You don’t need to become something, gain something, or acquire something in order to find true peace and happiness. You need only to realize your own perfect nature right here in this moment.
This is an exclusive preview of Zen for Everyday Life: How to Find Peace and Happiness in the Chaos of Everyday Life. Writing for the book is complete and I'm now in the process of reviewing and proofreading it. I've been blown away with how great the book turned out and couldn't be more excited to get it into your digital hands (this book delivers some serious value). Learn more about the book here and sign up to be notified the day it's released. _________________________________________
When I was younger, I’d always get money on my birthday. As a kid, naturally, I loved it. With money, I could go to the toy store and pick out whatever I wanted, as opposed to getting gifts that I may or may not have wanted.
Every year was the same, I’d end up with $100, maybe $200, and be free to use it for whatever I wanted. I still remember the feeling. At that age, there were few feelings as good as having a small wad of cash in my hand and the freedom to do with it what I pleased.
But something happened as I got older- the feeling began to fade. I suppose it was probably because I began noticing how fleeting the happiness I’d get from such situations was. Whatever the reason, I still remember what it felt like.
I was just sitting there staring at the money thinking “there’s nothing I want to buy with this money”, almost in a state of shock. I sat indefinitely thinking of what I might want to buy, almost in disbelief and with sadness at the fact that there was nothing I desired to buy with my money.
But it didn’t work. I couldn’t think of anything. Money just didn’t have the same effect on me anymore.
But what was probably the most memorable part of that experience was the feeling that followed after that: contentment. A subtle, but warm, feeling of contentment washed over me moments after my realization.
I hadn’t only realized that money no longer had the same effect on me, I had also realized in that moment that I didn’t need money in order to be happy. I’m grateful to have had this realization at such a young age and have carried it with me ever since.
When it comes to finding peace and happiness, essentially the overall aim in life for all people whether they realize it or not, there exists a number of major misconceptions. And these misconceptions can make us live our entire lives chasing illusions, running into dead ends, and ultimately suffering far more than is necessary.
We’re convinced that in order to find peace and happiness we have to neglect our own well-being. Or rather, that if we do so we’ll get there faster. But we believe this is OK, because once we get there all of our problems will vanish and a state of perpetual happiness will have replaced it (happily ever after). But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
What we really want is to find peace and happiness. But our idea about what that actually is couldn't be more off the mark. Imagine you’re climbing a mountain. You believe that on the other side of this mountain exists the happiness you’re searching for. You believe that beyond all the headaches, beyond all the rushing around, and beyond all the sacrifices lies peace.
But you get to the other side of the mountain and…nothing. You look behind you and the mountain is gone. You turn back around and…there it is again- the mountain. It’s then that you realize you’re caught in a deadly cycle.
This is the rat race. And it’s what modern life has convinced us is the path to peace and happiness. But unfortunately, unlike this example, most of us never realize we’re just spinning our wheels. These are just a few examples of the many misconceptions we’ve fallen for with regards to the path to true peace and happiness.
A Special Pair
As you know by now, Zen for Everyday Life is about helping you find peace and happiness amidst the chaos and craziness of your everyday life. But what I haven’t explained yet is that this book is extremely actionable.
Zen for Everyday Life is filled with steps you can take to create measurable results immediately from the moment you put the book down. Each and every chapter is filled with exercises meant to help you find greater peace, joy, and bring harmony to you in your everyday life even amidst all the usual craziness. And this chapter introduces the very first (and a very important) exercise.
I want you to imagine you’re wearing a special pair of lenses. Have you seen those old flip lenses with the sunglass lenses that flip up to reveal eyeglass lenses? I want you to imagine you have a pair of those on, but a really special pair.
How special? So special that you have as many as nine colored lenses, one on top of another. The purpose of this chapter is to begin the gradual process of lifting each one of those lenses, one after another, until you can see with perfect clarity.
What are these lenses? They’re the various misconceptions that I just touched on, wrong perceptions about the way that the world works that hold you back from finding peace. Before you can become truly at peace you need to understand why you do what you do.
Much of us operate on what’s been deemed “common sense” by the collective consciousness. But a lot of this common sense is false and steers us in the wrong direction. This leads to us searching for peace and happiness where it does not exist.
