The Art of Being “Zen”

I never used to consider myself a zen person- even a calm person, really. I used to rush around, trying to fit as many tasks into my day as possible. I used to do things I didn’t really want to do but felt I should do, just because other people or society deemed them useful. I was perpetually chasing some dream that was not mine. None of these statements are new reflections for me- I’ve often thought of my lack of zen as something that contributed to the persistent feeling of worthless unhappiness over the past few years. Interesting, isn’t it, how when being most “productive” and “useful”, I felt the most worthless, the most pathetic, and like I didn’t fit in anywhere.

Being zen can mean many things to different people in it’s social connotation. I hope I’m not offending any ancient zen practitioners with my use of the term as a state of being calm and at peace with oneself and one’s surroundings, but that would be my interpretation of being zen, at least as it factors into my life. There are times, even now, that zen eludes me. I cannot always quiet my mind through meditation or activities I love. Some days I just don’t feel right in my skin. Perhaps allowing myself to have those days is actually beneficial to my pursuit of patience and zen- they test my ability to let the feeling be and hope for a better tomorrow.

Without being too philosophical about it all, being zen is like being a tree in the midst of a bustling city-scape. It takes going against some highly ingrained societal notions, when I try to be zen about my post-eating-disorder mindset. In some ways, I feel like society as a whole has an eating disorder, so being zen involves ignoring the siren-call of the glossy magazines on the drugstore shelves and buying myself an itunes gift card instead. Sometimes being zen involves baking zucchini loaves with butter, oil, sugar, and white flour, and eating it anyway.

Being zen in recovery involves practicing yoga and meditation, rather than buying and making copious use of an overpriced gym membership. It involves reading a favorite book for hours with a cup of coffee while listening to the rain on my skylight. Though I’m sure the original zen practitioners did not envision my sense of the word, maybe it’s not that far off from what they practiced. Through meditation and intuition, rather than faith (or in this case, societal belief) I am living my life in a way that works for me.

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