9 Rules to Live By From a Zen Master

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6. When an opportunity comes do not let it pass you by, yet always think twice before acting

It’s nearly impossible to know at this point completely what Shaku was referring to, but when he says to think twice before acting, I believe he means two things: consider if the opportunity is the right thing to do- if it’s moral, just- and make sure it’s the right thing for you specifically.

7. Do not regret the past. Look to the future

This point couldn’t be more straightforward.

It might seem a little odd that a Zen monk would talk about looking to the future, but keep in mind that part of this list was probably worded in the context of advice for Americans at the time, who had no concept akin to mindfulness or living in the present moment, so I believe the important point is to not regret the past, let it go, and look forward.

8. Have the fearless attitude of a hero and the loving heart of a child

This is one of the points that struck me the most when I first read it. Zen can, at times, seem esoteric or disconnected. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Zen practice itself always exists right here in the present moment and therefore is inextricably connected to the way we act in our life as well as how we treat others.

When approaching our life- our intentions, our goals, our life’s work, obstacles and adversity- we should do so in the same way that we’d imagine our favorite superhero growing up would (except for the part where they punch a car- not smart).

When dealing with others, whether in or out of confrontation, we should approach the situation with the loving heart of a child. A child naturally has great compassion, understanding, is naturally caring, and sees a homeless person on the street in the same way that they see a business person.

The real gem is to realize how to live with both at the same time- to live fearlessly, confident, and yet still altogether compassionate and loving of all those around you. Many succeed in one of the two, few succeed at both.

9. Upon awakening, leave your bed behind you instantly as if you had cast away a pair of old shoes

Number 9 and 10 both have a similar lesson: when you do something, do it will all your being. Don’t treat anything as routine and mundane.

When you enter your room to go to bed for the night, treat it with the utmost importance. Don’t check your email, don’t turn on, or leave on, the T.V. Go to sleep completely at peace with the day, coming to terms with anything that has happened. Don’t lay down to sleep with something racking your brain, let it go and be fully present for the act of laying down to sleep. Make sure there’s a period (“.”) at the end of your day.

And when you wake up in the morning, do so with all of your being. Wake up immediately and never look back. You’re fully awake right now in this moment and should act accordingly. It’s a new day, a whole new 24 hours, so make the most of it.

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