Stuck in a rut? Try seeing the world anew through the ‘Zen of travel’

passportYou might have heard the phrase “Zen of travel,” but what exactly does it mean?

Here’s my stab at an answer.

Zen Buddhism “emphasizes the attainment of enlightenment and the personal expression of direct insight in the Buddhist teachings,” according to Wikipedia. “As such, it de-emphasizes mere knowledge of sutras and doctrine and favors direct understanding through zazen (meditation) and interaction with an accomplished teacher.”

One method used in zazen is to ponder a question or statement (koan). I’ve always liked this one: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

One logical answer: “There is no sound because clapping requires another hand to clap against.”

Another answer is for the student to (lightly!) slap his or her teacher, thereby producing a clap. (Is that what’s meant by “interaction with an accomplished teacher”?)

To me, this thought experiment suggests that the Zen of travel is about seeking enlightenment by clapping — interacting– with the new places you visit and the people you meet along the way. All the while, you’re mindful of your interactions (your clapping), and of the personal growth you’re making.

“That’s easy enough,” I hear all you extroverts say.

Well, hey, I’m an introvert. (Now get back to meditating – oh, that’s not so easy for you extroverts, is it?)

It’s hard to really see yourself when you’re in your usual surroundings. You’re clapping against old, familiar hands: your work, your routine, the people around you that you see every day. You may not even be aware that you’re clapping; it’s just something you do out of habit. Ever driven to work one morning and arrived there without remembering a single thing about the drive?

Now take something you do so habitually at home (like driving) and do it somewhere else. Do you know how the English recognize a non-English driver? The non-English driver is on the wrong side of the road! When driving in an unfamiliar place, you find yourself paying full attention to your driving habits and decisions. (Note to self: Have our English friends drive when we visit England!)

So if you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, that each day is just “same old, same old,” try visiting some place you’ve never been before. See what enlightenment you gain by clapping hands with different people, in a different language and a different culture. It will stretch your mind, exercise your body (you try keeping up with the average Parisian), and even change how you see your daily life when you get back.

jonesDavid Jones is a communications consultant/content coordinator at HMSA. He is also a writer, artist, photographer and musician who blogs (not as often as he would like!) at dancingtreefrog.com. Jones is a member of the West Oahu Writers Group, helping writers write better since 2000. And while he once was a disc jockey, he is neither as handsome nor as talented as Fernando Pacheco. You can follow him on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s