Once Upon a Time ,there lived a Superwoman. Not the kind that flies in the skies but more like the one who flies through the day. She took pride in her mile long To-Do list that ensured she juggled her various roles without dropping a single ball. And if she did drop one, well , that was so very disappointing.Because she was surrounded by a culture that did not allow her to fail. Forget fail, she couldnt be less that perfect! Till one day she sat down and looked at her kids, waiting for her to slow down and walk with them, match her pace with theirs and not the other way around. I guess, most urban women today would identify with the heroine of the little story above.
There were days when my thoughts were like cooked spaghetti- too many all at once and hopelessly entangled. A hundred ‘To-do’s’ rushed about crashing into each other – presentation deadlines collided headon with kiddy tantrums , a missed homework shoved me into mom-guilt-hell , a domino’s dinner made me re-assess my time management skills and somewhere the stress of not living upto my own expectations dragged me down. After all wasnt i expected to be a successful professional, doting mom, caring wife, enviable hostess and of course look drop dead gorgeous while being all of this.Maybe no one else expected it but myself, not realizing the dreadfully harmful fallouts – edgy nerves, dwindling patience,cranky moods,unhealthy bingeing and what-have-you.
Though the children were my wake up call, I too reached a point where I did not want to race, I did not want to be perfect, I was ready to allow myself to be relaxed and just be reasonably good at what i did, realising that as a woman, mother, wife , professional, I had a lot on my platter and i needed to be kinder to myself .And therein began my quest for being more balanced, living each day slowly , deliberately and consciously, enjoying the little moments of life – watch a flower bloom early morning,without wondering if my email of last night got delivered!
Today, while still performing all my varied roles, I feel much more joyous, more fulfilled , more in tune within and without. Here are some wonderful tips on living Zen from an absolutely wonderful site www.zenhabits.net., that have inspired me for a while now.
1. Do one thing at a time. This rule is a part of the life of a Zen monk: single-task, don’t multi-task. When you’re pouring water, just pour water. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re bathing, just bathe. Don’t try to knock off a few tasks while eating or bathing. Zen proverb: “When walking, walk. When eating, eat.”
2. Do it slowly and deliberately. You can do one task at a time, but also rush that task. Instead, take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random. It takes practice, but it helps you focus on the task.
3.Do it completely. Put your mind completely on the task. Don’t move on to the next task until you’re finished. If, for some reason, you have no choice but to move on to something else, try to at least put away the unfinished task and clean up after yourself. If you prepare a sandwich, don’t start eating it until you’ve put away the stuff you used to prepare it, wiped down the counter, and washed the dishes used for preparation. Then you’re done with that task, and can focus more completely on the next task.
4.Do less. A Zen monk doesn’t lead a lazy life: he wakes early and has a day filled with work. However, he doesn’t have an unending task list either — there are certain things he’s going to do today, an no more. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you fill your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do.
5.Put space between things. Related to the “Do less” rule, but it’s a way of managing your schedule so that you always have time to complete each task. Don’t schedule things close together — instead, leave room between things on your schedule. That gives you a more relaxed schedule, and leaves space in case one task takes longer than you planned.
6.Develop rituals. Zen monks have rituals for many things they do, from eating to cleaning to meditation. Ritual gives something a sense of importance — if it’s important enough to have a ritual, it’s important enough to be given your entire attention, and to be done slowly and correctly. You don’t have to learn the Zen monk rituals — you can create your own, for the preparation of food, for eating, for cleaning, for what you do before you start your work, for what you do when you wake up and before you go to bed, for what you do just before exercise. Anything you want, really.
7.Designate time for certain things. There are certain times in the day of a Zen monk designated for certain activities. A time for for bathing, a time for work, a time for cleaning, a time for eating. This ensures that those things get done regularly. You can designate time for your own activities, whether that be work or cleaning or exercise or quiet contemplation. If it’s important enough to do regularly, consider designating a time for it.
8.Devote time to sitting. In the life of a Zen monk, sitting meditation (zazen) is one of the most important parts of his day. Each day, there is time designated just for sitting. This meditation is really practice for learning to be present. You can devote time for sitting meditation, or do what I do: I use running as a way to practice being in the moment. You could use any activity in the same way, as long as you do it regularly and practice being present.
9.Smile and serve others. Zen monks spend part of their day in service to others, whether that be other monks in the monastery or people on the outside world. It teaches them humility, and ensures that their lives are not just selfish, but devoted to others. If you’re a parent, it’s likely you already spend at least some time in service to others in your household, and non-parents may already do this too. Similarly, smiling and being kind to others can be a great way to improve the lives of those around you. Also consider volunteering for charity work.
10. Make cleaning and cooking become meditation. Aside from the zazen mentioned above, cooking and cleaning are to of the most exalted parts of a Zen monk’s day. They are both great ways to practice mindfulness, and can be great rituals performed each day. If cooking and cleaning seem like boring chores to you, try doing them as a form of meditation. Put your entire mind into those tasks, concentrate, and do them slowly and completely. It could change your entire day (as well as leave you with a cleaner house).
11. Think about what is necessary. There is little in a Zen monk’s life that isn’t necessary. He doesn’t have a closet full of shoes, or the latest in trendy clothes. He doesn’t have a refrigerator and cabinets full of junk food. He doesn’t have the latest gadgets, cars, televisions, or iPod. He has basic clothing, basic shelter, basic utensils, basic tools, and the most basic food (they eat simple, vegetarian meals consisting usually of rice, miso soup, vegetables, and pickled vegetables). Now, I’m not saying you should live exactly like a Zen monk — I certainly don’t. But it does serve as a reminder that there is much in our lives that aren’t necessary, and it can be useful to give some thought about what we really need, and whether it is important to have all the stuff we have that’s not necessary.
12. Live simply. The corollary of Rule 11 is that if something isn’t necessary, you can probably live without it. And so to live simply is to rid your life of as many of the unnecessary and unessential things as you can, to make room for the essential. Now, what is essential will be different to each person. For me, my family, my writing, my running and my reading are essential. To others, yoga and spending time with close friends might be essential. For others it will be nursing and volunteering and going to church and collecting comic books. There is no law saying what should be essential for you — but you should consider what is most important to your life, and make room for that by eliminating the other less essential things in your life.
I read an interesting question the other day ” Are we slowly living or slowly dying? ” – a dark thought , but worth thinking about . Enjoy your day. Slowly.Purposefully.Consciously. 🙂