We’ve developed intricate myths and misconceptions that color our perception and make it impossible for us to see real peace and happiness even if it was staring us in the face. These are the various colored lenses which you wear over your eyes.
This chapter can be a lot to take in, so at the end, I’ll provide a fully summary to recap everything we’ve covered. For now, the exercise is to do just two things:
1. First, simply let each misconception sit in your mind and don’t try too hard to figure any of them out. Some of these might lead to sudden realizations while others will take some time to realize. Think about them for a moment from time to time as you go about your day and see what thoughts naturally arise as a result of thinking about a particular misconception.
2. Second, as you go about your everyday life try to observe how these various misconceptions have affected what you do on a day-to-day basis. Go deep here, don’t do yourself a disservice by staying on the surface level due to your ego or something else giving you some push-back.
These two exercises will allow you to slowly uncover the root of each misconception and to distance yourself from it, and the proceeding chapters will show you the true way to peace and happiness that sees through these many illusions. Whatever happens, approach them with a clear mind and have patience- the process of uncovering the truth can take time.
1. Letting Go of the Myth of Trading Time (and Ourselves) for Happiness
…by neglecting your well-being you’re just postponing your own peace and happiness.
The first misconception is the myth that we need to neglect our well-being in the present in order to “get ahead” in life and ultimately earn happiness at some yet-undetermined date in the future. This idea is rampant in the modern world, where businessmen and women work long and hard hours in order to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. But this effort is misguided.
It won’t result in you finding true peace or happiness because you’re constantly chasing a dream and neglecting yourself (and often, your loved ones as well). Any thought, and any idea, we have that we need to acquire something, become something, or do something special in order to find happiness is misguided.
Peace and happiness exist right here in this very moment, and any idea that either exists only as a result of acquiring something you don’t currently have is a myth.
You don’t have to give up a portion of your life, or yourself, to acquire the feeling that you’re seeking. It doesn’t exist in that life you’re imagining, it exists in your own mind and can be felt in this very moment. If you acquired all of those things that you desire, you’d see that it doesn’t bring you peace.
Sure, you’d feel a bit better about yourself and have some more peace of mind with regards to your finances, that counts for something, but it’s not the true peace and happiness you imagine you’ll acquire from achieving your goals. That only comes from turning inward to face yourself and realizing the beauty and significance of this moment.
But what if you’re working for your children? I know how it feels, I’d do anything for my children. We’re naturally inclined to want to give them a better life, as well as to neglect our own well-being in the process. For many of us, this is the purest act of selflessness we’ll experience in our entire lives. But you need to understand something very important:
Your efficiency, productivity, and overall performance in everything that you do is directly linked to your well-being.
Any idea that these things are separate is a misconception. When you walk, talk, type, think, organize, or strategize your mind and body work as one. It needs to put pieces together, shuffle things around so that it can look at things in new ways, and it needs to be free of mental clutter and obstacles in order to function at maximum creativity and efficiency. If you’re working to improve your own life or the life of someone else you care about, take care of yourself.
More importantly, though, by neglecting your well-being you’re just postponing your own peace and happiness. You can be happy and at peace right here in this very moment and still work just as effectively towards your goals, so don’t falsely convince yourself that you need to get somewhere first before you can be happy.
If you do that, you won’t ever get to that “somewhere”, it will stay off in the distance like a mirage in the desert. You won’t know why you’re not reaching it, because you keep “moving, moving, moving”, but you won’t. This can eventually lead to stress, frustration, a loss of hope, and altogether quitting on life.
Don’t believe the myth that you need to place aside your own well-being in order to find peace and happiness at the end of some imaginary rainbow. Big goals do take sacrifices, no one can argue with that, but they don’t require you to sacrifice your peace and happiness. And anything that does isn’t worth your time.
2. Letting Go of the Past and the Future
The present moment is life itself.
If you could step back and look at your life at, say, the age of 30 and see everything that’s held even the most minimal lasting effect on you, what you would see would disturb you.
Ever seen an 8-layer dip? It’s a dip made with various layers of salsa, guacamole, sour cream, melted cheese, among other things (and a dip I really, really like). Imagine that when you’re looking at these various lasting effects which have built up within you from years of life conditioning that it appears in much the same way.
Those times you were made fun of in high school represent a thin layer at the bottom, that difficult relationship from just a few years ago occupies a thick layer at the top, and all kinds of other past events as well as social and overall life conditioning, fill in the middle area.
