Spirituality is a powerful term encompassing a way of thinking about, feeling, and living in the world. Essential to spiritual life is mindful thinking and experiencing the many different aspects of human existence and conscious interaction with others and our environment. With a spiritual view of life, we can see the divine in the mundane, the miraculous in each and every day, the extraordinary in the ordinary.
One of the most important ways to think spiritually involves a broader and deeper understanding of energy than “gas makes my car go” or “electricity powers the lights in my house”. We are part of a matrix of energy that is interwoven with all the people we interact with, objects that are important to us, and the movement of the solar system.
Zen Buddhism is a way of thinking and acting according to conscious efforts directed towards developing mindfulness about one’s life and the world around you. More philosophy than a religion, Zen is many things at once: an attitude, an understanding, a choice that is not a choice, and the sound of one hand clapping.
Understanding Zen Thinking
The most common word associated with Zen thinking is mindfulness. To be mindful at a spiritual level is to be so much more than being aware of the people around you while driving or shopping in the grocery store. To be mindful means to penetrate to the deepest understanding of your life situation, the people you interact with, and the situations you find yourself in. Having a Zen mind means training yourself to see outside of your common and personal mind boxes.
The Zen Koan, Training the Mind to See Outside the Box
A Zen Koan is a mind problem designed to reveal limited thinking and challenge students of Zen to see what is hidden in plain sight. I used to teach one to my critical thinking students in my English 102 classes at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). It goes like this:
You are sitting on a mat ready to learn the next lesson from the master teaching you. He walks up to you and he is carrying a switch from a tree sapling. He says to you, “if you speak, I will strike you with this switch; if you do not speak, I will strike you with this switch.”
Then I would ask the students what they would do. Answers ranged from get up and run to take my beating. Not always, but sometimes, a student would figure out the answer and say, “I would take the switch from the master”, which is one of the correct answers.
The lesson lies in the idea that the student naturally presumes that it is inappropriate to take anything away from the master, it is “his” switch, after all. But the master is trying to teach the students to become masters, which means they are well within their rights to take the switch from him, and thus see him as “just like them”.
Believe it or not, taking the beating can be an answer if the student phrases and means it like this, “I am curious to know how the master will strike me with the switch; I am glad he is giving me a chance to find out.”
What is “Finding Your Zen”?
Living a Zen life involves training the mind into awareness so that it is second nature to see and acknowledge the purpose, intention, and energy behind oneself, other people, and the situations we create or find ourselves in. But finding your Zen involves understanding how you best and most easily flow through life, which may or may not be something you consciously wish to embrace, but should because when you do, life “falls into place”.
An Agent of Change
A person’s Zen can manifest in a variety of particular ways, but the current that drives that Zen energy does have a consistent pulse. I have a good friend who is a change agent; that is her Zen. She works in corporate and thrives best in situations where the company needs to make a fundamental and intense change. If she fixed a problem in a business, it was time to move onto the next problem.
Her most unpleasant times working were durations when the problem was solved, and she was asked to maintain the solution. Maintaining working conditions and processes was not her Zen and she would immediately begin looking for a new problem or even a new job if the current one could not put her on a project in desperate need of transformation.
Promoted Out of Zen
For nearly ten years I worked as an information technology (IT) specialist for a major state university in North Carolina. My role involved working with local government IT specialists, many of whom were identified as “code heads”; they loved programming and were good at it. Unfortunately, government salaries increase by default over time and many of these positions hit the upper limit of the salary range and these individuals were forced to be promoted to management roles, which caused them to fail, usually within a year.
The salary and promotion system had no way of even asking these people if they would be willing to stay in their position without a raise just to keep doing what they loved. Each year they had to be paid more and if over the years, they reached the salary cap, then they had to be promoted.
Finding your Zen and Astrology
I am a professional astrologer and I use this tool to help me identify the potential Zen for clients in all areas of their lives, including but not limited to relationships, career, family, and so on. It has taken me over 50 years to get a solid handle on my Zen in most areas of my life; some are more fully realized than others, like what I do to make my living, while my parenting is still a work in progress.
From my chart and living my life, I have learned that my Zen in work involves working independently, which I did even while employed at universities, but is now even more aligned as I now run my own business. In relationships, I prefer to negotiate with my wife rather than take a lead, or follow, for that matter. My family Zen is outside the norm, which is not only a matter of circumstance, as I am adopted, but now I have come to appreciate and live somewhat philosophically about family as someone who was adopted.
Finding your Zen does not require astrology; it is just a tool that helps with insight. If you take a step back from your life and “observe yourself” and your patterns to can begin to see your own Zen in all areas of your life. What works easily for you, what do you try very hard to do with less than stellar results, and what is just so-so. Zen is what comes with ease, but is not always what we want, and may not always be easy to trust.
The Zen of my business is run mainly through word of mouth recommendations and circumstances that bring people to my door without pushy advertising. Almost every direct advertising dollar I have attempted to spend has fallen completely flat, which is how I know that path is not my Zen. Trusting clients will appear when needed and when in need has proven to be consistently supported by the measure of meeting my monthly budget.
Once you find your Zen in various areas of your life, you can live with less anxiety and more confidence. You can, then, relax into yourself.