The concept of Zen as enlightenment is confounding and baffling to me. Yet the practice of Zen is profoundly simple. Stop at this moment to concentrate on your breathing. Slowly inhale, imagining a stream of life-giving air entering your nostrils and filling your lungs from the stomach upward. Close your eyes gently for a moment as you hold that breath for a few seconds. Now imagine a stream of air leaving your body carrying tension and worry. You just practiced Zen. Notice how you forgot about everything but your breathing for a few seconds. Zen is THAT simple. The next time you walk down the block or across a parking lot, squint your eyes slightly, let your arms swing naturally, relax your jaw and be aware of your breathing. You’ll be practicing Zen. When you must stop in your kitchen to wash pots and wipe down the counters, slow down and become “one with the experience” by breathing deeply and enjoying the feeling of the warm water and suds on your hands. This too is practicing Zen.
Zen is “single-tasking” and “being one” with the task. Zen is mindfulness and being fully present. Zen is having an open mind and keeping the ability to see things as fresh and new, like a child. Zen is living in the present. As Deepak Chopra puts it, “The past is history, the future is a mystery, and this moment is a gift. That is why this moment is called ‘the present.'” When I am running up a long hill, I sometimes remind myself that this very moment IS my life since the past is irrelevant and who knows about the future. My running always becomes stronger for the moment.
Two books have strongly influenced me: The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, by Chopra, and Wherever You Go There You Are, by Zinn. But if you think I am claiming to have reached enlightenment, I had to laugh when I noticed that I was taking notes for this paper while driving in heavy traffic. I can multi-task with the best of them and live to tell about it.