Each of these events or constructs have contributed to conditioning you into the person you are today, and the total sum of this conditioning affects everything that you do.
But it’s because of this very thing that we need to learn how to let go of the past and the future. The past tugs at us constantly, pushing and pulling us because of various fears and the negative self-talk that we’ve developed over the course of our life.
The future leaves us daydreaming, imagining things will end up much worse than they ever do and ultimately nudging us away from reality, the only place that peace actually exists.
The past and the future are illusions, figments of either our memory (past) or imagination (future). They’re long gone memories, possibilities, or simply ideas never to be. It serves us to look back on the past and forward to the future in certain cases, but we should live grounded in the present moment.
We exist solely in the present moment. The present moment is life itself. Live totally and completely present in each moment and you’ll experience true peace by gradually releasing the bonds of fear and deep-seated negative self-talk and gain a deep sense of meaning in your life beyond what words can describe.
3. Letting Go of the Fear of Facing Yourself
If it weren’t for your stresses and difficulties, you wouldn’t ever be able to find peace.
Well-being, from pain and suffering to peace and what we perceive to be happiness, exist simultaneously as two parts of one whole. There’s no separating the two. It’s because of your pain, suffering, and stresses that you’re even able to find peace and happiness.
If it weren’t for your stresses and difficulties, you wouldn’t ever be able to find peace. There would be no peace to accomplish. You would be nothing but a blank white slate. In fact, you couldn’t even exist. There is no separating pain and peace, suffering and happiness, they are constantly playing at each other as the yin plays together with the yang.
So erase right now any idea that you need to, or can, run from your pain and suffering and lead any measurably peaceful life. It won’t ever happen. In order to find peace we must first find out how to transform our pain and suffering.
There’s no other way. We can’t find peace or happiness by ignoring our problems and trying to make lots of money, become successful, or acquiring false power. You’ll find peace and happiness by finding the courage to face yourself.
4. Letting Go of the Mirage of Excitement
When life takes your breath away, breathe.
True happiness isn't excitement, excitement is fleeting and deceptive. Because it’s such a strong position emotion, we tend to think that while excited everything is right. Why should we be cautious of excitement? Because it’s more akin to staring head-on into the headlights of a car than it is looking out from a window that gradually becomes clearer and clearer.
You can get excited when experiencing the beauty of nature or you can get excited when going out to drink with friends, so excitement itself isn’t any indicator of anything other than being in a high stimulus situation.
While excited, you’re blind to everything else. Nothing has actually gotten better, or gone away. You’re just in such a high emotional state that you don’t notice anything else. There’s nothing wrong with excitement in itself, but you need to be careful not to confuse it with true peace or happiness.
I’m not saying try not to be excited. Enjoy it, but exercise caution around it because it’s a strong illusion that convinces you that you’re happy, at peace, or have found a “right place” in your life when you actually haven’t.
Again, enjoy excitement, just don’t let it fool you. If you do this you can enjoy excitement while not being carried away by it.
5. Letting Go of the Idea of Everlasting Happiness
Peace and happiness must be maintained, and this is done with a daily practice that deeply touches reality and nourishes your mind and body.
Everything in life is impermanent, ever-changing, and peace and happiness is no exception. This is one of the most important points on this list.
Most of us are so convinced that once the right circumstances align for us we’ll be happy for the rest of our lives. A “happily ever after” syndrome brought on by movies, T.V. shows, and commercials over the past century, it’s a very real misconception that many suffer from.
There is no magical goal you can achieve that will make you happy for the rest of your life. Peace and happiness must be maintained, and this is done with a daily practice that deeply touches reality and nourishes your mind and body.
Develop a daily practice and follow it with diligence as a life-long pursuit. If you do this you’ll be able to cultivate a strong and resilient sense of peace and joy for your entire life.
6. Letting Go of Wanting Something Outside of Ourselves (and the Idea That Happiness Exists Only in One Place)
…an integral part of our negative self-talk as a collective species is the idea that we’re lacking something.
One of the single greatest misconceptions of all, and one that underlies many of the other misconceptions in this chapter, is the idea that happiness exists outside of ourselves.
The vast majority of people believe they need something outside of themselves to be happy. We think that we need to achieve, discover, or acquire something to be happy, but this couldn’t be more off the mark.
