Zen has been setting up a tent in America for forty years or so, giving it plenty of time to trickle down into pop culture. Lately, seems people use the term “Zen” to mean everything from “spacing out,” to its opposite, “task‑focused.”
We were moving her office, and when I walked in with a box, she jumped, startled from reading something. “Oh, I must have been having a Zen moment,” she said. (She knew I had been meditating and was ribbing me a little.)
“Maybe not,” I said. “If you’d been having a Zen moment, you’d have heard me coming, made room for the box, all without losing track of your reading.”
She liked that, tilting her head slightly to the side, then nodded with a tiny smile gracing the corners of her mouth; then we did have a Zen moment, indeed . . both of us!
The Tale Wagged
My favorite use of the word “Zen” points toward those moments when we’re fully absorbed, empty of preoccupations or discursive thought, focused but not obsessed. For one friend, it happens when he’s fishing; for another, a racquetball game with his best buddy invigorates him all day. I even know two sisters, one who loves her career, the other grateful to stay at home with two young children, both fully absorbed. Point is, you don’t have to be sitting on a round black cushion to do Zen.
It seems I may never have caused an accident when I was completely calm and alert, preoccupied neither by events in the past or worries about the future. Seems like I always get into trouble when I’m going too fast, thinking about something other than what I’m doing. (Showing off for other people almost guarantees that I’ll get into trouble.)
Yeah, but how do we put it into practice?
Tonight, after dinner, allow yourself to become fully absorbed in the activity and sounds of scraping clean a dinner plate. (Hold on; don’t get irritable; just try it for only sixty seconds.)
At bedtime, notice all the smells and sensations you can notice while brushing your teeth. (Hold on; don’t get cross with me; you only have to try it for sixty seconds.)
Tomorrow, pay close attention to any memory that may come up as you fill the car with gas. Notice what direction the wind is blowing, and whether your weight is on your left foot or your right foot.
I know you’ve got really important things on your mind, but if you pay super-close attention to the little stuff as it’s happening, the big stuff, when it comes, will unfold in a noticeably more manageable way.
You have my solemn promise on this.