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Zen Living For Idiots December 30, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Books & Movies, Meditation, Mindfulness.

I’ve been reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Zen Living and can sum it up in two words:


That’s really what Zen Living boils down to ~ being mindful of what you’re thinking, feeling, and doing as you move from moment to moment. 

Pay attention to the thoughts you think . . . but realize that YOU are not your thoughts. 

You are the observer of those thoughts.  

Pay attention to the emotions you feel . . . but realize that YOU are not your emotions. 

You are the observer of those emotions. 

Pay attention to what you are doing in THIS moment. 

NOW is all that matters.

The world is full of amazing sights, sounds, aromas, tastes, and textures.  We miss them if we don’t keep our eyes, ears, mind, and heart OPEN. 

Zen living means living fully in the present moment:

Zen is not about obliterating your thoughts, your feelings, your personality, or any other aspect of you.  On the contrary.  Zen helps you to unclutter you so you can think more easily, see more clearly, understand more readily, and know yourself more intimately. [p.5]

Zen is like cleaning out your attic and dropping off all the stuff you don’t need ~ your worries, fears, opinions, preconceptions, attachments ~ at the recycling bin.  Because you really don’t need them. [p.5]

As we cultivate mindful awareness, we begin to view the world with alert curiosity, rather than through the distorted lens of stale judgments, attitudes, and opinions.  We start to see things as THEY are rather than as WE are.  

We learn to PAY ATTENTION.

”What are you ~ a god, an angel, a saint?”

“No,” replied The Buddha, “I am A-W-A-K-E.”

That’s Zen Living . . . Here . . . Now . . . where the dance of life takes place. 

Aah . . . that’s better!


1. walterwsmith3rd - December 30, 2011

Beautiful, Nancy. You hit the point precisely. I try to move through this life with a Zen Awareness. Wonderful post.

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

When we remain conscious of this moment, rather than wandering hither and yon and getting “lost in thought,” we feel more energetic and enthusiastic about whatever we are doing . . . even if we are chopping wood or carrying water. _/!\_

2. l0ve0utl0ud - December 30, 2011

Wonderful – exactly what I need for the New Year!

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

What a year it would be if we all woke up and paid attention to THIS moment. Aah . . . that’s BETTER!

3. Life in the Boomer Lane - December 30, 2011

Were you watching me as you wrote this? If there were a High Court of Not Paying Attention, I’d be in serious trouble. My mind is always racing to the next thought. Now I’m really thinking about this.

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

Our minds are like toddlers . . . easily distracted and not-to-be trusted with important life decisions, for example, whether to get angry at someone who looks at us funny. STOP LOOKING AT ME!

Learning to slow down our thoughts so that we really see what is in front of us is like turning that toddler into a sleek computer that we TURN ON when we need left analytical brain functions and TURN OFF when we want to enjoy the sunrise, a piece of music, art, or . . . CHOCOLATE.

4. creatingreciprocity - December 30, 2011

Interesting post, Nancy. I think I have a quirk in my brain insofar as I seem to simultaneously notice everything around me (notice not appreciate) while my brain is still racing ahead to the next problem/job/responsibility/need etc – any zen cures for that? Seriously?

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

Yes. Pay Attention. To ONE thing at a time. Learn to observe a rose without commentary or comment. Smell a lemon and focus ONLY on its scent. Touch a piece of fabric or notice its color . . . without worrying about what’s for dinner.

Keep bringing yourself back to the task of being mindful and paying attention and soon your mind will stop acting like a toddler, pulling and tugging on your arm to get your attention, and will sit quietly waiting for YOU to direct its actions.

5. suzicate - December 30, 2011

I think getting that we are not our thoughts is the most difficult process of all because that very concept is ingrained in us at an early age.
“Pay Attention” – Absolutely!

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

When we stop identifying ourselves AS our thoughts . . . we don’t grow angry merely because an angry thought popped into view: (OMG, that jerk just cut me off). Instead, we mindfully choose which thoughts to hang on to . . . and which thoughts to ignore. Oh, well. Maybe he’s racing to a fire.

As we pay attention, we see that there is a space between each stimulus (“the jerk”) and our CHOSEN response (“let it go”). Over time, we notice that some responses ADD to our happiness while others create unnecessary suffering. We learn to focus on thoughts that bring us happiness and inner peace.

And all the process requires at the start is that we Pay Attention. Namaste. _/!\_

6. Maggie - December 30, 2011

It’s difficult to pay attention because there’s so much attention-grabbing stuff in this world, but a concentrated effort is definitely worth it.

