Sunday, June 17, 2007

Zen, the Evo way

Five O'Clock Shadow 41

I've been thinking quite a bit about zen as of late. According to Wikipedia:

Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism notable for its emphasis on practice and experiential wisdom—particularly as realized in the form of meditation known as zazen—in the attainment of awakening. As such, it de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct individual experience of one's own true nature.

Is that what zen really means? Hrm. To me, zen is finding balance in all things you do. I like my definition better. So I'll stick with it.

It's funny, but I used to spend a great deal of time working towards that state of zen. Then I fell out of sorts and tried to do the opposite, cramming in every bit of information I could and taking on additional projects. Now the pendulum has swung back, and it's on my mind again.

How about you? How do you find balance in all things that you do? Is it important? Do you wonder why I'm thinking about this with my arm in a sling, waiting for a plane to take me to three days of whirlwind meetings in NYC? I sure do...


  1. Zen - at least in the traditional sense - is more about focusing the mind and living in the now; you get rid of thoughts of the past and the future and anything else that might cloud your perception so you can experience yourself and the universe as they are, right now, in the moment.

    (Note: I am not technically a Buddhist, so I might be completely full of crap there.)

    Try reading up on Taoism, I think you might like it. One of the tenets is that each of us has a path or a way, tied to our essential nature, and when we move in harmony with that way, life comes effortlessly to us. If we deny our nature, and move against our path, our difficulties are endless. Plus, if you like the whole infernal paradox Zen-koan mind-melting aspects of Buddhism, Taoism's got it all in spades, and you don't have to spend three quarters of your life meditating to figure it all out.

    (I am a Taoist, and I can tell you with certainty that I'm completely full of crap, but check it out anyway.)

  2. I have had some contact with both Zen and Taoism through many years of martial arts training and my own personal search for "a way". I like the way you reduce the concepts to a simple, workable philosophy.

    While many philosophies have influenced who I am today. It seems to me that fundamentally I've found the simple concept of living fully in the now to be the concept that has had the most relevance to me.

    This I can credit, to some extent, on the practice of Kata in Karate. When I am truly "in the moment" the Kata just flows with new energy and little effort.

    Too often, in our busy lives, we are biding our time or suffering through what we have to do. For instance, dragging our kids through their activities. Once you start learning to enjoy what you're doing, and not focusing on what you are missing or what you think you'd rather do, it all seems a bit easier.

  3. What do i know about zen? About as much as Wikipedia knows. What i do know about is that balance in your life is about as easy to achieve as setting a piece of paper on edge. What's unfortunate is that without balance, something always gets missed, overlooked or otherwise passed by and eventually, that'll be something important.

    How does someone achieve that "zen" balance within their lives? Dunno. I'm not an authority on spirituality or time management, to be sure. I dont think anyone has ever perfected the party trick of keeping every single aspect of their lives in perfect equilibrium, but if i ever figure it out, i'll write a book about it.

  4. I understand hanging from the pendulum very, very well. Right now, like you it seems, I'm on the side of the arc that reacts against overcommitment and misdirected ambitions.

    My idea of Zen? Diminish the sway of that pendulum so that it stops cutting through the world, and the world moves around it... and you. This doesn't have to mean complete passivity... I think that's probably counter to our nature as pattern seekers, hunter / gatherers... we need to seek, and to strive. It's hardwired in the dark DNA between our genes.

    You asked the question of how we find balance in our lives. Huh. Usually for me, something slams into the pendulum and disrupts the swing. An event, a person, a conversation, a book, a comment, a kind (or unkind) act... anything that slides into the path, unexpected but not necessarily unwelcome. I'm forced to reassess, and regroup. Sometimes, drastic, painful, and initially very violent change is called for. The more momentum the pendulum had (in other words, the deeper I was in the rut) the more jarring and transformative the change. How to keep the transitions minimally impactful... I guess that's the question.

    Or is it? (Can you tell I'm thinking as I write, here?)

    Maybe the pendulum ride is essential. Steel has to be tempered to be made strong, and all that. Maybe it's not balance we need, so much as understanding -- both of ourselves and the people around us -- so that the swing generates as little turbulence as possible... as it passes through the world, and in ourselves as we ride along.

    And that is just about as deep as I get today, I think. Thanks for making me think about it!

  5. Hey Evo,

    I've been living in a vacuum recently and totally missed your departure from FPM. Enough has already been said on that score so i'll just say I'm glad to be reading your blog now. I've recently been exploring the Tao and I think I'm finally mature enough (at age 40) to relate to it.

    I began with the 'Tao of Pooh' as a gentle initiation, and then moved to the audiobook of 'Tao Te Ching' from Telltale weekly.

    Then I got a copy of 'The Essential Tao' by Thomas Cleary. I have found this translation to be appropriate for me. YMMV. The translation can make or break your experience, so try a few until you find the one that suits you best.

    I'd be interested in your experiences with the Tao. Please relate them here in your blog, if you decide to persue it.

    Well that's it for now, Happy Trails and all that.

    I'll be checking in regularly so keep posting..

    Chris M


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