I've spent some time ruminating on this and have found the teachings of Buddha to be inspirational. Zen Buddhists, in particular, were way ahead of the curve when it came to making each day count.
Here are three Zen principles you can use every single day to live your life to the fullest.
1. Mushin: Mind Without Mind
Mushin simply means that your mind is not fixed on any emotions or judgments. This may seem pretty basic, but think about it practically — how often do you immediately rush to judgment when you come across a new person, idea or challenge?
Maybe you just met a new coworker, but because you didn't like the shoes they were wearing, you immediately wrote them off. Or perhaps you just got some bad news ... your mind probably jumped to conclusions about who is to blame. Why are you so reactive?
It’s part of your primal instinct. It’s a defense mechanism to quickly decide if stimuli in your environment is dangerous or not. Modern neuroscience has found that if you are unsure whether a particular effect was caused by a preceding event, you’re more likely to assume a cause-and-effect relationship between the two ... even if it’s plain wrong!
Jumping to conclusions without ample evidence is more likely to lead you in the wrong direction. By practicing Mushin, you can keep an open mind and avoid making hasty, wrong decisions. So the next time you’re faced with a new problem, choose not to attach an emotion to it and act with a clear, objective mind.
2. Zanshin: Presence & Awareness
Zanshin is a state of presence. It is being aware of your surroundings and being present in every moment. In essence, it’s mindfulness.
Paying attention to every action we take is important, as being mindful has been shown to increase productivity, emotional intelligence and happiness.
Taking pleasure in the smallest things in life can bring you so much joy, that it can help quiet much of the unnecessary mental chatter going on in your mind.
Mindfulness has also been shown to decrease the self-discrepancy gap. That’s the gap between the “ideal person” you see yourself as, and the “actual person” you are. This reduces the stress that you feel when you may not be living up to your ideal expectations.
So the next time you’re doing daily tasks like washing the dishes, feel the soap suds on your hands and the warm water through your hands. Be mindful and in the moment of everything you do, big and small.
3. Satori: The Natural State
Satori is the natural state of the mind. It is total harmony between the body and mind.
Don’t get caught up on “reaching” this natural state at some future point in your life. In fact, you should try to live it everyday. You can liken it to when you were a child and had a pure state of mind where you were curious, excited and completely open.
Practicing satori is extremely difficult with all of the distractions we face. One of the best ways to attempt to get back to this natural state is through meditation.
Meditation has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety while increasing your ability to concentrate and learn. Meditating can even strengthen your immune system!
Sitting in stillness can seem intimidating, but it’s actually pretty easy. All you have to do is sit down comfortably with your back supported, close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose. You can start small by sitting in silence like this for five minutes. If you find it challenging to sit still and quiet your mind, you can use a natural object like a rose to concentrate on. You’ll realize that you’ll feel in awe and amazement just by observing a simple flower. Alternatively, there are many simple meditation techniques that are quite effective — just be sure to be consistent with your practice.
Meditation has been scientifically proven to increase levels of dopamine and serotonin (the feel good chemicals) and decrease cortisol (a stress chemical) in your brain. By practicing Satori you can engage your body and mind to get you back into a pure mental state.
Life is short and it’s imperative to make each day count. The Buddhist principles of Mushin, Zanshin, and Satori will help you live your best life every single day.
Katrina Razavi is a communication coach who helps people become socially attractive and live their best lives. She blogs at CommunicationforNerds where she helps people who struggle with social confidence perfect their social skills and confidence. You can get her free eBook: 5 Easy Ways to Avoid Awkward Conversations, now!