According to the Dalai Lama, “The inner peace of an alert and calm mind is the source of real happiness and good health.” This is a helpful definition of our inner Zen. Our lives are full of voices from news reports and social media, emphasizing discord and chaos. Add to that an infestation of ants in the kitchen, the car breaking down again, or living with a serious illness, and it’s easy to lose our mindfulness and peaceful inner Zen. Stress will always be there, but we can make our way back to the peaceful possibility that resides in every moment.
At the first sign of stress, one of the most helpful things we can do for ourselves is to take a deep, slow breath. Several deep, slow, breaths are even better, because deep inhaling brings in positive energy and exhaling releases negativity. The effect is enhanced further if we use the mental image of sending light into our fearful and painful places. We don’t need to try to calm the storm; all we need to calm is ourselves. Keeping things in perspective will help us focus on what is, instead of imagining the worst-case scenario. Avoiding “what if” and staying with “what is” is one doorway to finding our inner Zen.
We also find our inner Zen when we do what nourishes us on a deeper level. Our nervous system is calmed when we do yoga, meditate, have a massage, or take a bath with a candle and soft music. A relaxed body gains clarity and perspective that wasn’t there before. Exchanging an overcrowded calendar for gardening, reading an inspiring book, or conversation with a positive friend encourages feelings of serenity.
We won’t find our inner Zen with pessimistic people, so we need to cultivate positive relationships. Our relationships are a source of support and guidance, so let’s nurture every loving bond we have and leave behind the negative influence of fear-filled people who push our worry buttons. As Eckhart Tolle says, “Worry pretends to be necessary but serves no useful purpose.” Creating healthy boundaries protects our energy and stress triggers, which helps create inner tranquility.
Inner Zen becomes available when we give up trying to manage the world. No matter how much we would like it to be different, there are many parts of life that are out of our control. Trying to control what is out of our control produces major stress. When we learn to let things go and take life as it comes, we increase our happiness and contentment.
Mindfulness cultivates our inner Zen by keeping us in the moment, which helps both physical and mental health. When we handle only what is happening right now (without introducing past or future), we lower our blood pressure, calm our hormones, improve gastrointestinal issues, and sleep better.
We find our Zen when we do what we need to do without procrastinating. If there is something that needs doing and we continually put it off, it works in the back of our mind, constantly interrupting our sense of peace. Keeping our living space clean and organized is a powerful tool for serenity. It’s impossible to be inwardly relaxed when we’re tripping over clutter, or can’t find what we need because nothing is put away. This is something that is in our control. Getting rid of messes and clutter enhances our inner Zen.
Another element in our control is our thoughts. Our thoughts dictate what we will do with our day, how we feel, and how we react to situations and people. Our thoughts create our reality, so if we decide everything’s going to be awful, it will be. But if we decide life will improve, it will improve, even if our circumstances don’t. Let’s exchange any state of worry or distress for inner peace and a calm mind. Finding our inner serenity is just a thought away. When we connect with our inner Zen, we can join Mary Oliver when she says, “Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.” Your inner Zen awaits!
Until Next Time – Sylvia