The Pathless Path

Wayne C. Allen – a simple Zen guy – writes about living and relating elegantly


10 Quick Examples of Zen Living

Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall

If you like this article, you’ll love my new book,
Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall,
a guide to using Zen principles to re-create your life.

1. one thing at a time

get your life together

Multitasking is impos­si­ble. Watch your­self when you attempt it. What you are actu­ally doing is turn­ing your atten­tion from one thing to another, to another, rapidly. And, because chang­ing your focus takes energy, noth­ing gets your full atten­tion.

Experiment: watch your favourite tv show and have a conver­sa­tion at the same time.

Zen living: Do one thing at a time. Full focus, to a pre-determined point of comple­tion. Big projects require that you break them into bite-sized pieces, and finish a segment. Then shift atten­tion. For most things, ‘chop wood, carry water.’ Do the task at hand with full atten­tion.

2. speak for yourself


The only authen­tic pronoun is ‘I.’ All I can reli­ably talk about is what I am think­ing, feel­ing, and doing.

Example: think about some­thing you might consider a ‘we’ thing. "We’re going to play ball." Well, maybe a bunch of people are each, indi­vid­u­ally, play­ing ball, but there is no ‘we,’ period. Nor can you say anything reli­ably about another person. "I know what you are think­ing," is impos­si­ble. I only, at best, am aware that I think I know what you are think­ing.

Zen living: Speak only for your­self, by using "I think…", "I imag­ine…", "The story I’m telling myself…", etc. Own your expe­ri­ence, and share it, as it’s all you can ever know.

For more hints on how to have an excel­lent rela­tion­ship, read this arti­cle!

3. choose

up_down.jpgI want ’em up… no… down!

You may be able to play around in your head, and come up with millions of options, but (see point 1) you can never enact more than one thing at once. Thus, creat­ing a million options is enact­ing a single thing – the act of imag­in­ing many options. Therefore, choos­ing to think of options as opposed to pick­ing one and doing it is a choice.

Experiment: See if you can find anything you do (think, feel, inter­pret, etc.) that you are not freely choos­ing. Once you get this, you’ll quickly stop mess­ing with your­self, and ‘simply choose.’

Zen living: choose one thing, commit to it, and see it through. If you do not like the result (this is impor­tant!) choose some­thing else, and try that. Stop doing what does not work!

4. Be grateful


Everything is One, and every­thing is connected. Nothing exists as a singu­lar­ity, on its own, apart from some­thing else, and every­thing comes from some­thing else.

Experiment: Think about the stuff around you, and see connec­tions. For exam­ple, I’m presently eating a salad with tuna fish. Apart from Dar, who made the salad for me, imag­ine the count­less people involved in making that salad possi­ble – farm­ers, fish­ers, pack­ers, pick­ers, etc.

Zen living: Be grate­ful. You wouldn’t last long if not for the people and ‘stuff’ that surrounds you – the air, water, land, etc. Call this to mind as you engage with the stuff of life, say ‘thanks,’ and really mean it.

5. No duality


Of course, stuff happens that we know ought not to happen. It is a real, and crazy world out there. That being said, labels are inher­ently useless. No good, no bad, no right, no wrong. It’s all ‘as it is.’ What is, is, and what is required is not a lecture but an action.

Experiment: This is an exer­cise in conscious­ness. If you are attracted to some­thing, move forward and embrace it. Try it out, and see what happens. If repelled, move away, and act force­fully against it.

Zen living: No dual­ity. Know that judg­ing is some­thing you’ll do until you die, but you can notice and stop your mind for a moment, and then act in keep­ing with your feel­ings, inter­pre­ta­tions, and inten­tions. Most say, "Isn’t it awful" and do noth­ing. Instead, say, "It is what it is," act, and move on.

6. Detach

Attachments are silly, and based upon the idea that I can grasp some­one or some­thing, and by the act of grasp­ing, keep it the same, or ‘just keep it.’ A friend wrote: "I don’t want the fantasy to end!" Guess what: it already has ended, and had to end, because noth­ing is static – all is in motion – all is change.

Experiment: Create a list of all of the things, by force of will, that you have kept ‘exactly the same.’ Is a list a list if there are no items on it?

Zen living: Detach. Let go. Hold loosely. When you attempt to grasp some­one or some thing, you are actu­ally trying to hold on to, and freeze, the past. To do this requires that you exit the moment, and go into your head, and play with memo­ries. Memories aren’t real. Real is here and now.

7. pay attention

Be Here Now. It’s the only way to actu­ally have a life. Mooning over the past or living in the future "…then I’ll be happy…" is a sure fire way to get into trou­ble. You snooze, you lose.

Experiment: In Zen monas­ter­ies, a bell is rung at irreg­u­lar inter­vals. The monks stop, and contem­plate their level of ‘pres­ence’ when the bell rang. Find a way to do the same – perhaps set a timer, and see where your atten­tion was when it goes off.

Zen living: Pay atten­tion. As you find your­self drift­ing off into thoughts and plans, plots and dreams, have a breath and bring your­self back to now. Interesting, real stuff is happen­ing, and can only be appre­ci­ated by bring­ing your­self into the This Endless Moment. And what does it say about you if your fantasy life is more chargy and fun than your ‘real life?’