We do need certain things for our basic well-being: food, clean drinking water, shelter, and human interaction. But what we think we need to be happy aren’t the basic necessities for human survival, those of us that have those things often take them for granted and think that we need more such as a big house, a fast car, lots of money, or power over other people. But none of these things will make us truly happy or bring any measure of peace to our lives.
What happens if we do get these things? They make us feel good for a short while, eventually losing their luster and bringing us back to where we started (or in a worse position). They force us into an infinite cycle of consumption just to keep ourselves feeling good.
This isn't true happiness at all, but an illusion developed from our collective consciousness (which includes all people in a society- the U.S. has a collective consciousness, Japan has a collective consciousness, your family is a collective consciousness on a smaller scale, and the internet has even developed its own global collective consciousness).
Whatever it is that we think we need, we think that we’re incomplete because of it and therefore won’t ever have a happy life until we get it. This is an unimaginably dangerous lie we tell ourselves because it makes us think that we’re inadequate or lacking in some way. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
We’re born absolutely perfectly whole in every way, and this means that peace and happiness comes from within. Catch yourself thinking anything less than that and you’ve just witnessed your negative self-talk in action. And an integral part of our negative self-talk as a collective species is the idea that we’re lacking something.
If you’re yet unsure of just how you’re going to find happiness without acquiring all those things which you’ve always desired or thought you needed, just hang tight. The entirety of Zen for Everyday Life is about showing you just how to do that.
7. Letting Go of the Idea That Happiness Is Different for Each of Us
…mindfulness in one’s everyday life, living deeply in order to develop a reverence for life as well as a sense of gratitude that pervades everything that you do, and learning how to live in peace with others and make your relationships prosper are fundamental principles which apply to all people.
You hear it everywhere: "What is happiness to you?" sums it up. We know that not everyone enjoys doing what we like to do, but does that mean that true inner peace and happiness, the kind we all strive to find, is found differently for each of us as well?
Those things which we enjoy doing, even passionately enjoy doing, are not what will bring us lasting peace and happiness. They’re what, for the most part, you’ll do with your life. And they’ll bring you a great sense of joy, but doing what you love isn’t enough. Within doing what you love you need to have the necessary ingredients.
It's romantic, that is, the idea that happiness is different for each of us. It's also convenient and allows us the affordability of not having to answer the tough questions like how to face our demons. And that’s what this myth amounts to: another way to avoid ourselves and not have to step outside our comfort zone.
True inner peace is found in the same way for each of us. That doesn't mean though that there’s only one path. Zen for Everyday Life by itself has more than 30 exercises which you can use to bring peace and happiness to your everyday life, and I don’t expect you to use all of them.
Depending on what you do in your everyday life certain exercises will work better for you than others. And some you’ll just prefer over others. But the most important point is that the basic principles are always there- greater awareness in one’s everyday life (mindfulness), living deeply in order to develop a reverence for life as well as a sense of gratitude that pervades everything that you do, and learning how to live in peace with others and help your relationships prosper.
These are fundamental principles which apply to all people. It might look a little different on the surface, but what we want is one in the same. And how we get it ultimately comes down to the same principles (principles which you can test in your own life).
8. Letting Go of the Idea of Advantages and Disadvantages
Erase all concept of advantages and disadvantages, challenges and lucky breaks, and any other place you attempt to divide reality.
Everything in life is like a coin. That is, everything in life has two sides or aspects, a positive and negative aspect, and this includes literally everything- even qualities like intelligence, beauty, and anger and conditions like depression. The two aspects are, in a way, one inseparable essence.
Don’t get down over having a perceived disadvantage, there is an advantage in it, you need only look closely. And appreciate, but be careful about, a perceived advantage as this comes with it proportionate disadvantages. There is no disadvantage or advantage, there is simply you expressing your true self, your infinite nature.
High intelligence? Be careful, you’re apt to overthink things, live in your head too often, overcomplicate, and be quicker to judge others. Quick to anger? Anger has a gold lining in that it’s the mind’s way of alerting you to something you think is wrong, so use that insight to discover what wrong perceptions you have and change them. Do you have depression? You have the ability to appreciate a deep practice such as what’s described in Zen for Everyday Life far more than most people, and this deep appreciation can ultimately lead to a much stronger practice.
