Lighten the Load
Amid the busiest weeks this spring, when the thought of getting a single more task completed in a timely manner, let alone an essay completed, seemed impossible, I needed peace and clarity. Often this results in an urge to organize the surroundings that keeps me engaged in clearing not only the literal bookshelves, but also my own thoughts. A habit that can delay getting started with a task or prolong the process. As luck would have it though, this time it resulted in rediscovering a picture book I had purchased sixteen years prior and held on to throughout the years.
Zen Shorts (2005) is a collection of three short stories. As the title of the book suggests with its use of the Japanese word Zen the book contains three meditations. Each of the three stories presents the reader ideas to puzzle over in order to reexamine their habits, concepts, fears and desires. According to the author, Jon J. Muth , two of the stories, “Uncle Ry and the Moon” and “A Heavy Load” come from Zen Buddhist literature and the story of “The Farmer’s Luck” has roots going back to Taoism. He further explains that there are many versions of the three stories, however, in Zen Shorts he chose to utilize the ones that he feels speak best to the youngest audiences.
In his note at the end of the book Jon J. Muth explains that in Zen, the teachings of the Buddha have been passed down from teacher to student for generations. The Buddha’s method of meditation was to be present, completely alert while sitting still and allowing thoughts to rise and proceed on. In meditation one is not to hold on to any single thought, but to simply allow them to come and go. The challenge is that our minds are like pools of water that do not permit the surrounding world to be reflected upon the surface when agitated. We may be aware of the moonlight from the increased light within the darkness, however, we are unable to see the moon’s reflection due to our own disquiet. Hence, our task is to allow the ripples, our thoughts, to quiet, as we cannot prevent them from occurring in the first place. Nor should we really spend all our energy in an effort to do so. (Muth 2005).
According to recently published narrative review of research, meditation practices can decrease stress and improve mood by decreasing stress reactivity. The review highlights that meditation-based practices can result in overall improved health and wellbeing as meditation practices influence many psychological processes that can influence individual’s psychological response and relationship with stressors. The psychological processes mentioned include mindfulness, self-compassion, rumination, exposure, metacognition and attention. (Pascoe et al. 2021). Hence, it appears that it is essential that each of us learn to be present in the moment, be compassionate not only towards others but towards ourselves, avoid distressing thoughts, think about what we are thinking at a given time, hone our attention and concentrate on the good.
The Short Lessons
In Zen Shorts the three lessons are woven into a story about three siblings getting to know their new neighbor better. The neighbor is Stillwater, a panda, who gifts each of the children a story in their own turn in an attempt to guide them to rethink their actions and believes. My thoughts about these stories at this given time are as follows:
“Uncle Ry and the Moon”
Appreciate what you have and what you see around you. Give to others freely. Be humble. Celebrate others and share your gifts with them. What you have or what you know may not be much in your mind, but it can still be valuable and much needed to others.
“The Farmer’s Luck”
Is there such a thing as luck? You never know if your perceived good fortune turns into misfortune the next day or the other way around. The same way we do not know how much hard work has went into someone else’s perceived opportunities nor do we really know if they will ever lead to perceived successes.
“A Heavy Load”
The spite and negative emotions you hold onto prevent you from enjoying the moment. Let go off the weight. You do not have to carry it a step further. As there is no need to ruminate, it is truly up to you how much you carry along.
I decided to write about Zen Shorts because of the opportunities the stories afford for reflecting. At first glance the lessons may appear simple enough. However, the reader may find themselves focusing on different aspects each time they examine the story. Hence it is safe to say that the stories are most certainly ones we should be reminded of periodically. Letting go of negative thoughts, embracing the power of maybe, and sharing appreciation and gifts are important lessons for everyone, however, they are particularly pertinent for us teampreneurs during our joint endeavor to learn. No matter how competitive we might get, it does not behoove us to compare ourselves unfavorably to other teams. It is beneficial to us to focus on to what we are doing well, how we can help one another, appreciating and lifting one another, as well as celebrating together.
Muth, J.J. 2005. ZenShorts. New York: Scholastic.
Pascoe,M.C., de Manincor, M., Tseberja, J., Hallgren, M., Baldwin, P.A., Parker, A.G. 2021. Psychobiological mechanisms underlying the mood benefits of meditation: A narrative review. Comprehensive Psychoneuroendocrinology, Volume 6, 2021, 100037. Read 8.5.2021. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpnec.2021.100037