Wisdom from Zen

When we are caught in a belief that happiness should take a particular form, we fail to see opportunities for joy that are right in front of us.

Thic Naht Hahn 

At Integrative Counsel, we draw from many pools of wisdom, including Eastern philosophy. Zen, a school of Mahayana Buddhism, can help people declutter their overactive minds and live life with a more positive outlook. It is full of practical tools that you can use to live a peaceful and happy life. More than that, it helps you awaken your creativity. Zen wisdom shows you that you can return to your birthright of strength, purpose, and meaningful connection. Here are 5 pieces of Zen wisdom that you can apply to your life:

Start observing yourself

As humans, we have millions of thoughts and emotions a day, and we put so much weight on them, making us attached to the way we feel. Zen Buddhists believe that the root of all suffering is attachment. Start to view your thoughts and emotions as clouds passing by. They aren’t permanent, so don’t judge them or identify with them too much. The thoughts and feelings are not good or bad, they just are. You can focus on them and make them grow, or you can let them float by and dissolve on their own

Practice gratitude

When you focus on what you are grateful for, you attract more happiness and abundance in your life. You are still human, so it’s normal to be grumpy about something like having to work to make money to live the life you want. However, when you are so attached to how you think your life should be that you fail to acknowledge and enjoy the present moment, you miss out on the joy of life. Be grateful that your life is imperfect, and that there is so much more to learn and live for that you don’t even realize at the moment. Repeat this affirmation: I now express complete gratitude for all the wonderful people, meaningful relationships, learning situations, wondrous opportunities, magical successes, and unconditional love in my life.”

Practice Zen wisdom by doing one thing at a time

Do it deliberately and slowly. Do it completely. Do less.  What’s the point in overwhelming yourself with task after task? How is that any way to live? When you do this, you make it so your life is an unsatisfactory race to the next thing. Allow yourself to live peacefully in the present moment.

Release yourself from your ego

Start by observing your mind. What negative thoughts are you habitually thinking? Then, try to distinguish between your ego’s voice and what is actually going on. When something unpleasant or inconvenient happens, the voice of our ego often tells us stories that aren’t true, making us irritated, sad, or angry. When you let go of these limiting stories, you can free yourself from your ego, breathing in the present moment with peaceful self-awareness.

Let go of your resentments

One of the five hindrances in Buddhism is ill-will, or byapada. By fostering anger and negativity towards others, we can only allow those feelings to grow in ourselves. An old Buddhist proverb tells the story of two monks who are carrying an ungrateful passenger on their backs for a long leg of their journey. When the ungrateful passenger is finally let off, the younger monk dwells on the indignities they both suffered at the passenger’s hand. The older monk replies: “I put the passenger down miles ago. Why are you still carrying them?”


Alexandra Cravener
Alexandra Cravener
Alexandra Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alexandra studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts.

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  1. Hello, fellow Sun Devil: As a meditator qne yoga practitioner for many years, and someone who has found the practices you outline here so useful, I applaud your post. The tips are really useful. You might enjoy a book recently released by a friend of mine, who has written several business books but decided to write about her own lessons (and ocontinual struggles) with attachment, believing your thoughts, and a fresh take on gratitude. It’s called “Life’s Messy, Live Happy,” by Cy Wakeman. She has a background in social work and counseling, which sounds like the kind of work you do. Best of luck to you. We need more calm, zen-like people in the world! maren

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