Zen is an art that is most generally associated with spiritual exercises. However, Zen concentration can be used for anything from relaxation to washing the dishes. A sense of well-being is cultivated and enhanced through this technique. This is especially helpful when you’re engaged in an unpleasant task.
The best way to introduce yourself to Zen concentration is by applying it to meditation and relaxation. In this way you associate well-being with the technique. When you therefore apply it to tasks you do not especially like, the sense of well-being is stimulated by the association with the initial relaxing exercise.
Begin by lying down. Zen is different from other meditation methods, because it is absolutely okay if you fall asleep. So the best part of the day to do this would be before going to bed. However, do not be so tired that you do not have time to at least begin the exercise. Apply the technique to relaxation for about a week before moving on to other activities.
When you are lying down comfortably, concentrate on your senses. Begin with the sense of touch. Feel your skin. Feel any breeze, whether it’s hot or cold, the pressure of your clothing, the bed, etc. on your body. Close your eyes.
Move to your hearing. Concentrate on everything you can hear. The birds, the wind, your family, your own breathing. Finally concentrate on your sense of smell. For this it might be a good idea to open a window. If it’s cold, or if all else fails, light some mild incense and smell that. It is important that the smell should be pleasant.
Concentrating on your senses brings you into contact with your environment and your body. You should feel fairly relaxed by now. For the second part of the exercise you can begin either at your toes or the top of your head, whichever works best for you. Alternatively you could begin with whichever body part is most tense.
Mentally zoom in on the selected body part. Feel every part of it. Just think about it. Do not try to make it relax; this will make you more tense than you already are. Just gently focus on your body and gradually you’ll get a sense of it relaxing. You might even experience a tingling sensation in the part you are concentrating on.
Do the above with your whole body until you are completely relaxed. If you haven’t fallen asleep, you could slowly rise and return to your routine if you are so inclined. Otherwise (my favorite) keep lying down and read a book until you fall asleep. When you wake up you should be energetic and ready for the day.
When you feel that the relaxation and pleasant association with Zen is established in your mind, you are ready to move on to the more unpleasant aspect of life.
WASHING THE DISHES
Consider for example your household chores. What do you hate most? Ironing? Dusting? For me it’s the dishes.
Focus your mind. While you do your most loathed chore, again concentrate on physical sensation. Feel the warmth of the dishwater on your hands. Try to distinguish smells, sound, or sense of touch and texture. Focus on one sensation at a time. When I’m ironing, I find the sound of steam boiling from the iron especially pleasing. Focus on those sensations you find most pleasant.
In this way, nasty chores will amazingly enough become more enjoyable and meaningful. With time you might even come to look forward to doing them. Another nice and for me entirely unexpected side effect is that you do the job much better than you normally would.
Speaking of dishes, do you remember what you had for dinner yesterday? Do you remember the taste, aroma and texture? Or did you rush through your meal because you had to be somewhere or you had a great deal on your mind? For 21st century man the last is probably true. This is not good for your health or your weight. If you rush through your meals you tend to eat more and derive less pleasure from it than might otherwise be the case.
Slow down when you eat. It will make no more than five minutes’ difference anyway. When eating, concentrate on the taste and texture of what you put inside you. Using the Zen method, visualize and experience the sensation of it entering your body and fusing with your system. Concentrate on the energy and health that it gives you. Smell the food and see it, feel the utensils in your hands. Become entirely involved in the eating process with both body and mind.
Stop eating when you feel you have had just enough; not too much. Eat again only when you feel hungry and continue applying the Zen method. Get to know your body and its needs.
Water is even more essential to life than food. Yet people tend to overlook its importance. What do you drink in a day? Chances are that for most of us, fluid intake constitutes coffee, tea, alcohol and soft drinks. We drink much less than the required six to eight glasses of water a day. Drinking a lot of water helps to keep your weight down and your health up. Combining water drinking with Zen enhances its benefit.
Drinking water in its unadulterated form is both refreshing and energizing. When you feel tired or hot, leave the soft drinks and beer in the fridge. Open the tap. Put your hand under it until the water is at its coldest. Concentrate on the physical sensation of it. Fill a glass and drink the water. As with the eating exercise, feel the path of the water into your body. Feel it refreshing you and blessing your cells with its health. Both your body and mind will be energized.
Apart from the above, water can also be beneficial in preventing harm. Hangovers and the headaches associated with them is the result of dehydration. Therefore, if you are going to a party, and you know you tend to drink yourself into a hangover, have at least two glasses of water before going. At the party itself, try to drink one glass of water per one measure of alcohol. Use Zen concentration when you drink it. Concentrate on how the water protects your whole body from the harmful effects of alcohol. Feel the protection and health benefits of the water. Visualize it driving out the toxins you absorbed from the alcohol. This will also help you to drink less than you normally would.
BODY AND MIND
When applied to physical exercise (perhaps not the most pleasant of activities, but at least better than doing the dishes), Zen can also be beneficial. Be aware of your body while you exercise. Focus on your muscles and how they contract and relax.
Focus on one muscle group at a time. Also, concentrate on contracting and relaxing the muscle consciously as you exercise it. In this way not only your body is involved; your mind also contributes greatly to sculpting the perfect you.
In activities involving the mind alone, such as studying, reading, or any other mental activity, your enjoyment is increased using Zen. Before sitting down to mental activity, breathe deeply a few times. Then begin with the physical senses. Concentrate on seeing the exact shade of the text, or whatever you are studying. Look at the texture of the material.
Feel it with your fingers. Become aware of the scent emanating from the pages. Then concentrate on the words and ideas entering your head. You can almost feel them. Feel your mind processing what you are studying. This will both benefit and improve studying, or any mental activity that you indulge in.
ZEN IN EVERYTHING
Applying Zen to physical and mental activity can help you become a fit and healthy individual. No longer will it be necessary to spend an already limited budget on health gadgets or doctors.
Zen concentration will enhance your sense of enjoyment in whatever it is you’re doing. If it’s something you love, such as stroking a cat, listening to music, or playing in the pool, well-being is enhanced. If it is something you hate – washing the car, cleaning, cooking – a feeling of joy and pride in your job is cultivated.
Your sense of life and enjoyment in both work and play will be magnified to astonishing degrees. The Zen principle of concentration is not only fabulous for enhancing enjoyment. It will do wonders for your physical health as well. So apply Zen to every aspect of your life and reap multiple benefits.Your sense