Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

Now is the time of turnings. This is not an easy time of year. Though it's winter and a time for reflection and rest, many often experience it as a hectic time. It is a time to be with family which brings its own rewards and challenges. Sometimes its uplifting but its often discouraging as well. So as you turn towards the new year, you may begin formulating those New Year's resolutions which you may or may not keep. How will you do this? Do you make a to-do list? Do you imagine the outcome and then challenge yourself to achieve it? Perhaps you'll go on that new diet and lose 20 pounds. Why just 20? Since you'll imagining good outcomes, why not make it 30 or even 40?

The trouble with this approach is that it removes you from the process and easily sets up ways of being hyper-critical about your failures and is the reason I think people so seldom actually keep new years resolutions. When you become hyper-vigilant in anticipating how things will turn out in the future, it's a set up for activating a fierce inner critic that can be harsh and judgmental when you fall short of the desired outcome.

So I would like to suggest another approach for you to consider this year. Start from the other end of the stick. Instead of imagining the outcome of what you want to achieve, start by taking stock of where you are right now. You don't need a to-do list. What you need is trust.

I call this living a Zen-inspired life. It begins by trusting that there is something within yourself that is unconditionally worthwhile and OK. And you can't improve upon this. You can't gain it. You can't lose it. If you dare to experience this, then you can begin to relax and enjoy the life you're living right now. This kind of radical acceptance of life itself will give you much more leverage for making real, substantive changes and transformations.

A Zen-inspired life is pro-active because it arises from your deepest aspiration to be open, compassionate and clear. All of these qualities arise from being fully present to yourself and others, moment by moment. When you trust yourself in this way, you also begin to inspire trust in others because your behavior and conduct are rooted in enduring principles and values and your personal integrity is never negotiable.

Mindfulness is a key element of living a Zen-inspired life. One definition of mindfulness is that it is an intentional, embodied, non-judgmental awareness. Meditation is an important aspect of living a Zen-inspired life. It helps you slow down and enjoy the small things in your life, that often irritate you, but can also be a source of joy and appreciation.

If you'll wondering how to practice mindfulness, consider taking advantage of one of the many excellent offerings at our Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago (ZLMC). We can help you build a strong foundation for personal growth and change through living a Zen-inspired life based on mindfulness meditation. So when you think of making some new years resolutions this year, consider joining ZLMC as a Practicing or Advanced member. You'll get many discounts on our programs and you will receive support from a growing and diverse community of like-minded friends and companions on the path towards freedom and empowerment.

Robert Althouse