5 Key Concepts for Zen Living

With all the new subscribers, (welcome!) I thought I’d write a “Start Here” article,” — 5 Key Concepts for Zen Living — to help you get on board with some of our perspectives. This article contains multiple links to our site, and to other BLOG articles. Click around and enjoy!

perspectiveWe see what we see

1- Perspective Colours Everything

I wear a few hats on this BLOG, or better, speak from several perspectives. First of all, I was a Humanistic, Transpersonal Psychotherapist, until my retirement in 2013. This is baffle-gab for assuming that human nature has within it a pull to things which go beyond the rational and observable.

I also ascribe to Zen Buddhism, and this perspective on being colours my interest in simple presence, meditation, and experience versus thinking.

Thus, my book, Half Asleep in the Buddha Hall

I’m in relationship with the lovely Darbella MacNaughton (a.k.a. Dar), and she’s been my favourite person since 1982. We use a communication model that has yet to fail us, and our approach to each other is to encourage exploration and self knowing, while keeping each other in the loop through total honesty.

OK, so those are a few of my perspectives.

I am clear that these are not optional extras for me–these are my core beliefs/ways of doing life/ways of relating. Thus, everything in this BLOG in some way reflects these perspectives, as well as a host of lesser themes.

If you have not explored your perspectives, and instead think that what you believe matches what others believe, you need this BLOG!

I was just talking to Dar about a client not liking what she heard from her partner. Dar said, “Tell her to write a script so he says the right thing next time!” I hope I don’t have to say she was being ironic. We often do not hear what we want to hear, and assume the other person is wrong. Hint: they’re not. They just have a different perspective.

spiralI could swear I saw that problem yesterday…

2- Life is Linear, and also a Spiral

One of my favourite writers is Abraham Maslow. His Hierarchy of Needs is crucial for our understanding of human development. I wrote about his hierarchy recently, and also looked at his work as it relates to Bodywork.

Humans develop through various stages, some of which are obvious. Physical development, for one, follows pretty universal rules, as the cliche “You have to walk before you run” points out. Mental and spiritual development also follow patterns or stages, and what’s odd is that most people do not put much energy into this work. They assume that things are supposed to magically work out, and when they don’t, they blame others.

Our approach is simple.

We teach full and direct self responsibility. Part of this is to accept that your job, your path, is to figure yourself out, while at the same time moving “up the spiral” — in other words, we re-visit familiar themes throughout life, and as we move past these themes, we then confront the same issue from a more complex point. It’s like walking up a spiral staircase.

zazenIt is…what it is

3- Meditation teaches us self-knowing

Many people have heard of the hyped up versions of meditation. You know it’s one of those if there is a promise of future rewards connected to the meditation process. If you meditate to: relax, feel better, become spiritual–you are missing the boat.

Meditation is a process of slowing down, and simply sitting (zazen.)

If you’d like additional Meditation information, including a video, it’s available through this link

In this process, you engage fully with living, and part of that is that you are present with all of you–with your thoughts, your emotions, your aches and pains. Meditation is “being present with.”

If you spend sufficient time meditating, you’ll notice that you do actually get more peaceful and clear, yet the zazen is “in and of itself.” This process allows us to see just how busy our minds are, and gives us the space and opportunity to “just notice.”


4- Breath and Bodywork teach us about holding and being free.

There’s a whole section on Bodyworkon my website. You can spend many profitable hours there, learning about where and how you hold tension and emotions in your body.

There are several ways of working with the body, from Reich’s idea of character armour and use of pressure to release blocked emotions, to acupressure–which helps with blocked chi, to thinking in terms of Chakras. If you click this link, you’ll find an entire series of articles on the topic of chakras.


5- Communication requires a commitment to honesty

We use a communication model that was developed by Ben Wong and Jock McKeen at The Haven. It’s easy enough to learn, and is helpful for, for instance, teaching the difference between an emotion and an interpretation.

For example, people say, “You make me sad!” This is untrue. I make me everything. In a very real sense, I choose sadness in reaction to my judgement of what I think you are doing or intending. And mostly, people do not check out these interpretations with the other person, so such conversations rapidly turn into messes.

We therefore teach two things: 1) use of specific language, and 2) total honesty. Thus, when I speak, my pronoun is “I.” What I report is what I am thinking, how I am interpreting my experience, and what I am going to do about my experience, emotions, and judgements. To learn a lot about communication, click this link.

So, those are 5 things that are important to us. The links in the article great for digging deeper into any or all of these themes.

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s article sit with you? What questions do you have? Leave a comment or question!

About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is the web\‘s Simple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Private Practice Counsellor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the latest being The. Best. Relationship. Ever. See: –The Phoenix Centre Press

2 thoughts on “5 Key Concepts for Zen Living”

  1. An important aspect of letting go is the ability to accept that what we believe is wrong. Allowing ourselves space to be wrong is something which many people fail to do.

    People make declarations about ‘facts’ and ‘truth’ and in doing so render themselves incapable of negotiating around these issues. When challenged on any of them they defend their status quo by expanding their own denial to create new lines of defence with more of their life experience isolated from reality.

    This is not without rationale — allowing the challenge and reviewing deeply encultured beliefs is a lot of hard work, and if it can be easily avoided by just a little bit more denial that is a cheap and attractive solution.

    Fear of simply being wrong is fear of being human, yet that fear is perhaps the most common and pervasive in our community.

    • Yup. This is where I apply the “utility test” — is it working? Rather than debate right vs. wrong, I find it easier to look at whether the results match what the “client” says he wants.
      But that’s just semantics. Fear of being wrong (or fear in general) is the bane of human existence.


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