5 Key Concepts for Zen Living

5 Key Con­cepts for Zen Liv­ing  —  I thought I’d write a “start here” arti­cle to help you get on board with some of our per­spec­tives. This arti­cle con­tains mul­ti­ple links to our site, and to oth­er BLOG arti­cles. Click around and enjoy!

Want to learn more about liv­ing a full and mean­ing­ful life?

Want to have the best rela­tion­ship ever?

Check out my books

1- Zen Living  —  Perspective Colours Everything

zen living
We see what we see

I write from sev­er­al per­spec­tives. 

First of all, I was a Human­is­tic, Transper­son­al Psy­chother­a­pist, until my retire­ment in 2013. This is baf­fle-gab for assum­ing that human nature has with­in it a pull to things which go beyond the ratio­nal and observable.

I also ascribe to Zen Bud­dhism, and this per­spec­tive on being colours my inter­est in sim­ple pres­ence, med­i­ta­tion, and expe­ri­ence ver­sus think­ing.

You can read more about this in my book, Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall

I’m in rela­tion­ship with the love­ly Dar­bel­la Mac­Naughton (a.k.a. Dar), and she’s been my favourite per­son since 1982. We use a com­mu­ni­ca­tion mod­el that has yet to fail us, and our approach to each oth­er is to encour­age explo­ration and self know­ing, while keep­ing each oth­er in the loop through total hon­esty.

You can read about the com­mu­ni­ca­tion mod­el we use in my book, The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

OK, so those are a few of my perspectives.

I am clear that these are not option­al extras for me–these are my core beliefs / ways of doing life / ways of relat­ing. Every­thing I write in some way reflects these per­spec­tives, as well as a host of less­er themes.

If you have not explored your per­spec­tives, and instead think that what you believe match­es what oth­ers believe, you need to rethink it!

I was just talk­ing to Dar­bel­la about a friend not lik­ing what she heard from her part­ner. Dar said (with a big, cheesy grin on her face…), “Tell her to write him a script and give it to him so he says the right thing next time!”

I hope I don’t have to say she was being iron­ic. We often do not hear what we want to hear, and assume the oth­er per­son is wrong. Hint: they’re not. They just have a dif­fer­ent perspective.

2- Zen Living  —  Life is Linear, and also a Spiral

I could swear I saw that prob­lem yesterday…

One of my favourite writ­ers is Abra­ham Maslow. His Hier­ar­chy of Needs is cru­cial for our under­stand­ing of human devel­op­ment. I wrote about his hier­ar­chy a while back, and also looked at his work as it relates to Bodywork.

Humans devel­op through var­i­ous stages, some of which are obvi­ous. Phys­i­cal devel­op­ment, for one, fol­lows pret­ty uni­ver­sal rules, as the cliche “You have to walk before you run” points out. 

Men­tal and spir­i­tu­al devel­op­ment also fol­low pat­terns or stages, and what’s odd is that most peo­ple do not put much ener­gy into this work. They assume that things are sup­posed to mag­i­cal­ly work out, and when they don’t, they blame others.

Our approach is simple.

We teach full and direct self responsibility. 

Part of this is to accept that your job, your path, is to fig­ure your­self out, while at the same time mov­ing “up the spi­ral”  —  in oth­er words, we re-vis­it famil­iar themes through­out life, and as we move past these themes, we then con­front the same issue from a more com­plex point. It’s like walk­ing up a spi­ral staircase.

3- Zen Living  —  Meditation teaches us self-knowing

burmese meditation posture
It is…what it is

Many peo­ple have heard of the hyped up ver­sions of med­i­ta­tion. You know it’s one of those if there is a promise of future rewards con­nect­ed to the med­i­ta­tion process. 

If you med­i­tate to: relax, feel bet­ter, become spiritual–you are miss­ing the boat.

Meditation is a process of slowing down, and simply sitting (zazen.)

If you’d like addi­tion­al Med­i­ta­tion infor­ma­tion, it’s avail­able through this link

In this process, you engage ful­ly with liv­ing, and part of that is that you are present with all of you–with your thoughts, your emo­tions, your aches and pains. Med­i­ta­tion is “being present with.”

If you spend suf­fi­cient time med­i­tat­ing, you’ll notice that you do actu­al­ly get more peace­ful and clear, yet the zazen is “in and of itself.” This process allows us to see just how busy our minds are, and gives us the space and oppor­tu­ni­ty to “just notice.”

4- Zen Living  —  Breathwork and Bodywork teach us about holding and being free.

hands on belly
Hands on is best

There’s a whole sec­tion on Body­work on one of my web­sites. You can spend many prof­itable hours there, learn­ing about where and how you hold ten­sion and emo­tions in your body.

There are sev­er­al ways of work­ing with the body, from Reich’s idea of char­ac­ter armour and use of pres­sure to release blocked emo­tions, to acupressure–which helps with blocked chi, to think­ing in terms of Chakras. If you click this link, you’ll find an entire series of arti­cles on the top­ic of chakras.

5- Zen Living  —  Communication requires a commitment to honesty

couple hugging
Get your words on

As I not­ed above, Dar­bel­la and I use a com­mu­ni­ca­tion mod­el that was devel­oped by Ben Wong and Jock McK­een at The Haven. It’s easy enough to learn, and is help­ful for, for instance, teach­ing the dif­fer­ence between an emo­tion and an interpretation.

For exam­ple, peo­ple say, “You make me sad!” This is untrue. I make me every­thing!

In a very real sense, I choose sad­ness in reac­tion to my judge­ment of what I think you are doing or intend­ing. And most­ly, peo­ple do not check out these inter­pre­ta­tions with the oth­er per­son, so such con­ver­sa­tions rapid­ly turn into messes.

We there­fore teach two things: 

  • 1) use of spe­cif­ic, self-respon­si­ble lan­guage, and 
  • 2) total honesty. 

When I speak, my pro­noun is “I.” What I report is what I am think­ing, how I am inter­pret­ing my expe­ri­ence, and what I am going to do about my expe­ri­ence, emo­tions, and judge­ments. To learn a lot about com­mu­ni­ca­tion, click this link.

So, those are 5 Zen liv­ing ele­ments that are impor­tant to us. The links in the arti­cle great for dig­ging deep­er into any or all of these themes.

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