Erase all concept of advantages and disadvantages, challenges and lucky breaks, and any other place you attempt to divide reality. These are all illusions, what you should be concerned with is living fully in the present moment and completely accepting of whatever comes your way.
9. Letting Go of Happiness
Akuna ma tata. It means no worries.
- Pumba, Disney’s The Lion King
What is inner peace and what relationship does it have to happiness? Think of inner peace as the prerequisite for true happiness. Peace is the state accomplished once one has reconciled, cured or come to terms with all erroneous mental factors, erasing the false constructs that plague the mind and keep it from finding peace.
Inner peace is a fortress for the mind. This is why it allows us to attain true happiness. The happiness acquired from attaining inner peace is unaffected by outside circumstances.
What most of us really want isn’t for everything to be exciting and bursting with pleasure every second of every hour. Sure, we all want some of that, but what most of us really want is just for those things which are perpetually bothering us to go away so that we can have room to breathe and rest simply in peace and simple joys.
We think we want to make more money. What we really want though is to stop worrying about money, whether it’s worrying if we’ll be able to provide for ourselves and our children or not or being held back by not making enough.
We want to stop being so stressed out all the time. We want to stop being angry at our parents, or our ex-husband or ex-wife or that person that wronged us. It’s less about what we want and more about what we don’t want.
Inner peace is the happiness most of us desire. Absolute peace is the cessation of our pain and suffering and pure contentment with the present state of your life (the present moment). Seek head-on to transform your pain and suffering and you’ll begin a beautiful journey of self-discovery that leads to a pure sense of peace and simple joys that pervade everything you do.
10. Letting Go of the Idea That Life is a Dark and Dreary Mess
The information we absorb from T.V. and the internet skews our perception of the world.
Many of us believe, due to the conditioning we’ve received growing up, that life is nothing but dark and dreary. It’s hard, tragic, and depressing, and there’s no getting away from it all. But this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Just as with everything else, in life, there’s equal positive to negative. The information we absorb from T.V. (particularly the news) and the internet skews our perception of the world. Step away from it all and experience life for yourself deeply in order to find the beauty and joy that exist in it alongside the hard times and tragedies.
The idea of the dark and dreary existence also leads to us believe that happiness is just an unattainable idea. But peace and happiness are not unattainable ideas at all, they can be accomplished with the right effort and further maintained through practice.
This misconception, like the others, is created completely and totally in our minds. This idea is perpetuated by the collective consciousness- the various levels of societies we live in starting all the way back with our immediate family and stretching out to the world at large.
The nightly news in most places, as well as headlines online, are just a weird combination of depressing and cute. They don’t really give us an accurate representation of what life is really like. But they do skew our perception, and that affects our experiences which then end up negatively affecting our entire life.
Let go of these negative influences and prioritize experiencing life purely for yourself. Put aside these assumptions and see what it means to live peacefully with your whole being.
11. Letting Go of the Myth That You’re Incomplete
Within you exists all the pieces necessary to lead a happy and peaceful life.
I touched on this earlier, but it’s such an important point that it requires its own section. This is arguably the most important misconception to let go of in this entire chapter. Much, or all, of what holds us back exists within this very misconception. That is, the idea that you’re missing something.
The myth of self-improvement exists within this point as well. Self-improvement will have you believe that you need to improve some aspect of yourself in order to have a happier life.
But to accept this means to accept that you yourself at this very moment are lacking something. That you’re altogether incomplete and undeserving of peace and happiness in this very moment. The thing is, it’s a lie. And because it’s a lie, it’s the most dangerous of all the various myths and misconceptions we tell ourselves. Because this is a lie, it becomes an altogether unattainable goal, and we end up hitting our heads against a brick wall all our lives trying to figure out what we’re lacking.
Stop believing that you’re incomplete. Stop believing that you need something or that you need to improve something before you can have a truly happy life. Within you exists all the pieces necessary to lead a happy and peaceful life. Stop believing the negative self-talk that pervades every moment of your life.
Many times, simply contemplating this very fact can be life-changing. When was the last time you said to yourself, “I am complete, I lack nothing to be happy and at peace. I can be happy right now in this very moment”? Decide now to stop thinking you’re incomplete and realize that you’re absolutely and utterly perfect just as you are.