Zen and the Art of Smiling, Breathing and Going Slowly

Zen and the Art of Smiling, Breathing and Going Slowly

Zen is not some kind of excitement, but concentration on our usual everyday routine. Look, I’m not a Zen monk; nor will I ever become one. However, I now try to live my life according to a sort set of Zen like principles and rules (BAED). Many years ago (1976), when I was a punk, I first read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (ZAMM).It was the first of Robert M. Pirsig's texts in which he explores his Metaphysics of Quality. It was an iconic book, selling more than 5 million copies worldwide. It was originally rejected by 121 publishers, more than any other bestselling book, according to the Guinness Book of Records. It had a massive impact on me at the time and still resonates today, in my rules for Being Amazing Every Day.

I do find great inspiration in the way Zen Monks live their lives: the basic simplicity of their lives, the concentration and mindfulness of every activity, the calm and peace they find in their days. I deeply admire these qualities and believe they can be applied to business, sport and our personal lives equally.

My first introduction to the concepts of Zen living, were found in the pages of ZAMM;they were fascinating to a teenage rebel like me. It was very unusual book, written in the first person, about a 17 day journey on his motorcycle from Minnesota to Northern California by the author and his son Chris. The trip is punctuated by numerous philosophical discussions, referred to as Chautauquas which are just my sort of event, which inspired my Explore, Play and Create Novelty workshops.

ZAMM was loosely based on a sporting classic called Zen in the Art of Archery. Published in 1948, it was a short book written by Eugen Herrigel which brought Zen to Europe after World War II. Herrigel describes Zen in archery as follows:

The archer ceases to be conscious of himself as the one who is engaged in hitting the bull's-eye which confronts him. This state of unconscious is realized only when, completely empty and rid of the self, he becomes one with the perfecting of his technical skill, though there is in it something of a quite different order which cannot be attained by any progressive study of the art..

Zen Archery is very complex, with the aim / un-aim technique, the non-achieving, the metaphor of ying and yang, of female an male power and finally of life and death. You probably don’t want to become a Zen monk but you can live your life in a more Zen like manner by following a few simple rules. One of my favourite Zen monks, Thich Nhat Hanh, simplified the rules in just a few words:

Smile, breathe and go slowly.

Does it get any better than that? All of us know what it’s like to be in a hurry. So how do we cultivate a spirit of patience day in and day out? For me, I have found that I have to stay in the present. As soon as I get caught up in thinking about the rest of my life, I get overwhelmed, even depressed, stressed and very impatient. Living in today is so key to practicing patience. So let's look a little further at these Zen sayings and see if there is some logic we can extract:

  • Life is available only in the present moment.
  • When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.
  • The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.

Very cool. In addition to being present, I have learned that I must also take a step back a look at the bigger picture, rather than simply the barrier directly in front of me. I am all about being Amazing Every Day. I have learned the hard way, that in order to truly claim my power and live my best life, I must be more patient. I must stay present and mindful. I must relinquish my worries about tomorrow. I must smile, breathe and go slowly.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. DiscoverMark Twain

Before enlightenment chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. Wu Li

Be Amazing Every Day.


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values"; Author: Rober Pirsig; Publisher: HarperTorch; Reprint edition (April 25, 2006) Language: English ISBN-10: 0060589469 ISBN-13: 978-0060589462}