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

If we pay attention to our thoughts . . . then consciously let the non-productive thoughts go . . . our minds settle down and become “better behaved.”

We are not so easily distracted . . . nor are we caught up in the daily dramas around the water cooler. And as the monkey chatter settles down, inner peace and joy surface of their own accord.

Aah . . . that’s better.

7. Tori Nelson - December 30, 2011

My mom and I coined the term “monkey brain” to describe our frantic, overly busy little heads. Forwarded this to her this morning. I think a little Zen would suit us just fine 🙂

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

Yup. Our minds are like monkeys . . . swinging from thought to thought . . . getting agitated over the slightest provocation . . . easily distracted by the next banana and the next and the next.

Becoming more mindful is like giving a room full of overactive toddlers attention ONLY when they are engaged in “productive” behavior . . . while ignoring the temper tantrums that toddlers are prone to throw while in the throes of the terrible twos.

Peace. Clarity. Serenity. NOW.

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

You (and your mom) might enjoy this “haiku/senyru” I wrote a while back:

Watch that monkey mind
Racing, racing, all the time
Sit still and just be

To see the whole poem:

8. Lisa Wields Words - December 30, 2011

Thanks for putting it in a way that I finally get it. PAY ATTENTION! I can do that, sometimes. 😉

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

The authors of the book request that if we ever meet someone who is mindful 100% of the time . . . we should ring them up. 😉

We are humans with feelings, thoughts, emotions. We are easily distracted. The key is to NOTICE that we’ve gotten distracted and keep returning our attention to the task at hand.

Lisa Wields Words - December 30, 2011

I have met a few people who are mindful a large percent of the time, and I find them kind of inhuman and annoying to tell you the truth. 😉

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

I’m sure they don’t “mind” that you are annoyed. 😛

9. Piglet in PortugalPiP - December 30, 2011

Zen living sounds so easy in theory 🙂 I try to live for now and declutter my mind but there is too much white noise.

Have a great New Year 🙂

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

It’s SIMPLE and EFFECTIVE . . . but remaining mindful amid all the distractions takes practice, practice, practice.

Happy New Year to you, PiP!

10. Carl D'Agostino - December 30, 2011

But who can do this in today’s demanding world? We are all so focused on what we must do and there is no time to focus on the spiritual side. Hey, but if people can do it I suppose they will live a lot longer. Have to go now. Florida pension check arrives last week day of month and I have 927 errands to run.

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

I find that mindfulness is a real time-saver . . . because I don’t get distracted by things that don’t really interest me.

Have FUN spending that check! 😉

Carl D'Agostino - December 31, 2011

I have surface studied Mindfulness as it relates to drug/alcohol addiction therapy. It has many contributions to healing.

nrhatch - December 31, 2011

Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness . . . offer positive benefits with NO downside (unless you’re doing a Downward Facing Dog asana . . . in which case your downside is upside). 😉

11. cuhome - December 30, 2011

Drawn down to the simplest, most elegant form: Pay Attention. Very well done.

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

Thanks, Janet. I find that it makes a real difference in my “happiness quotient” and efficiency . . . because I’m no longer caught up in unproductive daily dramas.

12. CMSmith - December 30, 2011

You found the perfect book for me! I’m going to add it to my birthday list. Who knew?

I think I’m starting to get it – the “I” observing “me.” A concept I learned about eons ago and one that I love.

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

Awesome! It’s a wonderful introduction or refresher course in the basics of ZEN Living.

I remember the first time I realized that “I” could watch “ME” interacting with a “difficult person” from a “safe distance.” Because I stepped into the role of observer, I no longer felt the need to defend myself from the unwarranted verbal attack. I listened, nodded, and thanked them for sharing their opinion with me. We parted “amicably” because SHE felt she’d really been heard . . . and I didn’t have “a mark on me.” 😉

13. Naomi - December 30, 2011

Fabulous post, thanks Nancy…love that final quote, and the book looks brilliant 🙂

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

It’s a very smooth read . . . covering the basics including relationships, jobs, and daily life.

14. sufilight - December 30, 2011

Nancy, You are an amazing writer, so very clear. I learn a lot from you, so THANK YOU. Even if I know about mindful living, reading more about it is never a waste. I am getting this book from the library. 🙂 Sharing in Facebook!

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

Thanks, Marie! I expect that you will enjoy the book. I only skimmed over one section that didn’t apply to me (being a parent). The rest had great tips for being in the world without getting sucked into the daily dramas swirling around us.

15. Andra Watkins - December 30, 2011

Excellent points I sorely needed today, Nancy. Happy almost-New-Year’s-Eve!

