Be zen in a high speed world and find the calm

It’s not so easy when you have thirty million things coming at you, to be zen in a high speed world. Everything from smartphone notifications, relentless emails, difficult colleagues or work situations, back to back meetings, deadlines, appointments to keep, grocery shopping, and trying to fit everything in, can make it really difficult to find a balance.

Daily pressures build up and we have to find a way to release them.

A Zen master story

I use the Insight Timer app to time my meditations. I’m also part of several groups that share in mindfulness wisdom. In the Taoist Alchemy/Spiritual Taoism group, one of the members shared a Zen master story. I haven’t been able to find it anywhere else online where I could link to it.

I’ll retell it in my own words because it illustrates the idea of “calm” perfectly:

A Zen master went to a dinner party. Shortly after everyone began eating, an earthquake occurred. Everyone except the Zen master scurried away, attempting to get to the ground level, as they were all on the seventh floor of the building.

The host of the party had started down several flights of stairs when he noticed that the master wasn’t coming. Despite his fears of the building collapsing, he climbed the stairs and returned to his apartment to find the master. The Zen master was at the table, sitting with his eyes closed, in silence.

The man tried to get the master to leave. “The building is not stable. We must leave!”

The Zen master shook his head.

The stillness within…

“Tell me, Master. How are you so calm?”

“Whereas you tried to find calmness by escaping outside, I tried to find calmness by escaping inside. I went within. I went to my center.”

The master continued, “When you awaken, you know that nothing that happens in the world ‘out there’ can affect the world ‘in here’,” he said, pointing to his heart. “The stillness within cannot be shaken.”

zen in a high speed world

My meditation practice

I’ll never forget the day when a friend of mine pulled me aside and asked me my “secret.” She wanted to know how I remained so calm in a work situation where she witnessed my “zen.” (That was a turning point for me, by the way. A signal that perhaps I needed to teach this to others.)

At the time, I had a student who needed a band-aid, I was directing college-aged tutors and volunteers who needed to know where to go and what to do, a parent was calling my phone, visitors from the state were assessing the program I was directing, I had a training I was conducting after the program ended that day, and several other things were happening at once.

I didn’t even have to think before responding, “It’s my meditation practice.”

That is the single biggest thing I can recommend to anyone and everyone who wants to learn to find their calm.

Remembering to breathe

It’s my practice that makes me turn to the breath – automatically – when I’m faced with a stressful situation.

Flat tires. Computer crashes. Bad news from the family. A dying friend. An illness. No place to stay when traveling on the road. Running out of money. So many stressful events happen!

Instead of the shallow breathing most experience as a result of the fight or flight response, I try to stimulate its opposite: the relaxation response.

It takes a regular practice of mindfulness and meditation to learn how to remember to breathe when life isn’t agreeable. It’s very difficult to stop the fight or flight response once it has begun. The brain triggers the release of multiple hormones that course through the bloodstream; the heart, lungs, and even the eyes prepare for survival mode.

But if you can mitigate that response and help yourself by taking deep breaths. Count to ten. Purse your lips. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.

Breathing deeply helps you to be zen in a high speed world.

Label your feelings

Something that might be useful is when you feel a certain way, and become aware of it, label it.

If you think, “I don’t want to feel this way!” and try to will it away, things only get worse. There’s that saying, “what you resist, persists.”

You have to stop for a moment. Label what you’re feeling:

“Huh. I feel jittery. Hello, jittery feeling. I feel you. I acknowledge you.”

Labeling your feelings is magic. It allows you to be in the moment and essentially accept that this is what is happening right now. It gives you the space to acknowledge and not resist.

Then, when you feel better, you can label that, too. “I think the moment is passing. I feel more calm.”

Acceptance isn’t “just taking it.” Acceptance is the peace you get from allowing yourself to feel what you feel so you can get past it.

Breathing deeply helps you to be zen in a high speed world. Click To Tweet

Become the moment

Anxiousness sets in when you start thinking about the mile-long to-do list, the pressures you’re facing to follow through on hundreds of tasks, trying to meet others’ expectations, or any number of things.

What if you brought your mind out of all that and brought yourself into this moment, right now?

For most of the moments in your life, you are just fine. You’re not being attacked, you’re breathing, you’re heart is beating, you’re existing right here, right now.

Though this moment has already passed by the time you read this, and the next moment is arriving, only to find itself in the past, the truth is, this moment is all we have.

Make it mindful

To help yourself become the moment, make it mindful. This allows you to go within.

If you’re reading this right now, become are of everything that is…right now: how you’re sitting, how you’re breathing.

Let go of the extraneous thoughts and focus them on this moment. What do you see or hear? What do you feel with your fingers? How are your eyes moving?

Do you need to scratch an itch? Become aware of how your arm is moving toward the itch. How do your fingers move to scratch? Where does your hand go after scratching? It might return to your lap, or the desk, or to the keyboard.

zen in a high speed world

Become aware of the subtleties of the moment

Bring your awareness to how you’re holding your head, your shoulders, your legs. Uncross your feet if they’re crossed. Just breathe for a moment.

It’s a matter of allowing your mind to slow down enough to absorb what’s going on in real time.

In reality, real time is all we have. It’s in real time that we can be zen in a high speed world, through mindfulness, through labeling, through meditation, through breathing.

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