Monday, April 30, 2012

Zen and the Art of Life

This last "temping top ten list" for the A-Z blogging challenge is a wonderfully fitting end, a compilation of 10 ways that I have found to live life in a fulfilling way.

When I was in college, I had a friend give me a copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a philosophical journey by Robert Pirsig, and that book made me take a really long, thoughtful look at life - what was really important to me, what defines a quality life.

The "zen" in the title does not refer to specifically to Zen Buddhism, but rather to general philosophy of living life "in the moment", versus an approach to rational analysis and planning (the maintenance part of the title). A quality life is a balance between the two approaches, but in the end, the author acknowledges that quality is basically undefinable and we each must find our own path. 
I wonder if that's why pictures of paths always appeal to me, like this one.

Since then, there have been many other influences on my outlook on life, including a breakdown that brought me to believe in Jesus as my savior. Last year, I discovered the blog Zen Habits, which like the book mentioned above isn't really that much about Zen, but is about learning various ways to simplify and enrich your life - finding balance.

 I also recognize that everyone's path is different.In fact, I love to read about other people's ways or discoveries along the path of life, so after reading my list, please share a thing or two you've learned on your path to life.

10. Life can be ridiculously complicated, if you let it. Simplify. Here's a short, sweet post from Zen Habits on how to start simplifying your life. This gives you more time for the essentials - the people you love, the passions you want to pursue.

9. De-clutter. I will never be an extreme minimalist, because homes filled with beloved things: there is something so homey about them. But I've also discovered that de-cluttering (I spend about an hour a week working on this) brings me such a massive feeling of accomplishment and organization in comparison to the relatively small amount of time it takes. I also believe that materialism - accumulating more and more things -  just breeds discontentment.

8. Resist impulse spending and instant gratification. Waiting has its own wonderful reward, and even better, here's a great post how to overcome the apparent contradiction between enjoying life NOW and avoiding instant gratification.

7. Put things in perspective. All that stuff that is stressing you out right now - it probably won't matter in 5 years from now, let alone 15.

6. Make mistakes, don't fear failure, don't beat yourself up if you mess up. Our mistakes teach us, and grow us in ways our successes never can.

5. Keep learning. Always keep learning new things - technical things, artistic things, new words, new languages - even trivia. It keeps us young and wise at the same time.

4. Seek creativity, even in the ordinary everyday tasks. A short, sweet guide to creativity.

3. Enjoy each moment. Continued happiness and fulfillment is in the little things, not the big things. Especially with your kids.

2. Love deeply and unconditionally and always, always forgive (a post from Zen Habits on forgiveness).  Forgiving another person when they don't deserve it is the hardest things in the world, but the secret to happiness in life (along with #3). 

1. You can't do this alone. We're not strong enough 100% of the time, or even 80%, to tackle life and wrestle the best of out it. Even scarier, if you lived for very long in this life, you discover that people always let you down in some way. So how do you reconcile this problem?

The miraculous thing I discovered is that there is a God who never lever lets you down, who is always there for you, who even died for you - and even better, conquered death and came back to life so that we can too. I don't believe in forcing my religion on anyone, but by golly if I've found something wonderful, I can't help but to share it. I've been a follower of Jesus since I was 23 years old, even though I don't follow very well and am always getting lost. He still stays with me, every step of the way.

Again, everyone's path through life is different, and I can't wait to hear what other wonderful ways you guys have found to enrich your lives. Please share!!!

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