By Brittany Cardinas
What does living a zen life mean? I associate it with terms such as peace and harmony—a harmony between the body and mind. The Japanese practice of zen involves meditation (though I personally turn to reflection and prayer). One who intends to achieve a zen state is striving to become fully present—not dwelling on the past or growing anxious about the future—but being aware of the time and state at hand. It brings about a sense of clarity.
When I think of living a zen life, I think about a life of peace, happiness, contentment, and fulfillment. A variety of factors contribute to such a life, including health, environment, and the people you surround yourself with. Another significant factor is mindset.
You decide how you look at situations in life.
The notion seems to be straightforward and even obvious. However, as it is easy to become jaded by negative situations in life, this is a concept that we should be reminded of regularly.
I visit Germany often to see my family there, and this past summer, one of my relatives, Anneliese, blessed me with this reminder.
One night after dinner, she shared with me, “Ich entscheide selbst, wie ich mein Leben gestalten möchte. Ich kann wählen, glücklich zu sein, oder ich kann wählen, kritisch und unglücklich zu sein. “
Translated, Anneliese expressed, “I decide how I view my life. I can choose to be happy, or I can choose to be critical and unhappy.” She compared her outlook on life to her husband’s outlook (who, though pessimistic, is still very friendly and a good person). When it is warm and the sun is shining, he says, “Ahh, it’s too hot outside to do anything.” Meanwhile, she thinks, “Wow, what a lovely day to sit outside or go for a walk.” And when it is raining, he grumbles, “It is too wet and cold. I can’t go out and do anything.” Instead, she smiles to herself, “The rain is beautiful.” She is content either way. Though simple, her illustration resonated with me, and her outlook can be applied to various circumstances.
An imperative component in this mindset is gratefulness: to have a heart of gratitude for what you do have and what you have been given—to focus on the positive instead of on the negative. Think of what you have been blessed with and of what you love; let such thoughts occupy your mind. Perceive what good can come of the situation.
We can often let minute events or the negative attitudes of others take effect on our mentality. Don’t do it! Remain positive, surround yourself with affirming and constructive people, and remember that you can overcome the hardships that you may be enduring.
I am in no way asserting that you must be happy all the time and walk around town smiling (which could be construed as creepy). I’m not and I don’t. There is a time to mourn, and it’s okay to be sad and upset. The key is to not dwell. Don’t dwell on sad times and misfortunes. I do not want to speak for everyone and for every case, because certain situations are more drastic and life altering than other situations are. The status of the weather does not equivocate the loss of a loved one. However, just remember that you can get past such things with friends and family who will be there.
If it’s raining, just remember that the sun will come. Or if the sun is shining, and you’re a gloom enthusiast like me, remember that the rain will come. Or if you’re like Anneliese, remember that life is beautiful either way.
Brittany Cardinas; a 22-year-old aspiring writer and actor, originally from the lovely island of Guam but now living in Los Angeles. I’m fond of rain, the color gray, and the word whimsical. I am passionate about traveling, reading, writing, loving, film, and most recently healthy living.