How to Get Zen in 4-3-2-1…. 10 lessons learned

By Laura Warf

What comes to mind when you hear the word Zen? Does thinking of the word Zen conjure up a vision or a type of feeling inside of you?

When we practice, we know what it feels like so that when suddenly we are not Zen we know that too and can change course quickly before the damage gets done.

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If you look up the word Zen online, you will get varying definitions. Here are a few:

1. “a Japanese school of Mahayana Buddhism emphasizing the value of meditation and intuition.”

 2. “relaxed and not worrying about things that you cannot change: Don't worry about doing the right thing, be more zen about it and you'll be happier.”

3.”One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.”

I belong to a multi-disciplinary team of fitness and wellness professionals who offer a vast variety of programming to promote health and fitness. One of the programs we recently piloted is called Zen Yoga and offers virtual classes to the members of the organization.

The practice of yoga at a deeper level is about purifying the mind and body and practising the art of concentration through breathing methods, engaging in a variety of postures and allowing time for introspection through meditation. Ultimately yoga means Union – uniting all polarities within ourselves and returning to the source of who we are to live well.

We recently scheduled time to film the latest Zen Yoga routine. On many levels I was truly tested to get Zen and stay Zen! The day we were to film turned into a blustery snow storm. I was sure to get a good night’s sleep the night before and I enjoyed my morning ritual of yoga and meditation to get centered and ready. The filming location was about an hour away from where I lived. I left early to allow enough time to get there and to be relaxed before starting. I drove away from my home and merged onto the highway. My GPS informed me of six car accidents up ahead. It was snowing hard and visibility was reduced. At that very moment the car in front of me began fish tailing back and forth across the highway, I stepped on the brake to avoid a collision and I too began doing the same thing! I prayed in that very moment for safety and after about five 180’s from left to right I regained control of the car.

There were cars in the ditch on both sides. I was fortunate to have avoided an accident. Although at that point, my “Zen” state was a bit rattled; my breathing was shallow and rapid, my heart was pounding and fearful tears streamed down my face as a result of the close call.
I composed myself as best as I could and made a phone call to the person organizing the filming and we decided it would be best to reschedule. I turned the car around at the next exit and carefully made my way back home as I took deep breaths to evacuate the tension.

Fast forward two weeks later to try again. This time I was scheduled to teach in front of the camera first thing in the morning. Allow me to paint a picture of how events were unfolding in the most “un-zen” way possible. As the events unfolded, my teachers voices rang in my head to “accept the totality of the experience in loving kindness” it is never about the event or outside circumstances but how we choose to react to to them. We have the power to choose to stay centered or not. It was up to me to keep cultivating a Zen attitude. After all I was teaching Zen Yoga...

I was asked to be at the filming studio at 6:00am. That meant that I needed to wake up at 3:00am to prepare and arrive on time. The weather was -30 degrees C, it took 20 minutes just to thaw out the car! I arrived at 6:00 am to find out the rest of the crew were told 6:45. OK no problem, breathe, relax. Then another crew member who was co-directing the video shoot was stuck in the snow and arrived 90 minutes later. Now the team was about two hours behind schedule and had several other routines to film that day so we had to get cracking! The pressure was building in the room. We were just about to get started when drilling sounds reverberated through the building followed by siren sounds outdoors. So we paused again. Breathe in, breathe out, smile. By now the lighting needed to be adjusted due to more natural daylight streaming through the room as time rolled by. Hmm more challenges to stay in the zen zone! We paused, I breathed and rehearsed my routine in my head to keep my focus. Others were getting edgy. Then the director all of a sudden took action and said “ok get ready!” The voice countdown began; 4-3-2-Action! In that moment I needed to be 100% zen, smiling, prepared and poised to project a sense of calm to the viewers.
Be Zen Now. Even if your environment or people around you aren’t. Diffuse a positive vibe and shift the collective energy. Breathe, smile, stay calm, focus, speak with joy in your heart.

Lessons learned:
1. Even though I felt prepared there were outside circumstances that I had no control over.
2. Accept the things I cannot change; have courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Let go. Smile.
3. Being with my breath helped keep me stay aware and calm as each obstacle presented itself.
4. To get Zen NOW and stay there takes intention and focus to remain in the present moment and concentration to execute the task at hand.
5. My regular practice of mindfulness and yoga helped me that day to be able to get into the zone fast and stay there when the team needed me. And to stay alert for the five hours I spent on set even though I felt like my “zen-ness” was wearing a bit thin at times.
6. Being in the state of joy and gratitude is a choice. I remind myself why I do what I do; I had an opportunity to provide a positive experience for myself and all those around me, including the people who would eventually watch the video. How did I want to be and how did I want to leave people feeling?
7. When I stay present and joyful, I conserve my energy and events flow more gracefully. “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy”.
8. Know how it feels to be centered and Zen so I can stay in that state as opposed to being in reactive mode to outside circumstances. There is no “like” or “dislike” just Be.
9. Positively impact others; bring others into your calm instead of being pulled into their chaos.
10. Be Zen when it counts the most and when others need you to be your best in 4-3-2-Action!

Laura Warf is the founder of the School of Happiness whose methods are based on tools from ancient teachings to today’s current research. The School of Happiness mission is to guide and inspire others to become conscious creators of their well-being mind, body and spirit following their 8 essential elements to health and happiness. Laura is a healthy living advocate, passionate wellness educator and mind-body specialist offering retreats and services in corporate wellness, yoga, meditation, energetic balancing, and fitness conditioning. Visit www.LauraWarf.com www.SchoolofHappiness.ca




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