ZEN Practice as a Path to Self-Awareness and Self-Control

Zen is a movement or line of Mahayana Buddhism that originated in China from the 5th century before the Christian era and was influenced primarily by Daoism.

Zen promotes an inner balance and enables people to draw strength from serenity. In this way, Zen enables people to move things forward and to follow a clear path in a self-determined and self-responsible manner.

Zen should not be dogmatized as the panacea. It is also not about “either – or”; it is more about the “both – and”, about connections and about complements. We can learn something from every culture and from every coherent basic idea. Thus, Zen practice can help to expand the effectiveness and sustainability of our actions.

Zen knows karma, an approach according to which every physical and mental action inevitably has consequences, positive or negative; the totality of consequences from our actions will have consequences – also on us. In our Western economic world, we generally act as if there were no repercussions. Our entire economic and political situation is now correspondingly tense. After all, the logic of the world does not provide for one-way streets.

In this context, Zen shows a way to abolish the separation of the inner world and the outer world; thus, Zen includes everything. Zen implies understanding the whole in order to identify effective courses of action, rather than deciding from one’s own (isolated) perspective. This core idea is also manifested in the discipline of game theory established in our Western culture, whose results, often perplexing to us, are actually quite natural. We are connected to our environment. In order to be able to achieve the best for the community and thus also for ourselves in the long term, trust is required, which is fed by reliability and fairness against the background of individual interests.

How do we become effective? Zen encourages its students to focus on the opportunities that the moment presents. Only here and now can we make a difference. This is a piece of wisdom from Daoism. Zen encourages continued, complete, and conscious awareness of the present moment, and to do so without prejudice. Zen recommends “a mind of the practitioner” that seeks its way and does not pretend to already know everything. In this way, Zen effectively counteracts the neurophysiological phenomena known today of delusion through perceptual filters, unreflected reactions, neural priming, situational context (framing), the tendency to create artificial connections (coherence), logical fallacies (e.g. confusing correlation with causality), and emotional and daytime influences. In Zen, the notion of an ego, i.e. the awareness of the self as an independent person separate from reality, is considered delusion and the cause of suffering. Thus, Zen sensitizes us to keen observation and clean analysis.

Zen also creates space for new perspectives. Zen encourages pure, unfiltered perception – with open expansiveness, awake and clear, right in this moment. Zen practice opens the perspective and the thinking space and – out of relaxation – allows us to better recognize breakthrough solution possibilities.

Zen also appeals to frugality. What activity actually makes us content? How is career defined? What fees should we charge for our performance? What is really necessary, what is excess? Less is often more: less worry, more time and attention for the essentials. Let’s imagine the leverage that could be mobilized if everyone chose to live frugally! This is not to say living a flat life in simplicity – quite the opposite: there will be more energy for the really important things and for good togetherness. How far are gratitude and humility still anchored in our society at all?

The essence of the Zen way is our own way. It is independent of worldly or otherworldly, independent of masters and gurus or of books and teachings, independent of the opinion of others and of our own opinion.

“If you want to know where you come from, see who you are right now in this moment. If you want to know who you will be, see what you are doing, talking, thinking now at this moment.” (Buddha).

Those who focus on what is important and on the possibilities of the moment can also use their time effectively.


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