got clutter? do you feel overwhelmed by the possessions, papers and piles that have taken over your life and space? apparently fixable. via new york public library [RK]
zen is not a minimalist aesthetic or simplicity. true zen is far beyond concepts.
The following written by Sandra Day…
Every time I turn around these days there’s a new blog with “Zen” in its title.
“Zen” is being linked to everything from copywriting, web design, and business strategy to personal development, food, and far more.
Some bloggers are genuinely trying to express what they believe to be the spirit of Zen via their work and their blog. Others are simply riding the popularity wave from Zen Habits.
Yes, it’s all Leo Babauta’s fault. Just teasing, Leo! Don’t worry, I’m not going to yell at you about having the word “Zen” in your blog title. Even if I did, you would just tell me to “…breath. And then let it go.”
Besides, some credit should go to the icons who introduced Zen into mainstream consciousness starting in the ’50′s: Jack Kerouac with the book The Dharma Bums, the philosopher and writer Alan Watts, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, and Robert M Pirsig known for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle.
But just to set the record straight, Zen is not…
• a habit
• a state of peace
• a state of mind
• a minimalist aesthetic
• living simply
• a destination
• nor is it just being in the moment
These are merely popular concepts about Zen. In reality, true Zen is far beyond concepts.
What is the true meaning of Zen?
Zen is a remarkable wisdom tradition.
It is a path to fully awaken to your original nature, which is present right here, right now. It is the essence of wisdom and compassion embodied in spiritual masters like Shunryu Suzuki-roishi and Thich Nhat Hahn. It is a living lineage of tradition passed on since the time of the Buddha.
“Zen” is actually shorthand for Zen Buddhism. According to the Random House Dictionary 2010, Zen is “…a Mahayana movement, introduced into China in the 6th century and into Japan in the 12th century, that emphasizes enlightenment for the student by the most direct possible means.”
Zen is practiced mainly in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam although there are many Zen centers in the United States as well.
The word Zen is derived from the Chinese word “chán” and the sanskrit word “dhyana,” which mean “meditation.” In sanskrit, the root meaning is “to see, to observe, to look.”
Zen is a noun. Zenic is an adjective.
It’s not uncommon to misunderstand Zen even when you study and practice it. That’s why it helps to have a teacher. The great Shunryu Suzuki-roishi once said:
“And this misunderstanding—the misunderstanding you have about Zen, I think—when we say: Zen, oh, Zen is wonderful [laughs]. Whatever you do, that is Zen [laughing]. Even though you are doing something wrong, that is Zen. Whatever you do is Zen. That is why I like Zen. [Laughs, laughter.] This kind of misunderstanding I think you will have about Zen. But what we actually mean is quite opposite.”
There is nothing imprecise about Zen. At the same time, it’s almost impossible to put your finger on true Zen.
“Zen mind is one of those enigmatic phrases used by Zen teachers to make you notice yourself, to go beyond the words and wonder what your own mind and being are. This is the purpose of all Zen teaching—to make you wonder and to answer that wondering with the deepest expression of your own nature.” – from the introduction to Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki-roishi.
Zen mind cannot be understood from the perspective of our ordinary, dualistic mind.
“We say “big mind,” or “small mind,” or “Buddha mind,” or “Zen mind,” and these words mean something, you know, but something we cannot and should not try to understand in terms of experience. We talk about enlightenment experience, but it is not some experience we will have in terms of good or bad, time or space, past or future. It is experience or consciousness beyond those distinctions or feelings. …Enlightenment cannot be asked for in your ordinary way of thinking. When you are not involved in this way of thinking, you have some chance of understanding what Zen experience is.” – from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki-roishi.
Zen practice may calm our mind, bring more clarity, and infuse us with greater kindness. But the ultimate goal of Zen isn’t seeking or clinging to peace. Calming the mind is just one part of the story. The purpose of Zen isn’t to put an end to the activity of mind. That would be impossible anyway. As Shunryu Suzuki-roishi explains when he speaks about zazen (sitting meditation),
“When you are practicing zazen, do not try to stop your thinking. Let it stop by itself. If something comes into your mind, let it come in, and let it go out. It will not stay long. When you try to stop your thinking, it means you are bothered by it. Do not be bothered by anything. It appears as if something comes from outside your mind, but actually it is only the waves of your mind, and if you are not bothered by the waves, gradually they will become calmer and calmer.”
