life journey rest stress anxiety peace zen spirituality religion psychology God Jesus zen dog

We can learn so much from dogs (and other pets too I am sure), but this post is not about dogs.  Actually, I plan to write a post about what we can learn from our canine friends, but for now, let's look at our zen (not canine) self.  "Zen" comes to us from a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition rather than ritual worship or study of scriptures.  Looking deep within ourselves for life's answers and direction is not new, nor is it old.  Many religions and current trends in psychology respect the notion that the individual knows themselves and so is best equipped to work through their own life issues.  While I recognize this is an oversimplified understanding of both zen and modern psychology, for the purposes of this post suffice it to say that I would agree with the notion that we are equipped with the tools we need to work our way through life's difficulties.  So, if this is true, why are so many people "lost" and struggling?  Why are spiritual guides and counselors so busy?

I believe the answer to those questions lie in the fact that we generally do not spend enough time in quiet reflection thereby losing the ability to understand ourselves.  In our present society we are bombarded with "noise", and in the midst of the noise we are busy running around that we don't have time for ourselves.  That is the key.  If I don't take the time to find out what is happening inside of me, nor the time to listen to myself, then I miss the opportunity to learn from myself.  This is the "secret" of why most (not all) counseling is effective; the patient/client is taking the necessary time to listen to themselves through another person.  I am not at all diminishing the need for professional counseling, I am a counselor you know, but the need for professional counseling aside, spending time for ourselves will go a long way to our well-being.

I hear people say "that is all well and good, but taking time for me is just selfish".  Phrases like this are common, and although truthful in their telling, it is not helpful.  I am not at all advocating selfishness or a culture of self-absorption (I think we are already there), rather, taking the necessary time to help oneself.  A prime example to illustrate what I am saying is the all too common safety instruction provided us on an airplane.  Prior to take off we are told, in words similar to these:

If there is a loss of cabin pressure masks will fall from the ceiling.  If you are traveling with a young child,  place your mask on first, then place the mask on the child.

I was never impressed with that statement   Why would I take care of myself before assisting a helpless child?  How could I begin to breathe fresh oxygen while the child next to me is panicking   But how could I not?  If I am struggling with getting the mask on the child and subsequently pass out due to a lack of oxygen before finishing the task than both I and the helpless child are in trouble.  If I can take care of my need to be able to properly care for the child then we both are safe.

In an earlier blog post I wrote about steps we could do each day for a brief meditation (search my posts for that one).  To create a zen moment:

  • Take about 10 minutes each day to find a quiet place
  • Close your eyes or focus on a particular object
  • Pay attention to your breathing
  • Say a simple phrase over and over, slowly.  Or, try to quiet your mind

Take time for yourself so you can be available for the "children" in our lives who need us to place an oxygen mask on them when they feel a lack of "cabin pressure" in their lives.

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