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Photo by:kanzeon zen center

Firstly, I’m not a monk, nor will I ever become one. However, I find great inspiration in the way they try to live their lives: the simplicity of their lives, the focus and mindfulness of every activity, the calm and peace they find in their everyday life.

You probably don’t want to become a Zen monk either, but you can live your life in a more Zen-like manner by following 10 simple rules.

Why live more like a Zen monk? Because who among us can’t use a little more concentration, serenity, and mindfulness in our lives? Because monks for hundreds of years have devoted their lives to being present in everything they do, to being dedicated and to serving others. Because it serves as an example for our lives and whether we ever really reach that ideal is not the point.

However, for the people who like a little more detail; so here are some of the things I’ve discovered to work very well in my experiments with “Zen-like living”. As I said the beginning of the post – I am no Zen monk. However, I’ve realized that there are certain principles that can be applied to any life; no matter what your religious beliefs or what your standard of living.

Do one thing at a time. This rule (and some of the others that follow) will be familiar to long-time Zen Habits readers. Its part of my way of life and it’s also a part of the life of a Zen monk: single-task, don’t multi-task. When you’re eating, just eat. When you’re bathing, just bathe. Don’t try to knock off a few tasks while eating or bathing.

Do it completely. Put your mind completely on the task. Don’t move on to the next task until you’re finished. If, for some reason, you have no choice but to move on to something else, try to at least put away the unfinished task and clean up after yourself. For example, if you’re cleaning up around the yard, don’t just start fixing the roof until you’ve put away the equipment you used to clean up the yard. Roll or drive the lawnmower in its rightful area together with the rake and broom. Then you’re done with that task and can focus completely on the next task at hand.

Do less. A Zen monk doesn’t lead a lazy life: he wakes early and has a day filled with work. However, he doesn’t have an unending task list either — there are certain things he’s going to do today, and no more. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely and with more concentration. If you’re most people, and full your day with tasks, you will be rushing from one thing to the next without stopping to think about what you do.

Develop rituals. Zen monks have rituals for a lot of things they do, from eating to cleaning to meditation. Ritual gives something a sense of importance — if it’s important enough to have a ritual. You don’t have to learn the Zen monk rituals — you can create your own, for the preparation of food, for eating, for cleaning, for what you do before you start your work, for what you do when you wake up and before you go to bed, for what you do just before exercise. Anything you want, really.

Assign time for certain things. There are certain times in the day of a Zen monk designated for certain activities. A time for bathing, working, cleaning, and eating, ensures that those things get done regularly. You can designate time for your own activities, whether its work or cleaning or exercise or quiet contemplation. If it’s important enough to do regularly, consider designating a time for it.

Think about what is necessary. There is little in a Zen monk’s life that isn’t necessary. Unlike most of us he doesn’t have a closet full of shoes or the latest in trendy clothes. He doesn’t have the latest gadgets, cars, televisions, or iPod. He has basic clothing, basic shelter, basic utensils, basic tools, and the most basic food. Now, I’m not saying you should live exactly like a Zen monk — I certainly don’t. But it does serve as a reminder that there is much in our lives that aren’t necessary, and it can be useful to give some thought about what we really need, and whether it is important to have all the stuff we have that’s not necessary.

Live simply. Rule 6 is that if something isn’t necessary, you can probably live without it. And so to live simply is to rid your life of as many of the unnecessary and unessential things as you can, to make room for the essential. Now, what is essential will be different to each person. For me, my family, Island life, my exercising and my reading are essential. There is no law saying what should be essential for you — but you should consider what is most important to your life, and make room for that by eliminating the other less essential things in your life.

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