Z is for Zen

High strung, stressed out, overworked … do any of these words describe your life? If so you need a little zen. Zen is not something that comes naturally, or easy for us ladder climbing ambitious types but it is certainly something that is necessary to keep the balance.

This guest post was written by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits. Leo’s very popular blog Zen Habits covers: achieving goals, productivity, being organized, GTD, motivation, eliminating debt, saving, getting a flat stomach, eating healthy, simplifying, living frugal, parenting, happiness, and successfully implementing good habits.

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I’m in my mid-30s now, but it was in my 20s that I began realizing that my life was too complicated, and began looking for a simpler life. I was overworked, extremely stressed, with no time for my family, for writing, for exercise, for reading … in short, no time for anything I loved.

I decided to make a change. Slow down. Do less. Focus on the essentials of life — the things I truly love, that I’m passionate about, that bring me joy. Find peace in my life, and contentment. I sought a simpler life, and that meant taking a few days off work to contemplate what was important, and to make a plan of action. I realized that there are only four things that are truly important to me: spending time with my family, writing, running and reading. I decided to center my life around those things, and to eliminate as much of the rest as possible. It wasn’t easy, and it didn’t happen overnight. I gradually made changes, eliminating commitments, changing jobs, simplifying my house, creating simple routines that incorporated the things I loved. I made room in my life for the essential, and left space for the rest.

While I am not a Zen Buddhist, I have studied the concepts of Zen and try to incorporate some of them into my life. I go for a very simple, spare aesthetic. I try to focus on the essential. I have learned to slow down, and to focus on the present. I have learned the power of zazen (sitting meditation, basically), and how to use this kind of concentration in everything I do, in my everyday routines. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, and would like to find a little Zen in your 20s, try the following: take time to consider what is truly important to you. Eliminate the non-essential to make room for these essentials. Make space in your life. Move slower. Focus on the present. Concentrate on what you’re doing, rather than what you need to do later. And above all, be happy!