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

Thanks, Andra. Glad it resonated. We shopped today for some yummy New Year’s Eve treats PLUS got black-eyed peas and greens to eat on New Year’s Day . . . I’m going to make Hoppin’John, greens, and cornbread to ensure LUCK in the coming year. 😉

16. kateshrewsday - December 30, 2011

Best new years resolution I could make? Be mindful….thanks for this lovely post.

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

That’s what I think. My post tomorrow about my “resolutions” focuses on just that characteristic. The more mindful and conscious we are, the easier it is to make the “right” choices . . . on a moment by moment basis.

17. bluebee - December 30, 2011

Your posts are always such a wonderful start to the day. Thanks – I am now paying attention! 😀

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

Thanks, BB! That comment made me smile. See . . . 😀

18. 20 Zen sayings for the New Year « Talesfromthelou's Blog - December 30, 2011

[…] Zen Living For Idiots (nrhatch.wordpress.com) […]

19. souldipper - December 30, 2011

Does wonders for the memory as well as enlightenment. 🙂

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

So true. When our attics are no longer crammed to the rafters with “stuff” . . . we more easily find what we seek. 😉

20. Tahlia Newland - December 30, 2011

In two words – be aware

nrhatch - December 30, 2011

Exactly, Tahlia. Awake and aware.

21. Perfecting Motherhood - December 31, 2011

Oh, I could use a moment of zen right now, after my kids drove me off the wall the whole day!

nrhatch - December 31, 2011

Breathe. Relax. Repeat.

Aah . . . that’s better. 😉

22. Hopes and Wishes for 2012 | jeanne's blog…a nola girl at heart - December 31, 2011

[…] Zen Living for Idiots (Spirit Lights the Way) […]

23. granny1947 - December 31, 2011

Decluttering of the mind.
I like the sound of that.
Now….where do I start?

nrhatch - December 31, 2011

Don’t just DO something . . . SIT THERE.
As a thought arises, let it go.
Watch them rise and fall like the waves on the beach.
Follow your breath. Let the rest go.

Aah . . . that’s better.

24. Crowing Crone Joss - December 31, 2011

oh well said! I make myself stop sometimes, when doing the most inane thing, like putting a new roll of paper towels on the holder – I stop and think about the person who made the holder, the richness of its colours, the softness of the paper towels. Just to stop and be mindful of what I am doing right at that moment. It’s a good exercise for me as it keeps me conscious of being conscious! heh heh.

nrhatch - December 31, 2011

That’s a wonderful practice, Joss.

I use different “alarm clocks” throughout the day to remind me to wake up and be aware . . . the feel of the floor tile on the soles of my feet, the sound of running water, seeing a bird fly by my office window, turning a door knob, flipping a light switch, etc.

When I stop to NOTICE the moment, I’m often surprised to find that I’ve been miles away . . . lost in thought.

25. adeeyoyo - December 31, 2011

This really hit me. I knew it subconsciously, but now am more aware.

‘.realize that YOU are not your thoughts.

You are the observer of those thoughts. ‘

I have been standing back recently and watching myself and my words especially. Thank you, Nancy!


nrhatch - December 31, 2011

Awesome, Denise! When we start watching our thoughts . . . we see some of the “wrong turns” we’ve been making and learn to make necessary course corrections more quickly.

Here’s to a brand new year . . . filled with living, loving, laughing, and learning!

26. Team Oyeniyi - January 2, 2012

Mindfullness of everything around you.

I like it.

nrhatch - January 2, 2012

I’ve been starting my day with 30 minutes of meditation. It’s been GREAT! It seems to create MORE time for what I want to do the rest of the day. Yay!

27. ElizOF - January 3, 2012

Those IDIOT Guides are highly informative and well written… 😉

nrhatch - January 3, 2012

I agree. Both the IDIOT guides and the DUMMIES guides are a great source of information ~ either intro or refresher. With reference lists for more in depth study.

Sometimes we’re not interested in the “trees” . . . we just want a better understanding of the “forest” as a whole.

28. Positive Parental Participation Wins Versatile Blogger Award « Positive Parental Participation - January 4, 2012

[…] Spirit Lights the Way […]

29. viviankirkfield - January 4, 2012

I’m mindfully awarding you the Versatile Blogger Award. 🙂
Thank you for providing food for thought…always!

nrhatch - January 4, 2012

Thanks so much, Vivian. I shall be around shortly to “pick up” my award.

Food for thought is a good way to describe the posts on SLTW . . . a chance to ponder, wonder, and wander around and through the many avenues of life.

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