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zensky's avatar

Modern day Zen?

Asked by zensky (13283 points ) February 4th, 2013

Zen. The word conjures up quiet, peace, tranquility and maybe religion to some – in the most humble and respectful meaning of the term.

We use the term loosely, at times, meaning different things.

But are there modern examples of Zen?

What does it mean to you?

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19 Answers

Symbeline's avatar

I don’t know anything at all about the actual zen, or the practices or the spiritual beliefs related to it. But I do understand peace and tranquility, at least as I understand them. er wait wut Now I probably don’t achieve any inner truth through my methods, but they work for me. Reading books. Sure, your brain works when you read and all, but it’s relaxing and I feel good when I’m done. Kind of like a physical workout, but for your brain, or state of peace or…something.
I don’t know nothing about no zen, but that’s the closest I can come to. And also, I hope that the next yard sale I go to, I’ll pick some item that’s going to make me the next dalai lama.

Shippy's avatar

I also do not know too much about Zen except for me it conjures up images of tranquility and peace. I think Zen is more a state of mind, or at least more useful as a state of mind. When all life around us is chaos we experience calm. I would very much like to reach a Zen type state.

bookish1's avatar

It’s a method of liberation. Just like yoga.

Why did you choose it for your name, @zensky?

hearkat's avatar

For me, it means being in the moment – not preoccupied with issues of the past or worrying about the future – but being cognizant of this speck of time where we are now, and all there is to experience within it. So zen can be practiced in isolation on a mountain top, or on a bustling city street, by turning off the self-talk and tuning in to our senses and focusing on what we are doing here and now. My cats are my zen-masters.

tom_g's avatar

@thorninmud will have the most appropriate response here.

I tend to see this word used in popular culture as a term to throw at anything that appears to be related to all kinds of unrelated things having to do with meditation, wise sayings, or methods for remaining calm.

In my own experience, I have had used against me multiple times as an insult. Of course, I didn’t take it as an insult at all. When I was the deepest into my Vipassana practice, I had achieved a great amount of inner peace and clarity. I didn’t go around rubbing it in people’s faces. But apparently it was apparent that something had changed, and some people resented it. My wife, in particular, was finding my calm, steady approach to things to be infuriating because she felt alone in the whirlwind of modern life. During arguments, she was annoyed at the level of ease and compassion I brought to them. She yelled at me one day, claiming that “Look at you – now all of a sudden, you’re all zen!”. Now, I have no idea what the hell Zen Buddhism is. But I think she could see something in me, and labeled it as “zen”.

I know people who find pleasure in (or believe that they find pleasure in) being annoyed at everyone around them. When discussing this phenomenon in plain english with people, they invariably would snark “that’s all fine and zen and all….” in a very dismissive way, before moving on to abuse themselves with adrenaline-filled stories of how everyday people are out to destroy his/her life.

mattbrowne's avatar

The science of mindfulness.

Seek's avatar

Well, it’s my friend’s code-term for marijuana.

Personally I prefer a hot bath and a good book.

wundayatta's avatar

Zen is watching a line of people walking slowly around the edge of the grass, appearing to walk with their eyes closed: walking meditation.

Zen is feeling the wooden stick on the side of my neck and knowing that if I turn my head to the side, the monk with whack me hard to keep me from falling asleep as I meditate.

I do not turn my head aside.

Zen is using two pickles to clean my bowl after drinking my miso soup—breakfast after meditation.

Zen is prayer wheels everywhere and colored bits of scarves and temples with strange towers.

Zen is funny names like Ram Das and Rimpoche and all those Jewish guys who study in the East and come back and open meditation centers.

Zen is koans and inside out, backwards is forwards, cryptic thinking about oneness and wholeness and letting go and releasing desire.

Zen is the toilet cleaning meditation.

Zen is yoga.

Zen is Japanese.

Zen makes sense, god help me.

ucme's avatar

I have an idea for a new name, should you consider starting over, Return To Zen-der.
Uh-huh thanguverymuch!

thorninmud's avatar

Zen begins with a bit of bad news:

Our usual way of understanding stuff—through thoughts, concepts, explanations, ideas—is unable to get at the most basic level of truth. In other words, you will never be able to know (in the conventional sense) the reality that underlies what we call “the world” and “I”. No hope of that whatsoever.

Then Zen offers some good news:

That core reality is on open display in your ordinary moment-by-moment experience. If you’re looking for this truth, all you have to do is inquire directly into your everyday experience as it unfolds. It’s right there in the sound of the alarm clock and the sting of the paper cut. Simple. Very simple.