“Even though waves arise, the essence of your mind is pure; it is just like clear water with a few waves. Actually water always has waves. Waves are the practice of the water.. To speak of waves apart from water or water apart from waves is a delusion. Water and waves are one.” – from Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki-roishi.
If you would like a taste of true Zen, a good place to start would be with Suzuki Roishi’s spiritual classic Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.
The allure of the word “Zen”
There’s no turning back from the fact that Zen has acquired a “colloquial” meaning in modern life. Maybe it’s the zip and zing of the actual word “Zen” that is part of its allure. And, it conveniently rhymes with a whole range of other words making for ever so zingy blog titles. Chances are there will be many more blogs with “Zen” in their title and many other enterprises too.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not getting on anyone’s case. I have great respect for bloggers like Leo Babauta who are helping others live saner, healthier, and happier lives. They readily admit to having little if any knowledge of Zen, but simply like its spirit. I also appreciate blogger Mary Jaksch, an authorized Zen teacher, who explores the interface between spirituality and personal growth.
This is just a gentle reminder, amidst the frenetic activity of the blogosphere, let us not forget the profound and true meaning of Zen.
full article > always well within
“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for constructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.” ~Rollo May
Edited from a post written by Leo Babauta.
Creativity is a nebulous, murky topic that fascinates me endlessly — how does it work? What habits to creative people do that makes them so successful at creativity?
I’ve reflected on my own creative habits, but decided I’d look at the habits that others consider important to their creativity. I picked a handful of creatives, almost at random — there are so many that picking the best would be impossible, so I just picked some that I admire, who came to mind when I thought of the word “creative”.
This was going to be a list of their creative habits … but in reviewing their lists, and my own habits, I found one that stood out. And it stands out if you review the habits and quotes from great creative people in history. It’s the Most Important Habit when it comes to creativity.
The No. 1 Creativity Habit
In a word: solitude.
Creativity flourishes in solitude. With quiet, you can hear your thoughts, you can reach deep within yourself, you can focus.
Of course, there are lots of ways to find this solitude. Let’s listen to a few of the creative people I talked to or researched:
Felicia Day – wonderful actress perhaps best known for her awesome awesome work on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The Guild. One of the things she said: she makes “sure to be creative first thing in the morning, before doing anything for the outside world, really sets the day up for me. It makes it feel that CREATING is my job, not answering emails.”
Ali Edwards – an author, designer, and leading authority on scrapbooking. One of her top habits wasn’t exactly solitude, but is related: “Do nothing. I have a habit of welcoming time away from my creative work. For me this is serious life-recharging time where my only responsibility is to just be Mom & Wife & Me.
Doing nothing has a way of synthesizing what is really important in my life and in my work and inspires me beyond measure. When I come back to work I am better equipped to weed out the non-essential stuff and focus on the things I most want to express creatively.”
Chase Jarvis – an award-winning photographer. “Find Quiet. Creativity sometimes washes over me during times of intense focus and craziness of work, but more often I get whacked by the creative stick when I’ve got time in my schedule. And since my schedule is a crazy one and almost always fills up if I’m just “living”, I tend to carve out little retreats for myself. I get some good thinking and re-charge time during vacations, or on airplanes, but the retreats are more focused on thinking about creative problems that I’m wanting to solve.
That’s why I intentionally carve time out. I make room for creativity. Intentionally. The best example of what I mean by a retreat is a weekend at my family’s cabin. It’s a 90 minute drive from my house on the coast. There are few distractions. Just a rocky beach and a cabin from the 60’s with wood paneling and shag carpet. I go for walks, hikes, naps. I read. I did get an internet signal put in there to stay connected if I need it. But the gist is QUIET. Let there be space for creativity to fill your brain.”
Maciej Cegłowski – painter, programmer, excellent writer. A classically short answer that embodies a beautiful way to find solitude. What habit helps his creativity? Maciej replied: “Running up hills!”
Leo Babauta: OK, I wasn’t going to talk about myself in this post, but I thought I should share some of my previous thoughts.
The best art is created in solitude, for good reason: it’s only when we are alone that we can reach into ourselves and find truth, beauty, soul. Some of the most famous philosophers took daily walks, and it was on these walks that they found their deepest thoughts.
My best writing, and in fact the best of anything I’ve done, was created in solitude.
