January 31, 2015
Everyday Zen is about the things that make us smile. It’s about elegance of design. Simplicity. Joy. The items and experiences that let us pause, wonder, and come back again. They inspire us to be our best - to work and play hard - to take our breath away.
Everyday Zen is a minimal, deliberate approach to contemporary life. It considers all, but keeps only the best. It tries new things and takes the road less traveled. It turns life up to 11 without bogging us down.
This is our daily revolution. Our practice of everyday life. These are our 8 principles.
Be Here Now
As a postmodern academic, I realize that reality is contingent on the local. What I think today might seem naive tomorrow. What delights in 2008, might seem trite in 2018. This seems true for many ideas and things. We should revel in this, as it symbolizes our growth, reevaluation, and life. Eliminate distractions and live in the moment. Concentrate on what you're doing and do it well. Delight in its doing, or do something else.
Pick Nuance Over Complexity
Nuance might be defined as elegant complexity. Like a sonnet by Shakespeare or a fifteen-year-old bourbon, it’s a seeming simplicity that only grows more poignant and beautiful the more it’s experienced. The things that bring me the most joy seem to be simple, but they are often deceptively so. The easiest way to ruin a pizza is to put too much on top. The worst stuff we can put in our bodies tends to have most (non-food?) ingredients. The best beer has only four: water, barley, hops, and yeast. The artist makes the complex seem easy, simple, subtle - and vice versa. Strive for artistry.
Put People First
Our relationships with people trump everything else. If something—a literal thing or idea or practice—hurts or inconveniences someone else, then we are better off without it. Since I’m also a person, I apply this principle to what I do, eat, think, and behave. Salman Rushdie suggests we ask ourselves “What kind of idea am I?” It keeps us honest.
Movement Promotes Experience
Given the choice, I will take experience over stuff every time. Since much of our lives are spent working (because one must make money to live after all), I choose to spend what extra money I have left on experiences—things that inspire movement. It’s sharing a bottle of Pinot Noir at home by the fire on a Saturday night and traveling around Thailand for a month with a small backpack and your best friend. While “home” is great, life mostly happens outside of it. If George Carlin is right and home is just a “place for your stuff,” then having less stuff frees us from the necessity of containing it. Think portable. Think like a nomad.
Clutter stifles, so think minimalism. Philip K. Dick called the fallout from contemporary life kipple—a toxic dust of junk that eventually chokes and buries us. We willingly surround ourselves with kipple—bargains from the mall, souvenirs from our travels, stuff we might need one day. Life is often contingent, but choosing to keep only what’s best frees us of the literal and figurative kipple that strangles us. What brings you joy today? That is worth holding on to—at least a bit longer.
Talk about what you love instead of wasting time and energy on what you don’t. Eliminate negative words from your vocabulary. Affirm. While negativity often infects life, we transcend.
Less is more. Say as much as you can with as little as you can. Make each footprint count.
Sometimes all of these guidelines and approaches to life need to be thrown out or set aside. We should not be afraid to forget the above principles when we need to. Sometimes the best practice is just to go with the flow.
This is our Everyday Zen.