Where Did My Zen Go?

by Elisabeth

ImageOh to be back in January! I was eating vegan and drinking green juice while maintaining a writing schedule. “Sorry, I can’t go out for drinks tonight- I’m on a cleanse,” I would tell people. I felt like I finally had this life thing down. But I was postponing the madness. Eventually I was going to go out for drinks. Eventually I was going to have a down ‘n’ dirty egg breakfast. Eventually I was going to have to start packing boxes full of my “stuff” for my move.

Conceptually the move was always looming and has been for over a year. This week it became apparent there was physical work to do, actual money to be spent, and I would have to start living like my stay in Montreal has a finite end-date. Casual acquaintances and work colleagues might have to be told. I’m going to have to start giving things away.

What I like about cleansing is that you get control over variables. You put limits on things. Control the test environment. And rules and limits are freeing in their own way. It’s easy to live in a world with limits, avoiding forbidden foods, or temptations. But I don’t want to live there. I don’t want to live a controlled life with lots of rules, but I want to have more control. I don’t want to give up everything fun, but I do want to indulge less. Everything does not need to be easy, familiar, and predictable. Except when life seems hard, scary, and risky.

I have become a ball of resistance. There was my cold last week which I found it hard to accept. Our landlord doesn’t want to let us out of our lease a month early and seems to want to make this into a argument. There’s system issues and breakdowns at work. There’s no time for juicing, but I end up saying “yes” to croissants, pasta, and bagels; and winter rages on. I have tension in my upper back and neck. Where did my Zen go?

I have to remind myself that I could go vegan/juicing/uber-healthy all the time. I could stay in Montreal, continue to have a cheap cost of living. I could continue to live with my best friend in our dive-y apartment and save money for a trip to somewhere warm where drinks are included. But long ago, I decided that I wanted more from life. And wanting more means you have to be uncomfortable sometimes. You have to find your Zen when you didn’t get enough sleep and don’t know how much the boxes of your old journals will cost to ship across the country, and you don’t know how you will get them to the Greyhound Depot.

Real Zen doesn’t wait until you are on yoga mat, well slept, in cotton fibres. Zen doesn’t wash over you, it’s something you practice, and is best practiced in times like these. My February goals are like distant ideas from a simpler time- when my Friday evenings were spent making healthy salads and writing posts. I haven’t been able to achieve all of them, or many of them, and I haven’t been consistent. But life is happening in real-time. I don’t want to miss out on all this madness just to cross something off a list (and I did make a checklist, fyi.) I know there are blogs where people manage to reach a vegan-y meditation Zen, and I read those blogs. But I’m not sure I’ll ever make it to that status. I’m into Zen-in-Chaos. (btw chaos is Greek for order, meaning the order of nature.)


Here are my top 10 methods for finding Zen when I’m REALLY far away from it:

  1. Hang out with an animal, and pet it. You will definitely lighten up.

  2. Go out of your way to do something nice for someone. It’s amazing how good it feels, especially when you think you are tapped out.

  3. Eat a big, green, leafy salad. You can’t feel guilty about it, and it can only lead to good things.

  4. Go to bed. This might be the remedy for everything. Likely you are not getting enough sleep, and getting more will help you be a better, more productive, sexier person that isn’t on the verge of breaking dishes just for the cathartic feeling.

  5. Write it out. Guess what inspired this post? Guess how many journal entries were inspired by me having lost all hope and confidence? Guess how many songs, poems, and paintings were created under this tension by all the magnificent artists of the world? Stop holding in your genius and shine, baby!

  6. Deep Breaths- this can’t be underestimated. If you can- close your eyes. Make sure the breath is hitting the bottom of your diaphragm. Do this: ANYTIME. It will bring you back to the present, it will help you realize that you are in a panic over something unimportant, it will refocus your energy.

  7. Gratitude list- I prefer paper, but if you must, do it in your head. Find 5 things related to whatever’s bothering you to be grateful for. Ie. My landlord doesn’t want to let us out of our lease!: I’m grateful for the time Nick and I have left together; I’m grateful that we have lots of time to figure this out; I’m grateful that this might work out in our favor because of all the furniture we need to sell; I’m grateful that we’re in this together and will figure out the problem together; I’m grateful that we have NGO resources that we can consult with who will tell us our rights.

  8. Hands up- walk away from the situation. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air, or tea, or a stretch. But remove yourself from stressful/ uncomfortable/ unpleasant situation. There is power in postponement- I don’t operate well under too much pressure and getting breathing room has never done me wrong.

  9. Diversion- plan a trip in the future, come up with a plan to go out for dinner with someone, find something pleasant to distract yourself from the stressful situation(s) at hand. Active diversions are always better than TV or movies- you need to be an active participant in refocusing.

  10. Accept and Trust. So things aren’t going your way. You won’t be able to take the vacation. You might have to pay an unexpected bill. Your crush is not interested in dating you. Sometimes these things happen so other amazing things can happen. Sometimes things work out better than you could possibly imagine. Let the chips fall and trust the universe. Remember- it’s not the end of the movie yet.