8. Make contact

Being present by defi­n­i­tion is a reach­ing out and embrac­ing of life, and then a letting go. In this way, my hands are empty and prepared for the next embrace.

Think: Most people live in an invis­i­ble bubble, designed to keep ‘bad stuff’ out and ‘good stuff’ my private prop­erty. Yet, it is only when I let down my ‘shields’ that I can inter­act with the moment.

Zen living: Make contact as you imbibe life. Take it in, touch it, caress it, set it free. Be passion­ate about your engage­ment with what you encounter, never waver­ing in your  ‘present moment’ focus.

9. Don’t do it, be it

Zen living and being is not a game of, "look at my new skill set!" One guy couldn’t figure out how to make time to medi­tate. I suggested he think of his entire life as medi­ta­tion. Different focus, differ­ent direc­tion.

Zen living: Don’t do it, be it. Live life as an action that encom­passes your being or essence. This is tricky to language, but it’s about a full, purpose­ful commit­ment to a way of being that includes thought, feel­ing and action. Take the other 9 points and see them as focus­ing points as to what such being might look like, as you enact your­self in the here and now.

10. Celebrate

Indeed, you are unique, just like every­one else. Your unique­ness is contained in the gifts you possess and your will­ing­ness to empty your­self as you share ‘your song.’ Most are so fear­ful of being laughed at that they hold their unique song in. How sad.

Zen living: Celebrate. Dance in the rain, sing your soul, shout your art, be your being. You are the only ‘you’ that will ever exist on this planet. Be your­self, and see with clear eyes. Your smile will set the world aflame.

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It’s All / It’s Not About You


  1. Sienna Woods

    Wayne, thank you for the wise arti­cle. I recently got engaged and was content. When I told my parents they were upset and said my part­ner had no prospects and no money. Three months later and I’m still engaged but I keep think­ing about it. I dont know how to cure the dual­ity of marry/don’t marry.

    • There\’s an old rule that \”people in love\” aren\’t open to hear­ing counter advice.
      That you\’re think­ing about it means you might be open to explor­ing.
      So, I\’d suggest you take an after­noon and write a short story that is: It\’s 5 years from now, I\’m married, and have x kids (if you\’re plan­ning on kids)
      My husband is doing what he has always done, earns what he always earns, and is approach­ing life the same, iden­ti­cal way.

      Then, : this is how I think and feel about life moving on, and him not chang­ing.

      If you\’re OK with a \”worst case scenario\” like this one, OK. If you assume he ought to have gotten over himself — I\’d have a look at your choice of part­ner.
      Hope that helps.
      Warmly, Wayne

  2. Great list. I like the inclu­sion of "speak for your­self." So often, in medi­ta­tion prac­tice, I feel I need to detach from the self, the I, all my stories (which is good too), but that means I forget to own and live my own expe­ri­ence. Thanks.

    • There's some­thing empow­er­ing about speak­ing from where you are, with­out the "Background stories / chat­ter." Good for all of us to remem­ber!

  3. Clifton

    Simplicity, I love it!

  4. Diana M.

    Thank you so much. I was a big time chris­t­ian mostly because i was brought up these way and I had been feel­ing hollow. Lying to my family that I truly in my soul did not want to be a chris­t­ian. Recently I told my family my secret and as I feared I was and am being treated differ­ently. I was hope­less and lost till I read what you have writ­ten. Reading this I under­stood that I am truth­fully the only one that can make myself happy. Thank you so much you have given me a light to look at in my deep­est sorrow. Thank you so much, Diana M.

    • Hi Diana,
      Yes, there are times when being honest can hurt, and the key is to know when being honest hurts less than telling the truth as you know it.
      Ultimately, as you've discov­ered, the only way to find ourselves is to be will­ing to look deeply, and accept ourselves as we are. From there, anything is possi­ble. But the raw mate­r­ial we work with is always "us."
      Keep going, keep explor­ing. And as ques­tions arise, feel free to drop me an e-mail.

  5. I am focus­ing on doing one thing at a time for the new year. Mindfulness is also some­thing that I am work­ing on contin­u­ally.

    • Yes, one thing and one thing. Makes one appre­cia­tive of the moment and the “other.”
      Mindfulness is what happens when we stop work­ing and simply be!

  6. ganesh62

    Great arti­cle. In my Spiritual search I have come across many people and TejGuru Tej parkhiji has made it simple and all that is neces­sary is to listen to the truth and it has the abil­ity to trans­form. He gets the people to expe­ri­ence the state and gives the under­stand­ing through that expe­ri­ence. All spir­i­tual train­ings are imparted free of Charge in Pune, India. He has wriiten quite a few books and some have been trans­lated into English. Please see and based on the lectures I have heard and the expe­ri­ence I had Tejparkhiji lives in that space where there is no ego. His lectures are also full of Humor and he makes people laugh along with him while giving this great under­stand­ing.

    • Hi Ganesh,
      Glad you liked the arti­cle, and thanks for the link. I had a look at the site and found much of inter­est. I’ll be return­ing to have another look.
      I appre­ci­ate your will­ing­ness to share this with us!
      Warmly, Wayne

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