The word “Zen” gets thrown around a lot; most of us use it as a synonym for peacefulness or relaxation. And while it’s true that adhering to the principles of Zen Buddhism can help us feel chill, there’s a lot more to it than just that. Practicing Zen can lead to an enlightened and enjoyable life, and you might have an unlikely teacher of Zen already in your home. Believe it or not, your indoor plants and floral arrangements have a lot to show you about living a meditative life. Let’s explore what that fiddle-leaf fig in your kitchen has to show us.
1. Free Yourself From Attachment
One of the guiding principles of Zen is to free yourself from attachment. Attachment to what? Just about everything: your significant other, your carefully-curated book collection, and your job title, to name a few. If this sounds difficult, may we suggest starting with whatever’s in your nearest flower pot?
Plants are resilient, but they’re not indestructible; not enough water (or a little too much) and they might be impossible to revive. Here’s a perfect chance for you to practice non-attachment. The plant was thriving, and now it’s not. It’s simply a fact, and only a disappointment if you decide to make it one.
2. Nothing Is Permanent
Mary Shelley wrote that “nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.” According to Zen, we cause our own suffering when we hold on to our current reality with a vice-like grip. It’s better to let go and let life flow. Indoor plants especially have a beautiful way of demonstrating that. A tiny seed in a pot transforms into a bounty of fresh herbs on your windowsill. Change is a lot easier to accept when it smells that good.
3. Simplify Your Life
That gorgeous monstera in your bedroom has an important Zen lesson to teach you about simplicity: it’s the key to just about everything. As humans, we tend to complicate our lives. But all plants need are sunshine, soil and water to grow and thrive. Easy, huh?
4. Things Are Perfect the Way They Are
It’s hard not to feel discontented with our lives. We could always have a nicer car, a better relationship or a fitter body. But according to Zen, things are already perfect, exactly as they are. If you don’t believe us, think about your most cherished houseplant. Is it without flaws? Most likely not; perhaps a few leaves are missing or it leans a little bit to the side. Yet it still does whatever it’s supposed to do: produce flowers, fruit or simply oxygen. Perfect.
5. Practice Compassion and Forgiveness
Another lesson we can take from Zen Buddhism is the importance of practicing compassion and forgiveness. Sometimes this can be hard to do, but it’s easier if we know that someone (or some…plant) has already practiced forgiveness with us. Even though the most plant-savvy among us has forgotten to water our indoor plants when life gets busy, and yet many of them still bloom. That’s forgiveness in action.
6. Be Present
Presence is a central key to Zen. Being present seems like a simple thing to do, but anyone who has attempted it with consistency knows that it’s harder than it seems. Yet all of the plants we keep in our home are a model of how fruitful presence can be; they don’t rush or strive — they simply exist …with beautiful results.
Next time you’re watering your favorite indoor plant, pay attention to all of it’s Zen-like qualities. You’ll be more relaxed before you know it.