Why Cultivate Zen? The trick to living your life

“The mushroom said to me ‘if you don’t have a plan, you become part of someone else’s plan”

Terrence McKenna.
why cultivate zen? Because the mushroom said so.

Your life risks becoming what others desire, unless you break the cycle. 

Technology, marketing, and mind control goes deeper than you think. The constant buzz of notifications and 24 hour news misery affects our mood and aspirations. 

So why cultivate Zen? It connects us to who we really are, helping us understand our true desires and continually reassess our path. At Cultivated Zen, we explore how Zen serves as a crucial guide in our quest for contentment, happiness, and a life lived with intention.

Our material society has answered our material needs, not the spiritual

Alan Watts points out that much of the modern thought in Western society doesn’t really offer us the answers we truly need. The classic models of material thought and life maps given to us in childhood, have run out of steam. 

We are generally concerned in the early part of life with working hard at school, getting a job, and ensuring that our survival needs are met. Once we have food, a house, and the ability to spend leisure time, there so often arrives a sense of emptiness. This may come in middle age, but can happen much earlier.

We are deeply frightened by this condition, the reality of death, and our place in the cosmos. There is a need for more, and so the attraction of Zen is powerful in this void of thinking and reassurance.

So why cultivate Zen? It’s the path to wholeness and individuation

Carl Jung proposed Individuation; the journey towards self-realization. It parallels the Zen pursuit of enlightenment as they both stress importance of an holistic approach to healing. They acknowledge our fragmented existence, and aim for harmonious union with our true self. 

We can achieve this in Zen through meditation, mindfulness, and seeing beyond the mind’s illusions.

Confronting the shadow self

Jung’s concept of the shadow self is particularly relevant. 

This shadow represents the parts of ourselves we deny or hide, often projecting onto others. Zen encourages us to face our shadow, to sit with it in meditation and acknowledge its presence. 

Imagine all the parts of yourself that you’ve pushed away or decided weren’t “you.” That irritation when someone cuts in line, the jealousy when a friend succeeds, or maybe it’s that creativity you hide away because you were told it’s impractical.

Your shadow isn’t just the dark bits; it’s everything you haven’t accepted about yourself. Carl Jung introduced us to this concept to help us understand that we are far more complex than we might believe.

The brave act of confronting the shadow self strengthens your resolve to integrate all parts of your being, shining a light on the darkness and dissolving the barriers to your true self. 

The Ego-Self dichotomy

One significant barrier to achieving Zen is the ego. Often mistaken for our true self, the ego distorts reality.

In contrast, the Self is our innermost essence, seeking meaning and connection. When we operate from the self, we feel more fulfilled, content, and at peace because our actions and choices resonate with our true nature.

Zen practice teaches us to observe our thoughts and feelings without attachment to them. We can bridge the gap between ego and self for a more authentic life.

The amplification of the ego in modern life

“Our society fuels the ego like no other. Social media is a great place where one can either be puffed up or dragged down by people we have never met.”

Joanna Van Der Hoeven)

We can take slight at the small things and constantly react because we are so attached to ourselves. Have you noticed how defensive we tend to be these days, rather than being comfortable having our views challenged and engaging in discussion? Do you find yourself triggered by more things and feel under attack? 

This attachment to ego can cause suffering, defensiveness, and a lack of genuine connection. In social media our curated presentation of self feeds into a finely crafted narrative about superiority. We forget how related and connected we are. 

Zen teaches us to detach from superficial validations and find value in our own being.

The power of habit in shaping our lives

Charles Duhigg’s insights reveal that our lives are often lived on autopilot, driven by habits. 

We are subject to a cue (the trigger telling your brain to go into automatic mode), the routine (the behavior itself), and the reward (something that your brain likes that helps it remember the “habit loop” in the future). Understanding this loop is crucial because it lays the foundation for changing bad habits or forming good ones. 

Zen offers a path out of this habitual existence, urging us to live each moment with full awareness. Practices like Zazen (which is basically sitting meditation), help us to train our minds to remain present, breaking the chains of habitual thought and action that keep us from experiencing the richness of life. 

By reducing our engagement with ego-boosting platforms, we make room for more meaningful connections and experiences.

Understanding the habit loop—cue, routine, reward—is key to changing bad habits and forming good ones.

Practical Zen cultivation

Integrating Zen into daily life means living intentionally, making everyday choices that resonate with our true self. Practices like Zazen help train our minds to remain present, breaking habitual thoughts and actions that dull our experiences.

In the silence of meditation, we listen deeply to ourselves, understanding our desires, fears, and dreams. This deep listening guides us towards a life aligned with our core being.

Living intentionally isn’t about grand gestures but about the small, daily decisions that align with our true self. You have to carve out time and space for regular conversation with your true Self. By incorporating Zen practices into routines, you can cultivate mindfulness that transforms approach to life.

This helps you to act with purpose and clarity.

Zen paradoxes and insights

Zen isn’t about gripping tightly to control but about learning to let go. Ironically, we have grown as a civilisation because of our ability to plan, think, and reflect. We are above the animal species because we have the ability to think about thinking, and this is the foundation of our self conscious society. 

Rational thought is unlocked, and we revel in the glory of humankind’s ability to design, refine, and ponder. But this is the perfect way to torment ourselves, as we don’t know if we are thinking the right things. This circular pattern drives us completely mad. 

So we cultivate Zen to wrestle control from the ego and simultaneously learn the art of letting go, embracing the true essence of Zen.

So why cultivate zen? 

As we navigate the complexities of modern life, cultivating Zen offers a path to disconnect from societal programming and connect deeply with our true selves. 

It’s about your life and your personal empowerment. You have to dismantle the condition and build your own values. Embrace every moment with intention and clarity, fostering a life of contentment and depth. 

So cultivate some zen folks, and tap into the real you.


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