Sunday, January 10, 2010

Zen System

Today marks a week of trying this new "zen" approach to life, living very deliberately and focusing on the moment. I had recently been feeling so much chaos, so much wad-ness, and - while I think elimination of ALL chaos is unrealistic and actually quite unhealthy - too much chaos is also unhealthy.

I think my life was too polarized in terms of chaos and structure. My time was insanely structured (between commuting, working, sleeping, and outside commitments) so that in my remaining, limited free time, I became the utter embodiment of chaos, barely able to scrape myself off the floor, prepare food for myself, think about anything fun - i.e. abstract. Yes. Too much structure AND too much chaos. So, even without fully realizing consciously that this is what I've been doing, I have tried to reduce structure AND chaos, to allow time for pure being - a term I stole from Caterine Vauban and applied to something else - that harmonious welding of order and disorder. Here are the small changes I've begun to implement in my life, hopefully long-term ones.  I have a slightly different set of small changes for while I'm at work. 
  • wear retainers each night
  • wake up between 6:30 and 6:45
  • return things to their place when I am done using them
  • don't make plans if I don't want to; limit commitments

Zen?  That is not zen, you think. Well, in a weird way, I suspect it might be.  Bear with me.

Rising early and wearing my retainers at night helps me to begin and end each day purposefully. I have a few moments, just to myself, in the morning: I can prepare for the day with focus and intention. And, at the end of the day, by setting up the conditions in which I’d actually wear my retainers (carefully brush and floss, wash face, etc. – essentially go through a full-out evening ritual) I have a time to refocus and reflect and let myself just be.  The rock just sits and is. 

Making an effort to return things to their place helps me to be more aware of each action I do, the impact of my choices, etc. etc., and gives me a more ordered physical space as well. 

Limiting commitments has created more space for reflection, meditation, just existing, the psychological space for my soul/spirit to breathe, move, rest, renew…

It seems I have had more awareness and control as a result of these small lifestyle changes, though I'm wary of too much control.  I think I am going to go through another week of living like this (I called it "de-tox" to Bubber) and then re-evaluate and see if it is actually what I need to be doing or if I just end up spending so much of my attention on living deliberately that I actually miss the things that I'm supposed to notice or maybe if it's some sort of short-term thing where I just needed to get back into some sort of balance by swinging in the opposite direction first.


Anonymous said...

you are poetry.

n said...

Tinkering with daily rituals does sound like it brings order to chaos. I mean everyone has his or her nuances on the way to approach everyday living. Some are more organize and follow a process others let serendipity enter their lives. I do, however, think nobody has the right formula because each of us have to deal with it personally. But tinkering and taking note of the results is a great way to figuring out what works. Eliminating chaos is probably the better approach since it increases your health and your immune system will thank you. But, unfortunately, we live in a very fast pace world where chaos is constantly around the corner. I don't know much about the Zen philosophy but I do recall it being about meditating or living through a chaotic world where fortune or misfortune might strike at any time--kind of like the Stoics. Also, living a highly structure life might lead to mundane repetition like living in a monastery although I have heard of people living very happy lives in those situations. It's probably because your not face with uncertainty and possibilities which reduces the stress in your life and makes you somewhat happy--you know what to do next.
However, real life is highly uncertain and full of ambiguity. It's the classic difference between College and the previous setting you were used to and real life. In College life is somewhat structure with semesters and classrooms and study for tests. While in real life you have to make real life decisions which entail real consequences. From what I've learn so far people who get too used to structure life have difficult surviving where ambiguity, indeed fortune, plays a part. Although, there is many domains and some are highly structure and others are volatile. So, it's really about the domain the places you go to and each of them has its own attributes. This subjects, chaos and structure, they are really difficult to pin down because we each live in some kind of domain or place. And people have difficulty dealing with abstractions. This is why kids would sob over spilled milk or minor incidents of no consequences.
I mention probabilities before to you but they are also abstraction. I have difficulty putting them in context with my daily dealings with life only because it takes mental energy to meditate on abstract ideas. This, also, brings me back to Zen and other detach ways of living like the old man on top of a mountain story. It takes time and lots of of practice. In Zen, if you even reach Nirvana, it takes training,commitments and trial and error. Which shows the struggle of dealing with ambiguity. The best we can do is to tinker, try and try and try some more. The effort is really what counts not the results. I know this kind of sounds wacky because we put some much emphasize on results this days.
I recall reading about a passage on the Odysses or one of those Classic books. It was about the attack on Troje: as soon as the soldiers disembark from the ships one of the soldiers(forget the name) was imminently killed by an arrow.And the poets began to praise him for his courage and heroism and so on. Even though he died at the beginning of the battle; this was pointed out as an indication that the Ancients understood the difference between effort and results. And how luck plays a part in life. Simply, effort--determination--is of utmost importance because your bound to lose sometimes, face disaster, or a complete lost. The point is that you have to continue the effort and accept failure. Of course, this isn't easy because we like winning and structure. Uncertainty, chaos, losings scares us. But it depends on your domain and philosophy and it takes Courage.

By the way where is the next blogger convention? I haven't seen the Newt in real life or had a conversation without a subject with you.:)
Note: my original post was too long so I had to edit it might send it as email though if it doesn't make sense now.

Beast said...

Don't forget to schedule some naked time too. I like your idea. I've been thinking about this lately myself.

Newt said...

ju - YOU are poetry.

n - Interesting points. It is true actually that I do find the monastic lifestyle immensely appealing at times.

Beast - great to see you around here! I could never forget naked time. That's another benefit of rising earlier. :D Let me know how your journey goes...

Also, I should have clarified in the post that my use of the term "Zen" is greatly out of context and probably a bastardization of its original meaning. It was just the one that was convenient and seemed to sort of fit. So, my apologies to all actual followers of this school of thought.

Rachel. said...

I love you Katie Francis. You are zen.