Just a few of the benefits I’ve found from solitude:
• time for thought
• in being alone, we get to know ourselves
• we face our demons, and deal with them
• space to create
• space to unwind, and find peace
• time to reflect on what we’ve done, and learn from it
• isolation from the influences of other helps us to find our own voice
• quiet helps us to appreciate the smaller things that get lost in the roar
The Greats on Solitude
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – prolific and influential composer of the Classical era: “When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer–say, traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal or during the night when I cannot sleep–it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.”
Albert Einstein – theoretical physicist, philosopher and author: “On the other hand, although I have a regular work schedule, I take time to go for long walks on the beach so that I can listen to what is going on inside my head. If my work isn’t going well, I lie down in the middle of a workday and gaze at the ceiling while I listen and visualize what goes on in my imagination.”
Franz Kafka – one of the most influential writers of the 20th century: “You need not leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. You need not even listen, simply wait, just learn to become quiet, and still, and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked. It has no choice; it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.”
Nikola Tesla – inventor, one of the most important contributors to the birth of commercial electricity: “The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone—that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
Joseph Haydn – A life-long resident of Austria, Haydn spent much of his career as a court musician for the wealthy Hungarian aristocratic Esterházy family on their remote estate. Isolated from other composers and trends in music until the later part of his long life, he was, as he put it, “forced to become original”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – German writer and polymath: “One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude.”
Pablo Picasso – Spanish painter best known for co-founding the Cubist movement.
Picasso: “Without great solitude no serious work is possible.”
Carl Sandburg – American writer and editor, best known for his poetry: “One of the greatest necessities in America is to discover creative solitude.”
Thomas Mann – German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist: “Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous — to poetry.”
The No. 2 Creative Habit
While it might seem contradictory, the No. 2 habit when it comes to nurturing creativity: participation.
This can come in many forms, but it requires connecting with others, being inspired by others, reading others, collaborating with others.
But how can you have both solitude and participation? They obviously have to come at different times. Finding the balance is key, of course, but it takes a conscious effort: this time is for solitude, and this time is for participation.
Why are they both important? We need inspiration from without, but we need creation from within.
A couple of the people I interviewed had habits that relate to this:
Chase Jarvis: “Devour Popular Culture. Consuming the works of others inspires me. And it’s not just museums and the “establishment”. I devour magazines, books, street art, performances, music, etc. All things that make me think critically (and whimsically) about the world. You get the picture. Inspiration can come from anywhere.”
Ali Edwards: “Participate. My creative spirit is interested in documenting the wonderful everyday details of our lives. To really get to the heart of the matter I need to be fully participating in my life, in the interactions with my kids and husband and family and friends. If I am just going through the motions or wishing away the present moment for “the next thing” I am missing the blessing of right now. My creativity requires the habit of active participation and daily attention to detail.”
Other creative habits
There are other habits than those top two, of course, that can nourish creativity. Some other good ones:
Felicia Day: “When I am most productive I am the most ruthless with my schedule. I will literally make a daily checklist with, “one hour gym”, “30 minutes of internet research,” and “drink 3 glasses of water” on it. For some reason being that disciplined creates a sense of control that I wouldn’t have otherwise, as a self-employed person, and I get the most out of the scheduled hours that I have for writing.”
Ali Edwards: “Take notes. I am a really good note-taker. It’s essential for me to write down my ideas when they come to mind…otherwise, poof, they disappear way too quickly as I move on to the next task (diaper changes, wiping noses, tending to the stuff of life). I use my phone, my computer, and a moleskine notebook to jot down thoughts and ideas and then I move them into Things every week or so.”
• Live a creative life everyday. I very much believe in doing creative stuff everyday. For one, I take photos and videos almost everyday. Doesn’t matter the camera. I use my iPhone everyday. Just taking photos keeps me in a creative headspace. Hell, I play with my food and draw and doodle.
• Moderate Expectations. Make it a habit not to judge yourself on your creative output. Sometimes your creativity is on fire. Great news. Other times, it’s not. It’s hard sometimes when you make art in a professional commercial capacity because you’re paid to be ‘ON’, but you’ll save yourself a lot of greif if you make it a habit to be cool to your psyche when your creative mojo isn’t firing on all pistons.
