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Response to Maggie Re: Zen
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   General Discussion -> The Gathering Place (TGP)Message format
Posted 2003-02-25 5:01 PM (#3394)
Subject: Response to Maggie Re: Zen


Posts: 234
Location: Union Gap, WA
Hi, Maggie ...

I enjoyed reading and then re-reading the following you posted to me upon my request for more of your Zen way of life: (my comments are below your sharing)

"Yes, I loved that old zen feeling so much I decided to replicate it in my physical surroundings. So my home is very simple, no clutter. But there is no lack of beauty. I love the way the traditional Japanese homes used space as much as form visually. It was really a philosophical thing...the space representing the silence and the form representing the thoughts arising in it. Not really a representation, more like an embodiment. Much more silence than thoughts. They did this also in Noh theater with sound. And in rock gardens where the rocks were thought, and the raked sand, mind. So wonderful.
And beautiful natural materials. I don't think I own anything that isn't a natural material, except for the obvious electronics (in cabinets that close) and, ok, that tupperware and a some other necessities. If they made them in this country, I would have a true Japanese house. Those sliding doors opening onto rock gardens or unbelievably beautiful lush nature. Not parsimonious glass doors, the whole wall opened. I think the Japanese translated zen best into the visual arts. The spontaneity, clarity, beauty, balance and right-thereness. They had cabinets lining the walls with sliding doors where all the "stuff" went. If you wanted to deal with something, that was what came out, nothing else...perfect attention. The futon didn't come out until it was time to use it. And those tea ceremonies, very specific, but what focus. I could go on and on.

As to the nuts and bolts,the way I embodied zen aesthetically was to keep it very simple, almost stark, but not yet stark. Stark is ugly, you want grace. Think Kyoto temple. Place larger furniture carefully in balance with the space of the room. I guess you could use furniture that is not Japanese in feel, but I bought pieces that do have that feel. American rooms have a more vertical space and Japanese rooms are far more horizontal spatially, much more peaceful somehow to me. So you have to kind of fake it visually by exerting a stronger discipline of spareness. But in American-type homes, if you try to use pieces that are very low, the space isn't balanced, so I chose furniture that was more vertical, but very simple in line, kept it to a minimum and placed it carefully. Move it around until it gets right. I found it a spiritual discipline, because you will have to jettison stuff and that brings up your attachments. Nope, there's no place for the lava lamp. (And under the bed can't have dust, it shows lack of attention and therefore of appreciation. It's most rewarding if you keep it up personally, but I call Merry Maids in a pinch.)

Then you pick items of simple beauty and place them carefully too. Mindfulness. Larger items and way fewer of them. Lots of light and air. It doesn't have to be expensive, but what you buy should be truly worth buying. I live in the high desert southwest, and I came across a venerable old cedar tree in the desert that had been dead for God knows how long. It had great branches, with wonderful craggy patterning. I brought a large branch home. (I did tell the tree I honored it and asked if I could have it....)All the bark was gone and it was a lovely soft gray color. I set it in a large vase on a table against a bare wall. It's not just about the visual, its about the venerable old tree itself.

Spare, beautiful, mindful.
Try a bath the way the Japanese do it. Take a shower then run the tub full of water, hot as you can stand it. I mean HOT. Then just sink in and meditate 20 minutes. When you get out, you will be red as a lobster, but you will feel wonderful.

When you get your house to the point that your soul says, "Ahhhh, yes." you've got it.

True zen is one bowl. I'm not there yet...but I've cut way back."


As time goes on I've found that the less 'stuff' there is around the better I feel. While the house isn't junky looking, there are still too many extras that could be dispensed with.

Little by little I'll be lightening up ... even down to the pots and pans. (Grin). There is something very restful about rooms that are not crammed with "stuff". My intention is toward having it be that way more and more ... light, bright, spacious and airy. Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

I got a chuckle out of your sharing about your use of Merry Maids now and then. Good for you.

One thing about getting rid of more and more 'items', it means less and less to take care of. I don't enjoy spending tons of time caretaking possessions.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your Zen Way of Life with us. I'd love it if you'd share more as long as you feel in the mood. Its a great, sunny change from all the many posts about W.A.R.O.Ws (wars and rumors of wars).

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