But we make it hard and confusing for ourselves by layering complication upon complication over this self-revealing reality. These complications take the form of ideas, many so deeply rooted that we’ve forgotten that they’re just ideas. The work of Zen—and it is a lot of work—consists of loosening the hold that all of those ideas have on you. When the ideas lose their power to convince, then the simple reality is right there where it’s always been.

The work of Zen is something that everyone has to do themselves. Each person has his or her own load of crap that has to be seen through. Zen offers a set of meditative tools to help with that, and an institutional structure to provide some support, if desired. The tools and the institution are very, very old, but the actual raw material of Zen practice—this moment’s experience—is forever brand new. The ring tone of your iPhone is just as much a manifestation of truth as was the ringing of a Tang era temple bell.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I use “I’m zenned out” often, when I’m relaxed and peaceful, in a ‘Zen-like’ state of being.

zensky's avatar

@bookish1 I’ve been Zen (and variations of it) online for many years. I swear I can’t remember why.

burntbonez's avatar

Maybe it’s a form of martial art?

Jeruba's avatar

Perhaps some of these answers apply. They’re about living by the old Zen saying: “Chop wood, carry water.”

Unbroken's avatar

I try to accept the things I cannot change. In acceptance I have learned that what seems impossible before is attainable.
I do not always possess the magnamity to accept everything. But I believe in time I will be able to accept more and more.

If I cannot change reality then maybe I will learn to want a new one that can include or utilize a former trouble in a positive way isn’t that worth something?

I may be talking out of my ass here but so far it is working in ways that I have been able to implement.

I don’t know if I adequetly expressed myself.. one more attempt.

An artist follows some inner voice but also uses mistakes and flaws, incorporates them, that flexiblity and the ability to use material to inform and shape the piece instead of unnaturally twisting it or perfecting it often create the most breathtaking works.

That is my definition of zen. Be it less then technically, historically, or spirituality correct.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

“First there is a mountain,
Then there is no mountain,
Then there is.” (Donovan)

“Before I had studied Chan (Zen) for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers. (Qingyuan Weixin, as translated by DT Suzuki)

“Zen is timeless” Yetanotheruser

zenvelo's avatar

I used to work on a trading floor, there were days when I was conscious yet not conscious, fully aware of every trade and every stock move and every order, but never distracted by one thing instead of another. Those days I felt zoned in without willfulness.

About that time I read this little story:

A Bike

A Zen Teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students,

“Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!”

The teacher praised the student, saying, “You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.”

The teacher commended the student, “Your eyes are open and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo.”

The teacher gave praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student answered, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings.”

The teacher was pleased and said, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.”

The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, “I am your disciple.”

And then I learned:
What does one do before enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water.
What does one do after enlightenment? Chop wood, carry water

rojo's avatar

I am trying (still) to grasp the concept of mindfullness. While I can intellectually understand it, it seem to elude me on a personal level.

wundayatta's avatar

Sitting meditation never worked for me. I find moving meditations (which aren’t usually advertised as meditations) to be more effective. It is easier to get out of my mind when I am moving or doing something else that puts me into non-mind modes of being.

I’m not sure if meditation professionals put any normative value on various methods of meditation. Like, is sitting meditation harder than other forms and therefore more valuable or more real? I would hope not, but I’m sure some people feel that way.

Personally, I don’t care. I’m just grateful I get out of my mind when I dance and (in a different way) when I make music. I come to after, and realize I’ve been on a journey to a place of connection and oneness, and back “awake” (some would say “asleep”), I feel my isolated self again with a lingering awareness of the connection to the all.

Sometimes I think it is possible to “think” yourself into meditation. Not sure if that is true, or maybe that’s what sitting meditation really is. It must be the hardest way to do it. But when I’m writing sometimes, I get into that flow where the words come from I have no idea where, and I don’t have to think to do anything. It just happens. That flow state is a meditative state and it has everything to do with words.

So it happens how it happens. Maybe it has happened to you, @rojo, and you don’t know it because you aren’t fully aware of what it feels like. Personally, I don’t think it’s as hard as people make it out to be. Mostly it’s about learning an awareness of what it is. But then, I’m in my fifties, and I’ve been doing things for decades and while I was feeling the same thing in my twenties, I didn’t know to label it with this experience. I sort of wondered back then. Now I know. But I can’t go back to reassure myself I was doing ok. Perhaps that is part of the journey.

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