• Shake Your Tree. When I’m starting to feel stale, I make a habit of getting into adventures. Break molds. Drive home from work a different way. Stir up my routine. I get active and shake my tree.
• Find fun. Doing what you love inspires you to be more creative. Make time and space for having fun. All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl.
• Lastly, being creative means living a creative life. Expect yourself to have one. Believe you are creative. Know that you are. Make that the most important habit of all.
For more on creativity, read the author’s Little But Useful Guide to Creativity.
“Creativity is essentially a lonely art. An even lonelier struggle. To some a blessing. To others a curse. It is in reality the ability to reach inside yourself and drag forth from your very soul an idea.” ~Lou Dorfsman
[ via zen habits ]
Every few minutes, more communications are being sent your way. Emails, text messages, voice mails, instant messages, twitter messages, facebook posts…and the list goes on.
Your human response? You simply try to stay afloat. You peck away at the latest communications at the top of your many inboxes. And since the flow of communication never ends, you slip into a life of what I have come to call “reactionary workflow.”
For those of us with great ideas and bold goals for the future, reactionary workflow is a big problem. If we spend our working hours reacting to the incoming barrage of communication, we will fail to be proactive with our energy. Our long-term aspirations suffer as a result.
For the past five years, i’ve been interviewing uber-productive leaders and teams – people at companies like Google, IDEO, and Disney, and individuals like author Chris Anderson and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. I’ve never asked them how they come up with ideas. I’m not interested. My fascination is how they make their ideas happen, time and time again. The outcome of this long project is MAKING IDEAS HAPPEN, being published this month.
Many of the people I met have developed ways to combat reactionary workflow. Here are a few tips on how they do it:
Create windows of non-stimulation.
Once you open the door to communications overload, you could spend all day reacting to what’s thrown at you. Piers Fawkes, founder and editor of the marketing consultancy PSFK, reserves a good chunk of his morning – from 7-10am every day – to do research and digest the day’s trends and news prior to going through his email. Proactively blocking out time for creating and absorbing – rather than just responding – is a key tactic of productive creatives.
Keep two lists.
When it comes to organizing the day’s tasks – and how your energy will be allocated – create two lists: one for urgent items and another for important ones. Long-term goals and priorities deserve a list of their own and should not compete against the urgent items that can easily consume your day. Once you have two lists, you can preserve distinctly different periods of time for focus on each.
Schedule intense periods of processing at a consistent time every day.
During the research for the book, I met a number of people that swore on the benefit of “power hours.” These individuals would try to compress all response-related work into pre-determined short periods of time every day, usually 1-2 hours of un-interrupted in-box clearing. The notion of compartmentalizing reactionary workflow was a theme across the most productive leaders I met.
Don’t hoard urgent items.
Even when you delegate operational responsibilities to someone else, you may still find yourself hoarding urgent items as they arise. When you care so deeply about a project, you likely prefer to resolve things yourself. Say an e-mail arrives from a client with a routine problem. Even though the responsibility may lie with someone else on your team, you might think, “Oh, this is really a quick fix; I’ll just take care of it.” And gradually your energy will start to shift away from long-term pursuits. Hoarding urgent items is one of the most damaging tendencies I’ve noticed in creative professionals that have encountered early success. When you are in the position to do so, challenge yourself to delegate urgent items to others.
When urgent matters arise, they tend to evoke anxiety. We dwell on the potential negative outcomes of all the challenges before us—even after action is taken. Worrying wastes time and distracts us from returning to the important stuff. When it comes to addressing urgent items, break them down into Action Steps and challenge yourself to reallocate your energy as soon as the Action Steps are completed. It is also helpful to consider whether or not certain concerns are within or beyond your influence. Often your worries are for the unknown and there is nothing more you can do to influence the outcome. Once you have taken action to resolve a problem, recognize that the outcome is no longer under your influence.
How do you avoid a life of reactionary workflow? You need discipline and a dose of confidence. Recognize your tendency to surf the stream of incomings, and gain confidence in the potential of being proactive. It is easy to sit there and react all day. You’ll never run out of work to do. But your bold ideas will suffer unless you take your energy by the reigns.
Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Scott Belsky of Behance and The 99%. Scott Belsky studies exceptionally productive people and teams in the creative world. He is the founder/CEO of Behance and is the author of Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming The Obstacles Between Vision & Reality (Portfolio, April 2010).
[ via zen habits ]