Back when I first created this site, roughly one year ago, I was all about slowing down and finding inner peace. I meditated a lot and had some incredible experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise had I not been willing to put the outside world on hold a bit. But lately I’m finding that in order to achieve my goals I need to increase my activity, which in turn has led to stress.
Of course, I’m not alone – this is a problem that affects everyone. We can’t always have tons of free time to meditate and ponder the nature of things. Occasionally (or even most of the time, ick!) we have to actually go out, and do stuff. But I’m starting to wonder about this whole “doing stuff” thing. Do my stress levels have to increase just because my amount of doing increases?
Personally, I think the answer is a definite no. While it may be difficult to maintain a peaceful state when a million things are happening all at once, it is possible. It just requires some adjustments in how we perceive that doing. And that’s what I’m going to explore in this article. Introducing Zen doing.
Regular Doing Versus Zen Doing
Although you might not be able to perceive it from the outside, there are huge differences between someone who practices Zen doing and someone who just, well, does. The primary difference is what each person is focusing on.
For example, let’s say a “normal” (I use that term a lot, don’t I?) person has a very busy schedule full of action items that they absolutely must accomplish today, or else the world will end. While this person might not be under huge amounts of stress, chances are that they are far from being at peace within themselves. The reason for this is their focus. When we have a lot of stuff to do, our natural tendency is to think about that crap over and over. How am I going to do this? I don’t have enough time for this. What’s the most efficient way for me to use this restroom here so I can get back to work as soon as possible? Yeah, I really have done that last one. More than once.
Unfortunately, this is the kind of stuff we usually have running through our heads when we have a really busy day. The problem is that our focus is entirely undisciplined. It scatters in 20 different directions all at once, which inevitably leads to feelings of stress and sometimes even outright panic. Zen doing is the antidote to this.
Like I said, it’s all about focus. Whereas most have their focus scatter when they have a bunch of tasks to do, Zen doing is all about taking that focus, combining it, and aiming it at all at once at the same place: the present moment. It’s a lot like your common household laser beam (this article is written for future readers, ha ha) – even though the beam is created from a bunch of scattered light, when you focus that light with intensity, it becomes powerful. Powerful enough to cut through metal.
And that’s the irony of Zen doing. While you might assume that it’s “weak”, i.e. that it doesn’t achieve results, it actually achieves more than you would otherwise. The feelings of peace and let-go that accompany the state don’t decrease productivity, they intensify it. The powerful focus we get from it allows us a level of insight and understanding into each task that we wouldn’t have otherwise with our brain running on overdrive.
Bringing Zen into Our Everyday Life
There’s more to Zen doing than increased productivity, though, and if you did it solely for that reason you probably wouldn’t get anything out of it. Zen doing is a no-mind, let go and flow type of activity. It’s basically meditating while taking action.
As you already know, one of the characteristics of the state is an increased sense of peace. Even though you may have loads of things to do, when you are completely, purposefully wrapped up with each one, and with the present moment that each activity occurs in, you learn to let go. You let go of the idea that you “have” to achieve X, Y, and Z. You still achieve them, of course, but it comes from an entirely different level of consciousness.
Typically, our daily life and distractions take us away from this meditative state. We often get so wrapped up in our own little things that we forget about everything else entirely. Zen doing allows us to do those things and participate in the real world without losing the overall picture. Although I’m still trying to make this into a habit, I can say with certainty that this is an incredibly satisfying thing to do.
Even things as simple as washing the dishes or taking out the trash become joyous activities. The next time you do something that you deem a waste of time or a chore, take some time to really get in the moment. Stop and appreciate the sights, sounds, and sensations around you. This brings an incredible sense of immersion into your activities. It’s like taking a simple sketch on a sheeet of paper and turning it into a vivid, colorful 3d masterpiece. That’s how real it becomes.
It isn’t our modern obsession with being busy that creates so many of our inner problems. Instead, like most things, it’s our attitude towards it. It’s quite possible to be “busy” on the outside and yet complete and whole on the inside all at the same time. In fact, understanding this paradox and really living it can be said to be one of the greatest achievements that a human being can have.
This is because beyond that door lies the key to both inward and outward success, all at once. Why sacrifice your inner world for busy productivity, or your outer world for inner stillness? You can have both, and one very satisfying method for achieving that is the fine art of Zen doing.
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