Greetings from ZenJi
Greetings! I am ZenJi, the Zen-Journal (ZenJo) Monk and today I want to reveal to you how I go about my day, my work, and my life while guided by my ZenJo.
Who Am I?
First of all, you could say that I am Baz’s alter-ego: Deep within his heart Baz wishes he’d followed the monastic path, however, having discovered ‘the middle way’ late in life (not to mention that we aren’t all meant to take the vows of a monastic), Baz would be the first to tell you that he hasn’t taken monastic vows.
It could be said that all who live the ZenJo Lifestyle are, in their hearts, monks and nuns. Zen monks and nuns are those who live in continual retreat from the material world, usually in a Zen Center or monastery, spending their days working in support of themselves and their community, and devoting themselves to the study of the Buddha’s teachings.
But labels are meaningless. Like Baz, you’re also a ZenJo Monk in my mind. You’re here, and by whatever miracle you ended up here, I hope my message is meaningful and helpful to you.
How I Live My Daily Life
Regardless of our level of commitment to live the ZenJo Lifestyle, we all have a choice in how we live, how we behave, and how we treat others. The adoption of the ZenJo Lifestyle doesn’t mean you’re a Buddhist, a Practical Buddhist, or anything at all for that matters.
Living the ZenJo Lifestyle is an experiential rather than religious life. As a very brief review, it involves the following four practices that even Zen monks engage each day:
- Spending time in silence
- Embracing simplicity
- Engaging in compassionate-kindness
- Adopting the ZenJo Task and Life Management System (while not exactly a sanctioned Zen activity, we hold out hope)
How I Go About My Day
Morning – After I awaken I spend a few minutes in silence before rising from my bed. I slip my feet I into my sandals, wash and refresh myself, and put on my robe. I walk, mindful of each step, to the kitchen. Each step I take is purposeful and planned, not just a means of getting where I am going. I drink a small glass of chilled water, and place some water in a kettle to boil and prepare some tea.
Sometimes, while waiting for the kettle to boil or the tea to steep, I’ll close my eyes and spend a few minutes centering myself. I find it easy to spend time in silence in this informal manner many times throughout the day.
After my tea is ready, I make an effort to sip it consciously and hold a feeling of gratitude for the earth, the tea leaves, how they were grown, the for the workers involved in tending the tea plants and for harvesting and drying the leaves, and those involved in shipping it to the other side of the world just so I could enjoy this moment.
I’ll then spend approximately 20-40 minutes sitting in silence. I sit in the Burmese position with my hand in a mudra with my tips of my thumbs in light contact and the fingers overlapping one another. I sit in silence, focusing on my breath, and returning to it over and over when I get distracted.
And yes, even Zen monks become distracted by thoughts, memories, and other interruptions. When this happens, I simply release the memory or thought and return to my breath, the ever-present companion that never leaves me.
After my meditation is complete, I open my ZenJo (while still seated on my mat) and hold my first mindful review. I find that if I do this mindful review of my daily intentions, I am not only more mindful, but I am able to determine my most important tasks (MITs) based on my ZenJo’s DTL and QLA.
I then use my pen to create my daily heading as well as the three MITs that I want to focus on for the day. I document these in my ZenJo notebook in the Daily Work Area (DWA). I accompany each one with the appropriate marks, i.e., dot for a task, an open O for an event, and a double slash (//) for a change in focus (journal entry, notes, thoughts, quotes, etc.)
Midday/Afternoon – I pause around midday for some reflection as to how my daily plan of action is going and whether or not I need to adjust any MITs or update any tasks in my DTL or QLA.
I’ll then proceed with my tasks, taking a few minutes for some silence and focusing on my breath. When I feel it’s appropriate, I’ll get on with my day. Sometimes at this midday break, I’ll do a mindful check-in with myself. I have a small note attached to my work area that asks three questions:
- What am I feeling right now? – are there any feelings I need to sort out: resentment, malcontent, sadness?
- What’s going on in my body right now? – are there painful locations or tightness in my musculature?
- What is my intention for the rest of the day? – do I need to reframe my intention given the day’s events?
At any time during the day if something occurs to me that I want to remember, I simply use the double slash (//) to denote the change in entry format (//journal entry, //quote, or //meeting notes (for work, because I only use one notebook).
Evening – At the conclusion of my workday, I’ll quickly check my DWA to see if I accomplished my MITs and migrate any to a more appropriate date in my QLA if necessary. If I know that the tasks can be completed easily the next day -or if feedback from co-workers impact its completion, I’ll migrate with to the next day and use the > symbol on the current day’s DWA to denote it needs to be a priority the following day.
Also, something new I’ve been doing before bed, is to create a journal entry using the //Daily Recap as the subhead and create some bullet points of the day’s highlights or a narrative entry of my experiences, feelings, whatever strikes me as appropriate.
Then I get out my exercise mat and meditation cushion for a more formal evening meditation time using the Headspace app (which is good) or the 10% Happier app (which is excellent) to guide me if that’s what I feel like. If I don’t want to listen and just spend time in silence, I’ll sit in silence and simply focus on my breath. This is something I love to do.
So this is a rough recap of what each day looks like for me, ZenJi – the Zen-Journal monk. Some days are exactly like this example while others are different, but it doesn’t matter as each day is simply a collection of present moments. They aren’t meant to be comparable.
Hopefully this post helps you in some small way.