12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk


12 Essential Rules to Live More Like a Zen Monk

“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” – Thich Nhat Hanh


Zen Habits

I’m not a Zen monk, nor will I ever become one. However, I find great inspiration in the way they try to live their lives: the simplicity of their liveZen Habitss, the concentration and mindfulness of every activity, the calm and peace they find in their days.

You probably don’t want to become a Zen monk either, but you can live your life in a more Zen-like manner by following a few simple rules.

Why live more like a Zen monk? Because who among us can’t use a little more concentration, tranquility, and mindfulness in our lives? Because Zen monks for hundreds of years have devoted their lives to being present in everything they do, to being dedicated and to serving others. Because it serves as an example for our lives, and whether we ever really reach that ideal is not the point.

One of my favorite Zen monks, Thich Nhat Hanh, simplified the rules in just a few words: “Smile, breathe and go slowly.” It doesn’t get any better than that.

However, for those who would like a little more detail, I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve discovered to work very well in my experiments with Zen-like living. I am no Zen master … I am not even a Zen Buddhist. However, I’ve found that there are certain principles that can be applied to any life, no matter what your religious beliefs or what your standard of living.

“Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine.” – Shunryu Suzuki

  1. Do one thing at a time. This rule (and some of the others that follow) will be familiar to long-time Zen Habits readers. It’s part of my philosophy, and it’s also 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.

“Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water.” – Wu Li

Sad story


Violinist in the Metro – Interesting Discoveries – Ego Dialogues

Violinist in the Metro

This is an incredibly sad story which gave me chills. It is a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people.

A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning.
He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

to read the end :Violinist in the Metro – Interesting Discoveries – Ego Dialogues

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Death toll comparisons «


As a zairese originally comin from RDC, I always feel lonely when I’m in a dinner talking about such things as death toll comparison, here are the numbers and figures…

I know we can’t compare people suffering but why decide to talk about some genocide and not an other ?

Death toll comparisons «

The death toll from the world’s deadliest conflict of our times – the DRC (5,400,000) – is compared to the death tolls of a number of other better-known conflicts – those in Israel-Palestine (5,000), Kosovo (10,000), Bosnia (60,000) and Darfur (300,000). The square area of each circle is proportionate to the death toll of each conflict.

Death toll comparison: DRC and Israel-Palestine

Death toll comparison: DRC and Israel-Palestine

Death toll comparison: DRC and Kosovo

Death toll comparison: DRC and Kosovo

Death toll comparison: DRC and Bosnia

Death toll comparison: DRC and Bosnia

Death toll comparison: DRC and Darfur

Death toll comparison: DRC and Darfur

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The New 7 Deadly Sins


The New 7 Deadly Sins | Lyved

The New 7 Deadly Sins

The seven deadly sins were made famous by Dante Alighieri in his epic poem “The Divine Comedy.”

The seven sins are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride.

Dante listed them to keep people in line and on the right path during the 1300’s.

Many people still avoid the temptations of these sins today, but now there are more “deadly” sins to avoid.
1. Waiting to be happy

One of the biggest misconceptions ever is that once you’re successful, once you own a house, when you have a lot of money, or once you’re retired, you’ll finally be happy.

But the truth is, you need happiness to achieve all of that in the first place.

There’s an excellent text by Crystal Boyd from her book “Happiness is a Journey.” It reminds readers to not wait to be happy. And she does so in a really profound way that everyone can relate to. I recommend you read the text. You can do so here: http://www.crystalboyd.com/

Remember, the longer you wait to be happy the less time you’ll actually have to be happy.
2. Achieving success without helping others

If you truly want to be successful then you can’t focus your entire efforts on yourself. You must help other people achieve their goals and their own success.

There’s an old saying that the road to success is lonely, but it won’t be when you help others.
3. Belittling the dreams of others

Your dreams aren’t superior to any other person’s dreams.
4. Complacency

It’s one thing to be satisfied with what you have, but it’s another story when you’ve completely settled.

When you settle and don’t create any new dreams to go after, you’ve basically given up.
5. Not questioning

One of the greatest things we can do for ourselves is to question our lives and things in it as much as possible.

Questions like:

– Why me?

– Why not me?

– Do I really love what I’m doing?

We don’t need to have the answers right away, but we must keep thinking.
6. Not attempt to change the world

Changing the world is not as hard as it may seem. Even if you change the community and world around you, you’re doing a lot. Simple acts can create drastic change.
7. Fearing

The whole point of the original seven deadly sins was to instill fear in people. But living in fear isn’t living.

Even if you’ve committed some of these sins don’t fear; acknowledging you’ve done so is all the forgiveness you need.

There could be countless more sins. Have any sins you’d like to share? Are you or were you guilty of any of these sins? Please share in the comments below.

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