we don’t need to being hold back by our past. Let’s see how:
1) Realize that the past is the past. It doesn’t define who you are. No matter what people say. Your identity, your character, your strengths are not a build up from your past. Past experiences may have been helpful (or obstacle) in the decision that you make today but who you are, your true self, is not, and can never be limited by your past.
2) What defines you is who you are now. It is the decisions that you take now.
3) Because you are who you are now, it gives you the potential to be whoever you want to be. Now is always there. Yet at every moment you can decide anew. Now you can make the decision to repeat your thoughts and decisions from your past, or you can step up to your true potential and your true desire. Strength is available within you at all times if you choose to follow your heart.
Life is never a journey of constant bliss. We all experience disappointment on the way, would it be from our own actions or of others. Not achieving our goals or not getting a yes from a job application leads to disappoint. Here a few tips to deal with it:
1. Don’t try to suppress your disappointment: you have the right to be disappointed from time to time. So express it. Feel it. Scream it. Punch a pillow if it helps. Not allowing your frustration and anger will actually amplify it. You can’t get rid of it by hiding it. The only way to get over it is to let it out and let it go.
2. Let it go: Once it is out of your system. It is time to let it go. Breath in and out deeply. Imagine all your frustrations and discouragements filling a big balloon. Then let go of the balloon. Either imagine it exploding or slowly flying into the space.
3. Take responsibility: Yes, you have ben disappointed, but you are still there, breathing, living. You now have the choice to learn from it and letting the experience strengthening you or you can let it to paralize you and making you miserable. It may be useful to look at past disappointments to see what you gained from it and realize that often it turned out for the better. It is also good to look at what has been your role into the situation that led you to be discontent. It is easy to blame others, but we are always responsible (or co-responsible) for what happens us. What were your thoughts about the situation, job or person? Were they positive, fearful or cynical?
4. Have a vision: The mind likes to play tricks and to bring your disappointment back into your awareness and will try to transform it into fear of further action. Be aware of that process. Don’t let it take your powers. Set a new vision for yourself based on what your learned from your disappointing experience. And let your vision guiding you positively to new and refined goals. Don’t let fears decide for you. Rather make the vision you created for yourself be the decisive factor.
We have all a voice inside our heads guiding us either to a defeating perspective or to positive realms. While we most likely don’t mind when the mind is singing positive words, we would prefer (I assume) skipping the days where it gets whiny and negative. So how can we master out mind’s chit chat to move it to the direction we want to travel?
1. Decide who is in charge: Yes you have a choice, at any given moment, to decide who is in charge of your mind. Your ego or your true self. Your mean negative voice or your empowering positive light. Decide who is in charge. Empower your inner voice.
2. Awareness: This one is crucial. As soon as you will decide who is charge the one that you try to silence will use any trick possible to come back and speak even louder. Be aware of its return, be mindful of what triggers it and tricks it uses.
3. Decide again and again and again: You can only truly master your mind by practice. The more you will opt for your true light to speak through your mind, the easier it’ll get to come back to loving and positive thoughts, but it takes constant awareness and practicing of deciding to not let the ego/mean voice to take over.
4. Love the mean voice/ego: Learn to love your mean voice. Feel compassion to your ego. It is just afraid to let your true self shines. It is afraid of being hurt. It is ok. Love it fully. Understand its functions and what triggers it. Acknowledge it. Decide again to let your true voice speaks.
5. Posts reminders: Put post-it, alarms, messages to remind yourself to choose to only let your loving voice shine and to speak positive words.
Those who pretend they are happy and zen 24/7 are either zen masters or liars. We all have ups and downs, awesome days of zen attitude and others of wanting to crawl back into bed. When the latter days come up, you want to find your way back to brighter moments as soon as possible. Here are a few tricks:
- Honor your shitty whiny self: yes you heard me. Being totally not zen is part of being zen. When you feel like crawling back into bed, go back for a few more hours of sleep or schedule a big nap in the day. Skip all your workout sessions. Indulge into your favorite forbidden food and put your sweat pans to watch the crappiest TV your lazy self craves to watch. Honor yourself. If you got to be bad, do it all the way or not at all. It is the fastest way to recovery, believe me.
- Look for the light: once you have indulged into your depressed self all the way, you have honor this part of you who needed to rest, to take it easy and to be lazy. You have felt all the emotions that needed to come out. It’s part of the detox. Now you can slowly look for the light in the darkness. It’s a good time to look at your life and check what you are grateful for. Gratitude will show you the way to what is already awesome into your life, and that some more awesomeness is ready to enter if you make the decision to kick yourself into action.
- Action: There are no better moral booster than some good old action. Pick up your to-do list (or write one) and do one item from your list. Crossing over to-do thing will get you motivated to accomplish more.
- Beat the beast: Now you are ready to go. Face the dragon, beat the beast that had you procrastinating, beating yourself up for. Start by the smallest step and do it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Write down what your deepest fear is. Consider the worst case scenario. Ponder if this is really true. Question it. Now, you are ready to make your battle plan and go on make it happen.
- Go back into the groove: Yeah you’re ready to ride full speed on and tackle your dream away. Don’t forget to take some breaks every now and then to breathe and check back with yourself, to talk to your fears, to meditate and avoid for your whiny self to take over you too often.